The Desert Experience of Jesus
Jesus was tested in the desert. It is a parallel experience of Jesus to the forty years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert. The temptations narrated in Mathew, Luke and Mark are some of the temptations Jesus faced throughout his life. Discerning the will of His Father. In the desert he was face to face with himself. He was face to face with the options the world offered. Jesus had to make a deliberate choice. The path Jesus would choose would be known as the Jesus Way of Life.
The first temptation to Jesus to convert stones into bread. Our daily bread, our livelihood is an everyday grind, struggle. No one is exempt from this toil. If we solved this universal problem, we would have solved the world’s greatest and most persistent problem for all people, for all time.
Does bread satisfy the basic needs of human persons. What is life for? We say at once happiness. Does bread give happiness fully? Is happiness more than bread? Is happiness a yearning to love and be loved? Is it enough to have food for work? to satisfy our material and physical wants? will this satisfy our yearning for happiness. We are yearning for something more, not only bread but the bread of life,the Word of God. The bread of life that goes beyond what the ordinary bread can give. The bread of life, which is the bread of love, which can be broken and shared. If we are giving mere bread, only food for work we are social workers. But we are not social workers, we are animators, we are directors of the soul, of the spirit, we are called to animate, to en-spirit, to give life to people. We must raise our work with people beyond material handouts and enable, encourage and show people how to relate, to collaborate, to work together as a community. In India irrespective of caste, creed and colour. Then our food for work will have its desired result: building people, building communities of people. This is what Jesus opted for: the Word of God, the bread of life for the people to be more fully themselves.
The Second Temptation: throw yourself from the pinnacle of the Temple and you will float down unharmed, unhurt, untouched.
Human existence is one of sickness, accidents, missed opportunities, bad luck, death. Hunger we can prevent through daily work, or worse through begging. But we cannot ward off the threats to health. Hence the temptation posed to Jesus: show the crowds gathered in the Temple precincts that he was immune to death and threats to death. Then the people will have no more fear of pain and suffering. There will be no more cancer nor the scourge of HIV Aids. Would Jesus fall for this temptation for the sake of the people: what a noble cause, how tempting to remove once and for all time from the face of the earth all pain and suffering?
What would this mean? It would mean taking away freedom in the world. It would mean manipulating and controlling the world in order to avoid evil and suffering. God would take away the one quality which makes human: his/her freedom.
Jesus chose rather to be fully human – he chose to enter into the human struggle to seek for happiness. He chose the path life of ordinary, common people. Jesus did not opt to take short-cuts in his life. He would not work miracles for his own benefit. He would not come down from the cross to escape suffering and death.
There are no magic solutions to the problems of life. But all the solutions call upon us to use our intelligence, with all the knowledge at our disposal with imagination and creativity and to exercise this with integral love, involving all those who are similarly affected. This was he option of Jesus, he was one with us in our struggles to make the world a better to live in.
The Third Temptation: “All the kingdoms of the world would be yours”. The Caesars, the Napoleons, the Hitlers – held the world for a brief spell in the palms of their hands. Such is the fascination of power. The power to make or break, to build or crush. The awesome exercise of power. Before such power is submission. There is no other option – submit or perish. Such power makes people into slaves, puppets, chamchas. They submit, they give up their right to be persons and become wax in the hands of power who moulds, shapes, fashions them according to his needs. his whims and fancies.
Jesus did not choose to submit to the power of might. Jesus chose to be powerless. Jesus chose to freely place himself under the power of love – to power to share, to cooperate, to respect and reverence others, to work with the uncertainties of people freely and willingly working together. Jesus endorsed the patient and tireless work of animators with peoples’ organisations.