Tuesday, March 12, 2024

"Lent's Temptations" - Clever Devil turns Stones into Bread 15C

Satan Tempting Christ To Change Stones Into Bread, (Matthew 4-3-4) breviary, Rouen before 1498 Besançon, bibliothèque municipale, ms. 69, p. 269.  Fairly strange looking Satan.

The Temptation of Christ

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

All three Gospels relate that Jesus spent a period of 40 days & nights in the desert immediately following His Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist & the dramatic recognition given by Heaven to this event. The number 40 obviously has resonance with such Old Testament events as the 40 days & nights of the Great Flood (Genesis 7:9), the 40 days & nights that Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 24:18) & the 40 years in which the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32-34).  Mark’s reference to the Temptation of Jesus is the shortest of the three. Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11) & Luke (Luke 4:1-13) both describe in detail the temptations tried by Satan, temptations to power & pride, which Jesus resisted. All three agree that at the end of these 40 days & nights, Jesus was tired & hungry.

During His 40 days of fasting & praying in the Wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus: to make bread out of stones to relieve his own hunger; to jump from a pinnacle & rely on angels to break his fall (both Luke & Matthew have Satan quote Psalm 91:11–12 to indicate that God had promised this assistance); & to worship Satan in return for all the kingdoms of the world.

The temptation of making bread out of stones occurs in the desert setting where Jesus had been fasting. This temptation may have been Jesus' last, aiming towards his hunger.  In response to Satan's suggestion, Jesus replies, "It is written: 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3)