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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 3:13–4:11. Mark 1:9–13. Luke 4:1–13. John 1:32–34]

IN those days when Jesus was about thirty years of age, He went from Nazareth to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John stayed Him, saying; “I ought to be baptized by Thee, and comest Thou to me?” Jesus answering, said: “Suffer it now, for so it becometh us to fulfil all justice.” John obeyed the command, and Jesus was baptized.

Then the heavens were opened; the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven exclaimed: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Thus did the Eternal Father and the Holy Ghost give testimony that Jesus was the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world.

Before commencing His great work, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, where He prayed and fasted forty days and forty nights. Then He was hungry, and Satan, coming to tempt Him, said: “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” But Jesus answered: “It is written1: Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

 

Fig. 68. So-called Place of Temptation on Mt. Quarantine. (Phot. Bonfils.)

Then Satan took Him up into the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the Temple, and said: “If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it is written: He hath given His angels charge of Thee, and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest, perhaps, Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him: “It is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

But Satan made another attempt. He took our Lord to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory thereof, and said: “All these will I give Thee, if, falling down, Thou wilt adore me.” Jesus answered: “Begone, Satan; for it is written: The Lord thy God thou shalt adore, and Him only shalt thou serve.” Then the devil left Jesus: and, behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Why Jesus let Himself be baptized by John. 1. He did not require to do penance, because He was without sin; but He had taken our sins upon Him to atone for them; therefore He humbled Himself, placed Himself on a level with sinners, and obediently subjected Himself to be baptized, as He had submitted before to be circumcised, and presented in the Temple. 2. He gave us thereby a lesson in humility and obedience, and has taught us that we too must fulfil all justice, i. e. promptly obey all the ordinances of God. 3. By His baptism He sanctified water, and gave to it the power of purifying and sanctifying the soul of man. In other words, He instituted the Sacrament of Baptism by which, under the outward sign of water, we receive remission of our sins.

The testimony of heaven. The opening of heaven, the appearance of the Holy Ghost, and the voice from above all served to place Jesus before the people as the promised Redeemer, and to give them faith in His divine mission.

The opening of heaven signified that Heaven, which had been closed to man since the Fall, was now once more opened by Jesus. The visible apparition of the Holy Ghost proclaimed that in Jesus dwelt the fulness of divine grace and wisdom, and that He it was who would baptize with the Holy Ghost (John 1:33). The voice of God the Father proved that this Jesus, who had just received baptism like a sinful son of Adam, was indeed the beloved Son of the Father, in whom, in the days of His humiliation, His Father was well-pleased.

The Mystery of the Blessed Trinity. Even in the Old Testament there were several intimations given that there are more Persons than one in God. “The Spirit of God moved over the waters.” Let us make man to our image and likeness.” “I will be to Him a Father, and He will be My Son.” Now, in the New Testament, the mystery was fully revealed. The angel Gabriel said: “The Holy which shall be born of thee … shall be called the Son of God.” This revelation, however, was made to the Blessed Virgin alone. In the story we have just read, the mystery of One God in Three Persons is for the first time proclaimed publicly and solemnly. God the Father speaks from heaven; God the Son, in human form, stands in the Jordan; and God the Holy Ghost, under the form of a dove, hovers over the head of Jesus.

Jesus, the Anointed. The visible descent of the Holy Ghost upon Jesus showed that in Him dwelt the fulness of the Holy Spirit, and that, being the one great Prophet, Priest, and King, He is indeed the Anointed, the Christ. In this way Jesus solemnly entered on His public work of Redemption. The kings and priests of the Old Testament were anointed with oil, and, by this unction, endued with the graces necessary for their state; as, for instance (Old Test. L), you read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon David after Samuel had anointed him: but Jesus was anointed by the Holy Ghost Himself, without the intervention of the outward sign of oil. He is, therefore, the Anointed of the anointed, the Christ.

The effects of Christian Baptism. The wonderful events which followed the baptism of Jesus directly foreshadowed the wonderful effects of Christian Baptism which our Lord then instituted. In the Sacrament of Baptism the Holy Ghost comes down on man, gives him sanctifying grace, and implants in him the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. By the grace of Baptism God adopts man to be His beloved child, and opens for him the way to heaven.

The Prayer of our Lord after His baptism shows that we too ought to pray after receiving the holy Sacraments; that is, we ought to thank God for the grace received, and pray for perseverance in grace and good works.

Humility. St. John showed his humility by the words: “I ought to be baptized by Thee, and comest Thou to me?”

The dove is the type of innocence. The Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove to show that Jesus is the Innocent and Beloved One in whom His Father was well-pleased; for the dove is the symbol of innocence, love and gentleness.

The temptations of Jesus came from without, from the devil. No temptation could take hold of Jesus, for though indeed He had two wills, divine and human, His human will was always in complete harmony with His divine will, and could never turn against it and consent to sin. When, therefore, Jesus was tempted, His temptation could only come from without, as was also the case with our first parents in Paradise.

Why our Lord was tempted.

1. Because He came into the world to fight and overcome sin and Satan. The Saviour began His strife with the infernal serpent as soon as He began His public life, by victoriously repulsing Satan’s three temptations. He gloriously carried on the strife to the end, crushing the serpent’s head by His Death and Resurrection.

2. Because the Son of God wished to do violence to Himself, and abase Himself in order to redeem us. It was a great humiliation to the Son of God that Satan, the essence of all that is evil, should approach Him and dare to try to tempt Him to sin and disobedience against God. O Divine Saviour, how low didst Thou stoop, even to exposing Thyself to the contact and seductions of hell!

3. Because Jesus is the spiritual Father of mankind, and the second Adam. He desired, therefore, to be tempted as was the first Adam, in order to expiate the Fall of our first parents. Compare the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the temptation of Christ. The former took place in the midst of the beauty and abundance of Paradise, the latter in the bare desert, and when our Lord was in a state of painful hunger. Satan tempted our first parents to gluttony, pride and the lust of the eyes; and succeeded. He tried to allure our Lord to the same three lusts; and was overcome. Angels came and drove Adam and Eve from Paradise; whereas angels came and ministered to Jesus.

4. In order to show us how to meet temptations to evil.

5. In order to comfort and encourage us in the many trials and temptations of this life. St. Paul writes thus: “For we have not a High Priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities: but One tempted in all things like as we are, without sin. Let us go, therefore, with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid” (Hebr. 4:15, 16).

The different kinds of temptation. In the first temptation Satan wished to induce the Saviour, instead of trusting in God and patiently enduring hunger, to create bread by His own power, against His Father’s will. He sought, therefore, to make our Lord sin by sensuality and an unlawful desire for food, or in other words by gluttony. By the second temptation Satan tried to awaken a spiritual pride in Jesus, saying: “Throw yourself down; God will help you and see that no evil befalls you!” The cunning seducer wished thereby to change a humble and submissive confidence in God’s mercy into a proud presumption. By the third temptation Satan wished to arouse in Jesus concupiscence of the eyes, i. e. a desire for riches, power and pleasure. He had seduced the first man by inciting him to these three evil passions. The words: “Why hath God commanded you that you should not eat of every tree of Paradise?” were an inducement to gluttony, or to the concupiscence of the flesh. The words: “Your eyes shall be opened” were a temptation to pride, while the words: “You shall be as Gods” were an inducement to the concupiscence of the eyes, and a desire for power and glory. Our first parents succumbed to these temptations, because they gave ear to the suggestions of Satan, held intercourse with him, and gazed at the forbidden fruit (Old Test. IV). But Jesus over came the temptation and conquered Satan.

Means of resisting temptation. As a consequence of the Fall these three evil passions, which are the source of our most dangerous temptations, are rife in every man. Besides these passions, our fellow-creatures are a source of temptation to us, and the devil, also by God’s permission, still tempts us to evil. We are surrounded by temptations, and therefore Jesus has taught us by His example how we are to war against them. Let us then examine closely in what way it was that Jesus obtained a victory over temptation and the Tempter.

1. He did not expose Himself wantonly to temptation, for it was by the impulse of the Holy Spirit that He went into the desert to be tempted. This teaches us not to place ourselves in danger of sin without necessity, but carefully to avoid the occasion of it. “He that loveth. danger shall perish in it” (Ecclus. 3:27).

2. Jesus prepared Himself for temptation by prayer and fasting. We too must pray diligently, and practise self-denial, in order that we may be always ready to fight against the enemy of our salvation. Our Saviour says: “Watch ye and pray that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak” (chapter LXVII). He also commands us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation.” We shall become strong in spirit and able to resist temptation, if we practise self-denial.

3. During His temptation our Lord remembered the word of God, and finally sent the Tempter away authoritatively and decisively, by the words: “Begone, Satan!” Thus we too, whether the temptation come from within or from without, ought to turn our thoughts at once to God and His holy word, and say to the tempter: “Begone!” Wherefore, “Resist the devil, and he will fly from you” (James 4:7).

Fasting (the third commandment of the Church). The forty days’ fast of Jesus had been typified by that of Moses and of Elias (Old Test. XXXVII. LXV). Mortification being necessary for Christians, the Church has commanded a forty days’ fast to be observed each year, in memory of the fast of our Lord.

Satan’s efforts. How did Satan in the story we have read prove himself to be a liar? By the words: “All these things will I give you.” And how did he at the same time betray that he was the adversary of God, and possessed by a senseless pride? By the condition he made: “If thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Thus he demanded divine worship for himself! His whole desire is to oppose what is divine, and to put himself in God’s place as lord of creation!

APPLICATION. After you received holy Baptism, you too were a beloved child of God with whom your Heavenly Father was well-pleased. Are you still a holy and innocent child? Is your soul still unstained by sin? Is there anything in you with which God cannot be pleased, such as lies, disobedience, anger or deceitfulness? Oh, remember that by sin you have stained your white robe of innocence; repent of this, detest sin and avoid it for the future.

If you pay attention to yourself, you will find that in the course of the day you are assailed by many temptations. Do you know to what you are most often tempted? Yet temptation is not sin; it only becomes sin when you take pleasure in it and consent to it. As often as you resist and overcome it, you gain in virtue, and merit a reward from God. When you are tempted, turn to God; pray to Jesus and Mary for help, and remember the word of God which warns you against the very sin to which you are tempted. If anger rises within you, say: “Blessed are the meek,” or else: “For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God” (James 1:20). If you are inclined to quarrel or fight, say to yourself: “Blessed are the peace-makers”; or if you are in danger of telling lies, remind yourself of the proverb: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 12:22).








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