If folklore is any indicator, the devil seems to enjoy the deep South. Mississippians swear the devil frequents the Crossroads. Charlie Daniel’s fans will insist the Devil Went Down to Georgia. However, Alabamians know exactly where to spot the scythe wielding satan.
“Go to Church, or the Devil will get you!”
So says a wonderfully terrifying sign on Interstate 65 between Birmingham and Montgomery. I used to drive this route often when my in-laws lived near Montgomery, and always looked forward to seeing the devil along the highway. I’ve always thought the devil knew his way around the church quite well.
We see in the lessons appointed for the First Sunday in Lent that the devil has an excellent ability to quote Scripture, especially for his own distorted purpose. We see, also, a deeper integration of the Scriptures, quoted and lived out by Jesus in response to these temptations.
Which brings me to this odd juxtaposition:
On the one hand we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
On the other hand we read, “After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil…”
I’ve heard it said before, “I’m perfectly capable of finding temptation on my own, without any help from the devil.” True enough.
There are layers upon layers of meaning and truth found in the temptations of Jesus. Some questions I’m left pondering…
Who leads us into temptation? The devil? God? Ourselves?
What are we uniquely tempted by?
How do we misquote Holy Scripture for our own purposes?
I’d love to hear your response to any or all of these questions. Perhaps you have questions of your own.
Collect for the First Sunday in Lent
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
A beautiful visual reflection on the temptations of Christ.