notre dame montreal

Sermon Preached by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman 29 February 2004


Temptation of Jesus Temptation, falling short of the mark  -  Luke 4 v 1 - 13

We often think of temptation as negative, things that we’ve succumbed to, rules we’ve broken

And if we do succumb to temptation we think God is going to punish us, make something nasty happen to us, perhaps send us somewhere we don’t want to go to serve Him

But that’s probably not the right way to understand the concept of temptation

As Christians we’re called to the privilege of loving and worshiping God and reflecting His glory in the world through the glory that is in us, through our transformed lives in Him

He has called each one of us, and has a path and a destiny planned out for each one of us, the best way for each one of us

When we fall into temptation and sin therefore its not that God is going to send down a thunderbolt to punish us

It’s that we’re settling for second best – something less than God has ordained for us

Falling short of the mark, missing the target - which also happens to be one way to translate the word sin

It’s more like a self inflicted punishment than any punishment from God

(And we’re often quite good at punishing ourselves when we sin!)

So if we’re to avoid as much temptation as possible and get as close to the mark as possible it’s important to try to understand what God has in store for each one of us

In the gospel reading today we read that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, one for each year that the Israelites spent in the wilderness, fasting and praying

We have to presume that for at least some of the time He was communicating with the Father to better understand what His own destiny was, what it was that the Father had sent Him to do

So that when He came out of the wilderness He was clearer than ever about what His destiny was, what His purpose was, and why He had come to the earth

And because He was clear about what He had come for, it was relatively easy for Him to overcome the temptations of the devil, because He did not want to fall short of the purpose the Father had set for Him

The implication for us is clear

We too need to spend time with the Father so we can understand better His will for our lives so that we can get closer to the mark and the destiny He has for us

Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying in the wilderness

Perhaps we haven’t got 40 days to spare

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t spend time fasting, praying and reading to try to understand what the purpose God has for our lives

Indeed, sometimes when we are going through our own wilderness experience, that’s the best time to try to discern God’s will

Moses received the 10 commandments in the wilderness, Jesus confirmed what is destiny was in the wilderness

The wilderness, the desert, the dry places can therefore be a place where, perhaps because of its very dry barrenness, God’s will can become clear, unencumbered by any other distractions and paraphernalia

And whatever our circumstances, Lent has traditionally offered us the opportunity to reflect on our lives, to put right the things with God where we have fallen into temptation and to understand His will for each one of us

But is knowing God’s will just about fasting, praying, reading and other self disciplines?

I always find it fascinating that there are about 6 times more references in the New Testament to doing God’s will than there are to knowing God’s will

So it would appear that a large part of knowing God’s will is getting on and doing what we believe it to be, and then being open to encouragement or corrective guidance along the way

It used to be said that we need to die to Jesus every day, but not spend all day doing it

From the Gospels too, we know that Jesus did spend quite times with the Father, understanding better His will

We also know, that if the relative volume of words is anything to go by, He spent far more time doing the Father’s will rather than trying to get a better understanding of what that will was

Often in business you don’t have all the information you would like to make a decision, but you often have enough to make a ‘good enough’ decision to get you going in the right direction and them make any necessary corrections along the way

It’s a bit like that with God’s will, we need to get on and do what we believe to be the right thing and be open to corrections and slight changes in direction as we move along

In all probability we’ll never fully understand the Father’s will for our lives (He’s God, we’re human)

It might be that we feel things were once clearer but now it just feels like we’re in the wilderness and can’t find our way out


Perhaps we don’t understand why we, or someone we love, were once in full health and now are ill and suffering

But that does not alter the fact that God has a calling for each one of us and, as Christians we are called to try to live out that calling the best of our human abilities, empowered by that same spirit as Jesus

In taking communion, the signs and symbols of God’s love for us God is inviting us to come our of the wilderness, to come and receive his wholeness, to come and know more of his will, so that we can take the next steps along our Christian journey of knowing and doing His will

Lent is a time of reflection, a time to look back on the journey we’ve been through these past few months and years

And as we look into ourselves and see the things which we need to put right

But as we look into ourselves we should also see the glory that is within each one of us, perhaps buried deeply within us, but there nonetheless

And as we see that glory, and perhaps catch a glimpse of what Christ has called us to, we should be encouraged to look forward with excitement to what might lie ahead on our journey with Christ

Temptation will always be out there, and it will be different for each one of us 

But so is the opportunity to take the next step along our Christian lives

Sam Cappleman