Jesus and the Devil: Is the devil me?

Meeting at Milnerton 27 February 2022 at 09h00

Often when following Jesus - especially with a literal reading of scripture - we find ourselves focussing on the supernatural, the sensational, angels, demons being cast out, miraculous healings and other signs and wonders. The supernatural becomes a source of fascination for us, and often an excuse for our behaviour. We claim to be at the mercy of forces outside our control, “the devil made me do it…”

While we do read stories of Jesus casting out demons there is a clear implication that ultimate responsibility for healing lies with the person concerned, more so among those who claim to follow Jesus. As we look forward to Lent we are reminded of how Jesus did battle with his demons - and how we are required to do the same.

Jesus, having fasted in the wilderness for forty days, is hungry. This place of greatest temptation is where he meets the devil - as do many of us. It’s easy to follow Jesus when everything is going well, far more difficult when “we are hungry”. We’re more inclined to cut corners, to listen to the wrong voices, to do what we think is necessary to eat again.

The story of Jesus's encounter with the devil in the wilderness is a model for us in dealing with our temptations.

Jesus was tempted - just as we are - in the three areas of power (to change stones into bread), prestige (fame of surviving a fall off the temple), and possession (all this can be yours). These are the temptations all of us face everyday, and indeed the temptations that cause all the problems in our lives and the world: in politics, in the economy, in regard to justice issues in society.

The greatest capacity for evil is not found in the sensational, but within ourselves as we relentlessly pursue more power, more fame, more possessions. Then when everything falls apart we blame the devil.

By following Jesus we learn to deal with these temptations creatively: to recognise the desire for power, to change things, but in the knowledge of God’s love for us to trust instead; to recognise the desire for prestige and identify why and what we want to be recognised for, and where that desire is destructive to give it up; to recognise our desire for more and more things, thinking that when we have this our lives will be complete, instead remembering that we have and are enough, just as we are!

As we learn to do these things we reject that values that we find around us and begin to build the kingdom which Jesus proclaimed.