Gen 2: 7-9, 3:1-7/ Romans 5: 12-19/ Matthew 4: 1-11
Lies, lies and more lies, and yet we fall for the wily ways of Satan. By the way, that’s not his name! Satan is simply a description of who he is, the ‘deceiver’; and in both our readings he excels with his web of lies. But here in lies the difference. In the book of Genesis, paradise is lost. In the gospel of Matthew, paradise is regained. In the story of Genesis, the ‘first Adam’ and Eve succumb to the lies of Satan.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus, the ‘new Adam’ dismisses the deceiver with the word of God. Satan’s triple lie is crushed three times by the written Word of truth; scripture. Jesus, quoting the law from book of Deuteronomy (Chapters 6-8) confounds the lie of Satan with the words, “it is written.” The devil is overpowered by Jesus, THE WORD OF GOD.
So we are called to be on our guard when Satan quotes or rather mis-quotes scripture (verse 5). This should ‘open our eyes’, (another wily trick that Eve fell for) to the reality, that the devil will use every means in the book; in this case even the ‘Holy Book’ to lure us into his fire of hell.
I guess all this sounds a bit dramatic for even a good Catholic. So let us look at the evidence. In the first reading, God is emphatic in his instructions to Adam and Eve. You shall not eat or touch, or else you shall die. So Satan tells them four lies. First he says, “you will not die”, then, “your eyes will be opened” followed by, “you will be LIKE God” and finally, “you will know good and evil”.
Most of us think that the first sin of Adam was disobedience, when he and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. Aha, but look a bit beyond this class you received in Sunday school. The first sin was that of a LACK OF FAITH. Notice Satan says to Adam and Eve, “you will be LIKE God”; but they were already made in HIS IMAGE AND LIKENESS. Satan said they would not die, but they did. He told them their eyes would be opened and they would know good from evil, but the irony is THAT THEY ALREADY KNEW IT (and so do we). The ‘Deceiver’ simply made them believe that they did not have what they already did, and they were not, what they already were. Herein lies the tragedy; they disbelieved God; they believed SATAN! (and so do we!)
So bold has Satan got over the years, that in the 3800 years of the Old Testament, Satan had got so used to deceiving the Israelites, that finally he thought to himself, ‘why not take on the Son of God himself?’ And so here he is in the desert. For forty days, Jesus is tempted and He had many temptations during this time. What we hear in this pericope are the last three temptations which are mirrored from the Old Testament temptations of Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve saw that ‘the tree was good’. They succumbed to the lust of the flesh and for bodily things. Satan mirrors this for Jesus when he asks Him to, “turn these stones into bread”. The Christian is called not to crave merely for bodily desires or needs, but to overcome them.
- Adam and Eve saw the fruit as a “delight to the eyes”. They succumbed to the lust of the eyes; they are dazzled by that which looked good in man’s eyes. Satan mirrors this for Jesus when he attempts to tempt Him, when he shows Him the city from the pinnacle of the temple. What a feast for the eyes this must have been, a feast to dazzle the mind into testing God.
- Adam and Eve were told that the tree would ‘make one wise’. They succumbed to the lust of pride and power; Jesus is mirrored with the same sin by Satan. “Worship me and I shall give you power.”
There are so many parallels and contrasts in these two temptations mirrored for us this Sunday.
- The first which plunged the human race into sin, and the second, which began the way back to salvation.
- With Adam, paradise was lost. With Jesus, paradise was regained.
- Our first parents lost the first battle with Satan, Jesus our brother won it back for us.
- In paradise, the temptation was to be ‘like God’. In the desert, the temptation was to be ‘king’
Satan was defeated! For all the doubt that he had planted in the minds of frail Adam and Eve, he could not succeed with Jesus. So desperate was Satan, that he tried a trick that worked 3800 years ago in the Garden of Eden, when he lured Adam and Eve with the promise of becoming ‘like God’. Now he is faced with God, yet he tries to sow the seeds of doubt when three times he says to Jesus, “if you are the Son of God”. Aha, but JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD!
Let’s not underestimate the power of Satan. He does not take defeat well. He came back as tempter and deceiver with the hope of a ‘one last chance’. He came back again to enter into the mind of Judas, to corrupt the mind of Peter and to fill the hearts of Israel with hate for Jesus.
But now we have hope, because we know that like Jesus, we too can crush him. He may tempt, but he does not have to succeed. So the next time you are tempted, remind the deceiver that you know a lot about his history of defeat. Tell him he can’t win, tell him you know about shameful loss at the hands of one who died for you and bled for you. Tell him about Calvary.
Fr Warner D’Souza
In thankfulness for my many sins that the Lord has pardoned me of.