I Wonder: Luke 4:1-13

We have entered the season of lent aka that sad time in the church year. But Lent is more than just a sad time, it’s a time of preparation a time when we remember Jesus’ life-especially the days leading up to his death. It can be a wonderful time of renewal, a time when we don’t shy away from the shadows but instead plumb the riches only found in darkness. Since I did a special series for advent it seems only fair to do one for lent.

This lent I will be leaning into wonder. Each Sunday of Lent I selected one of the texts from the lectionary to wonder about. If you attend a church that uses the common lectionary you will probably hear this text read or preached on at church today. Let my wonderings be a new way to examine these passages-then please add your own! (You are, of course, free to wonder on your own but I would love if you shared your wonderings in the comments). Today’s wondering comes from Luke 4:1-14, I’ve copied it below for convenience.

“Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.”

Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world.  The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want.  Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”

The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.

 Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God.” After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity.

I wonder if Jesus wanted to stay at the river. There he was full of the Holy Spirit, it feels like the river was a good vibe-wouldn’t he want to stay? How did he not eat for 40 days? I get the “man does not live by bread alone” but bread is amazing. I wonder if Jesus’ mouth started watering when the devil mentioned bread. Did Jesus picture a perfectly baked round of sourdough? Could he smell the aromas of fresh baked bread and feel the crispiness of the crust?

Speaking of the devil (see what I did there??), that opens a great deal to wonder about. What did the devil look like? I’m picturing used car salesman vibes, cheap suit…or tunic…and slicked back hair. What was his tone of voice? Was it a rich baritone or a melodious tenor? I wonder if he took a more human-like form to match Jesus or was it something less corporeal? Did the devil just “poof” show up there? Or did he just stroll up to Jesus like the villian does in every superhero movie?

I wonder how long Jesus waited until answering. Did he need to think about it? Was he running through all of the possible options? Did he think about how it would feel to give in? Was there a part of that that felt like relief? Or did he come back with the answers right away? They were so deeply engrained on his heart and in his mind that he was able to access them instantly? I wonder if he had to wrestle a bit. Was there an epic internal battle between the picture created by the temptations and the scriptures Jesus had memorized?

I wonder how Jesus felt when the devil left. Did he feel proud? Exhausted? Resigned? He must have known that this was not the only time the devil would meddle. Did “winning” this round make him feel more confident that he could win the next? Or was there always a calm certainty, an assurance that he would prevail?

What do you wonder?

*Friendly reminder, I practice wondering to do just that-to wonder, not to know. It is a wonderful counterbalance to the parts of my religious upbringing that required certainty. I would love to hear your wonderings or even your reactions to my wonderings but these are not all questions that require answers. Some make take root and those I will explore more deeply and that exploration will bear much fruit. But others can always remain wonderings. A beautiful mystery.*

One thought on “I Wonder: Luke 4:1-13

  1. Lent, derived form the old Latin, for “shadows”, is neither inherently good, bad, sad, happy, or anything. It’s a time of reflection and contemplation. Where that reflection and contemplation leads you is your journey, and yours alone. And in that sense it could be sad, happy, joyful or remorseful. Its your path and your process. No body else’s.

    I have taken many a journey or path in my life. A memorable one was when I was attached to NATO strike force South for the Ukraine in 2000. My paths many times would take me on the overnight train from Odessa to Kiev. About a 400 or so mile journey. This was not the Acela to DC. The trip could take anywhere from 7 to 12 hours depending on many many factors. Who was giving birth on the train, who was dying, who needed to have medical attention, who was serving dinner to the entire compartment, who was being arrested at the next stop. It was the fullness of life on the best steel wheels and track Stalin could produce in the 1950s.

    And my journey would take me to small towns and cities along the way. Shirayevo, Lybasevka, Kiroye Ozero, Uman, Bila Tserkva. Being many times the one if only American on the train, and also Navy, I was treated like a visiting rock star. Folks asked if I knew their Uncle X in Chicago or Cousin Y in Cleveland. Many had family in Pittsburgh, so we got along just fine. The older ones told me of life under Stalin, the Gulags, when Hitler came, what it was like during the Cold War and being told to hate Americans, the great enemy of socialism. The younger ones just wanted to be free and live in peace, make babies, and travel to Paris and London. And America. i cannot tell you how many times I was approached by older folks asking if i would be interested in marrying their daughter, they showed me pictures, and take her to America. the fact I was already married sometimes did not survive translations.

    Today many of those good and kind people, who fed me and looked out for me ,made sure I got the right cab to the Embassy. Are on another journey. They did not choose it, or want to take it, but the journey or path has been forced upon them. Some if not many, have died, or will die. Many simply will not make it, or die in another death camp. For me this journey for Lent takes me along that same rail line, pass those same towns and villages I saw through me window. The flower stands by the tracks in Uman. As I reflect on that journey this Lent I am filled with many emotions, none of them good or positive. At times shame. We all saw what was coming and did nothing, and continue to do so. And people die. Jesus came for you and me, yes indeed, He came for them more I think. Lent is indeed a time of Shadows, and at times those shadows are quite deep indeed. At some point the shadows will break I am sure. Just not soon enough for those on those same rails today or tomorrow.


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