During this special Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks, we are going to have a regular series of reflections published on our website which will prompt us to reflect on important passages of St Matthew’s Gospel, and learn more about them. We are very grateful to Dr Natalie Watson, a contemporary theologian and writer, for offering these reflections for our community.
In the Bible the wilderness is often a place where people can be alone with God and listen to him. Jesus went out into the wilderness to pray to the Father. Yet, the wilderness can also be a place of testing, as it was for the people of Israel in the Old Testament. For forty years God’s people walked through the desert on their way to the promised land, and this may well have been what the first readers of Matthew’s Gospel thought about when they read this passage about Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness. Jesus has been in the desert for forty days and forty nights, and he is very hungry. ‘If you are the Son of God’ says the tempter, the devil, ‘then tell these stones to turn into loaves of bread.’ Jesus replies with a verse from the Scriptures: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ The tempter’s challenge is not really about bread, about satisfying Jesus’s immediate need of food, but about so much more. It is about power and about trust. Who do you really want to be? What do you want to do with the gifts God has given you? Matthew recounts two more challenges before getting to the final, the ultimate temptation: ‘I will give you all the kingdoms of the word and their splendour if you fall down and worship me.’ Jesus is an example for the first Christians and for us. Jesus says: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ Only God is worthy of our worship. A theologian once wrote: ‘Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.’ Faced with temptation as Jesus was, what do we do with the gifts God has given us, and who do we choose to worship?
Living God, you alone are worthy to be worshipped. Help us to put our trust in you and to use the gifts you have given us to build your kingdom.