Most of us will never spend 40 days (nearly six weeks) in the wilderness, let alone fasting. So when we read about Jesus doing this (Matthew 4:1-11), we’re impressed, but it doesn’t seem relevant to our lives.
But the story of Jesus’ temptation has some valuable lessons we can learn. I believe that the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) gives us a different angle on it, which can help us understand it more clearly.
Jesus visited Mary and Martha at home, and Mary sat and listened to Jesus, while Martha busied herself preparing the meal. When Martha complained, Jesus told her that Mary had chosen the better part.
Think back to Jesus in the wilderness – he could have spent his time doing the “Martha things” – foraging for edible plants, and perhaps hunting wild animals. But instead, he did the “Mary things”. He fasted, and reflected deeply on scripture. And that was why he was able to resist the devil’s temptations.
During these 40 days of Lent, let’s try to follow Jesus’ example, and do less “Martha things”, and more “Mary things”. Perhaps during Lent we could give up doing a particular daily task that seems more important than it really is, and spend the time reading our Bibles instead. Or at church, maybe we could drop off the morning tea roster for Lent, and put ourselves on the prayer roster instead.
At the end of Lent, I suspect we’ll find that we have a better attitude as we take up our “Martha things” again. And we may even decide that the “Martha things” weren’t so important after all.
The Revd Bryce Amner