In the article “Three Tests in the Wilderness,” in the March 2019 issue of Living Lutheran, author Brian Hiortdahl reviews for us the three temptations that Satan tried to entice Jesus with during his 40 days in the wilderness. The temptations were:
To turn stone to bread.
To throw himself from a high place to be rescued by angels
To gain power over all the kingdoms of the earth by bowing to Satan
Each of these temptations Jesus resists and overcomes, using Scripture and declaring that God should not be put to the test.
Hiortdal reveals that Jesus overcame each of temptations in a much greater way in the last days of his life.
Jesus turns his body into bread for those with hearts of stone on Maundy Thursday.
Jesus is thrown down on the cross on Good Friday, but rises from the dead on Easter.
Jesus ascends to absolute power when he returns to his rightful throne in heaven on Ascension Day.
Because Jesus ultimately overcame these temptations in this way, we, too, have the ultimate power to overcome every temptation the devil sends our way.
The mere-exposure effect is the well-documented psychological phenomenon that people tend to respond favorably to and think positively about anything they are merely exposed to regularly or are familiar with. I recently heard about it on an NPR story involved a study of parents’ perception of the educational system in our country. While a high percentage of parents had an unfavorable opinion of the educational system as a whole, they had a very favorable rating of their children’s school or the school in their community. Fascinating!
I think this effect has some applications, both positive and negative, for us as Christians.
On the positive side, while many people in our country may have an unfavorable attitude toward the institutional church as a whole, they may be more receptive to regular personal contact from individual Christians who talk to them on the street, wave hello, stop by to drop off some food when they are sick, etc. This is an opportunity for us to be a friend and a good example of what the Christian life is all about: loving one another on a personal level because of the love that God has shown to us in Christ.