Imagine what it must have felt like for the apostles to follow behind Jesus entering Jerusalem as King David did, to the shouts and cheers of the crowds. Finally He (and they) were being awarded the recognition and praise that the Christ deserved. HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST! What was their understanding of the Christ? I imagine that the picture most people had, and have, was much like this: a triumphant conqueror who will put everything in the world to right. He will get rid of the Romans. He will provide us with everything we need or want. Yay!
Back on the first Sunday of Lent, Satan described a very good picture of this Christ: 1. He can turn stones into bread, as the very rich can do through mining natural resources. To be a kind ruler who feeds his people, just be sure to please the wealthy; 2. He will be unassailable, for no one can hurt him no matter how boldly he acts as long as he has protective army; 3. If He does achieve those two, He will become Ruler of the World, if only he bows down to the Prince of Lies and covers up all weaknesses and crimes.
I imagine that the Temptation in the Desert actually took place in the Garden of Olives when Jesus was left alone to struggle with how to be the Christ. He was truly human. It was a real temptation. Three times He went looking for support. Finally, He accepted His own Truth that He could not use all those crutches that Satan offered.
The apostles did not get it. Even Simon who was called Peter after his great acknowledgement of Jesus as the Christ, was also called Satan by Jesus when he would not give up his own understanding of what Christ was. (Matthew 16: 18 and 22,23) On the Road to Emmaus, the Stranger explained to Cleopas and his friend how the Scriptures taught that the Christ “must suffer these things” in order to enter into his glory. (Luke 24:13-35) Even after the resurrection apostles asked Jesus, “Will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
Those temptations in the desert seem very surreal when put into story form but they are always with us in everyday life: the temptation to lie to cover up mistakes and sins; the temptation to use force and pretend it is righteous; the temptation to put down people we think are beneath us; the temptation to do favours for the rich in the hope of getting something back, even something good for others; to seek praise by covering up our faults. One of the athletes at the Dubbin Inquiry into Steroids in Sport said, not as an excuse but an explanation, “The glory is too sweet, the money too big…” Louisa May Alcott wrote in Little Women, (Chapter 9) “Learn to value the praise which is worth having…” but do not betray yourself by pretending.
AFTERWORD: Mark 13:5-8 is relevant today. A good leader does not lie or spread fear but gives firm, clear and honest direction. We can have faith that following the protocols will slow the pandemic; we can dare to hope that global cooperation today will light the way to slow down climate change; we can practice charity, for by protecting ourselves, we protect our neighbors and by communicating through phone and internet, we can comfort one another.