Today is the first Sunday in Lent, a period of self examination, repentance and preparation for the great celebration of Easter. It is traditionally a period of self denial - hence the idea of "giving something up for Lent". The 40 days of lent mirror the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness at the very start of his ministry. (Luke 4)
He went without food for 40 days, itself something of a miracle. I once heard someone say that we can live for three minutes without air, three days without water and three weeks without food, and although there are plenty of examples of endurance well beyond these limits, it gives an idea that 40 days of fasting is an extraordinary feat. At the end of the forty days the bible tells us that "Jesus was hungry". I'll bet he was! So came the first temptation - to turn the stones into bread.
It seems very reasonable (apart from being miraculous of course) - why not call on God to meet a very real and urgent need? The key here is in the way the temptation was framed. "if you are the Son of God ..." This was not just about a temptation to eat - it was also about the temptation for Jesus to prove himself. Would pride lead to Jesus disobeying God's command to fast? How great must the temptation have been, with ravenous hunger gnawing at his belly and at his mind. Jesus conquered the temptation by quoting scripture. "Man shall not live by bread alone, [but by every word that comes from the mouth of God]." (Deut. 8:3)
There is a lesson here for us all. When our service to God stops being about him, or about our neighbours, and starts being about us, that's when we know we are walking the path of pride. When a public display of faith is about the display not the faith, we have been turning stones to bread. This is where we, like Jesus, need to be rooted in the Word of God. Through prayerful study of the bible, the Holy Spirit can equip us to understand the true nature of the temptations that seek to veer us off the narrow way.
As there are plenty of weeks in Lent, I will look at the other temptations in the weeks to come.