Provision, Power, Prestige: a Maundy Thursday Meditation on Temptation

In a place of drought and heat, we found a spring of fresh cool water. God provides, has power over earth. Prestige and glory to God.

The Temptations of Christ initiated my Lenten meditations. I found them somewhat confusing and difficult to understand. That very Sunday, Fr. Scott Bailey, the rector of All Saints’ Church Woodbridge, preached on the very same topic. Coincidence or inspiration? I lean toward God’s inspiration. My Lenten meditations today, Maundy Thursday, led right back to temptation in Judas… and in my own life and in all of us.

Fr. Scott used alliteration: Provision, Power, Prestige. I apologize to him as I likely altered his sermon to accommodate my memory needs. The temptations are 1. Turn stones into bread. 2. Test God to save him if he jumps off a cliff. 3. Rule over all worldly kingdoms. This interpretation is my own semi-scholarly, mostly prayerful struggle to apply to life today.

Provision is trusting that God provides everything. I learned this in Sunday School as a very young child and was blessed with parents who worked hard to keep food on our plates and clothes on our backs. It was not fancy; we grew, picked, hunted, fished and preserved almost everything we ate. Our clothes were usually rummage sale or hand-me-downs from my dozens of cousins. But we never went lacking and I never felt anxious or poor.

As an adult, though, I’ve not always felt provided for. I was denied love, protection from those vowed to do so, a sense of security, stability in relationships, and the means to provide for my children without significant sacrifice. I thought I deserved these things and begged God incessantly. It took many years for me to recognize I was a child demanding from my parent, rather than an adult grateful for what I have and am able to do. We can be chronologically adult and still an infant spiritually.

Power is just another word for control in my personal lexicon. And I do like to have control over my life, my emotions, my everything. It’s a great failing. Most of my life I’ve had no power to control anything, so I fought back the only way I could, with OCD tendencies. It only led to frustration, anger, worry and failure. Jesus was tempted to snatch the power of saving his physical body from harm by forcing God to send angels to save him. He declared we should not tempt God. To do so is to doubt the care God has for every one of us.

We are called to become child-like; trusting, grateful, confident in provision and love. We are not to become childish; demanding, grasping, doubting provision.

Prestige is the desire to be recognized for our worth, to be appreciated and noticed and have power over others. I’ve always described myself as, “eager to please”. It took a long time to recognize it actually meant, “eager to be noticed and praised”. Don’t we all want recognition, in our work, our family, our church community?

Jesus says, rather than worshiping our own glory and good works, we are to worship God alone. To God is the glory and the power. No worldly service should be done as a reflection of our own worth. It is to reflect God’s worth and be done in God’s name, therefore we should not receive the acclimation. God should.

That brings me to Maundy Thursday. John 18:1-9 and the actions of Judas riveted my attention. Using the Blue Letter Bible, I studied the actual use of the words. Betrayed actually means “delivered”. It is explained as giving one’s power to another, delivered into judicial custody, as well as “betrayed”. Suddenly, this gave new light to the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. John 18:4 says, “Jesus, knowing all that would happen came forth.” The phrase “came forth” is a word meaning to permit or allow as “fruit will allow when it’s ripeness permits.”

When “Satan enters Judas” in John 13:27, Jesus responds with “Now is the son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31) Which led me right back to the three temptations in the desert. We are taught Judas sought provision from God to free them from Rome’s grasp. He sought power and prestige for the man he believed was the Messiah.

Judas accepted the three temptations Jesus rejected.

Yet, Jesus did not condemn Judas.

Not only did he declare himself and God glorified by Judas’s actions, he also said in Mt 27: 3-10 that to fulfill scripture, he “did not lose any” of his disciples. That always bothered me. Judas betrayed/delivered him to the worldly authorities. But, the word interpreted as “lost” actually means to destroy, to declare one must be put to death, to give over to eternal misery in hell.”

Jesus did not condemn Judas. What right, then do I have to fail to forgive others who betray and injure me? To worry and doubt God’s provision? To seek power over my own life? To desire prestige?

Lead us not into temptation, Lord, but deliver us from evil.

3 thoughts on “Provision, Power, Prestige: a Maundy Thursday Meditation on Temptation

    1. Thank you Julie. I’ve been intending to tell you how inspiring you Lenten collect commentaries have been for my prayer time this week. I bet you notice Fr Scott’s influence on kicking off my meditation today on the word “betrayed”.


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