I wonder how many homilies on the temptations of Jesus will concentrate on the theological aspects to the exclusion of the psychological? I ask because I think one of the reasons many find it difficult to relate to the person of Christ is that, practically speaking, we have an either/or approach, making him wholly human or wholly divine, but not both. The result is an impoverishment of our reading of the gospels. That is especially true of the temptation narrative we read today, where the reality of the choice facing Jesus is often played down, as though he were merely play-acting. The idea of Jesus being genuinely attracted by evil is deeply shocking. It brings home to us with startling clarity the importance of the choices we ourselves make as well as the salvation opened to us by his decisive rejection of all that is contrary to God.
Jesus did not succumb to temptation; we often do; but as the Letter to the Hebrews points out, we now have as intercessor a High Priest who has experienced everything we have — but without sinning. That is a great encouragement to us all. It reminds us that evil can be overcome. We are not the weak and feeble beings we often think we are, and we give thanks that we have ‘such and so mighty a Redeemer.’