It is an ancient tradition that we read the gospel of the temptation of Jesus on the first Sunday of Lent. There is the obvious connection that Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness, but there are deeper reasons. In each of the synoptic gospels we are told how, before his ministry begins, Jesus, filled with the Spirit, encounters the spirit of evil. It is what his ministry is all about. It is what our lives are all about. To overcome evil with goodness is the constant challenge of the gospel.
In the longer narratives in Matthew and Luke we are given what amounts to a profound reflection on the nature of temptation. To use God-given powers for selfish ends is a temptation rife in our modern times. To worship the source of evil recalls our modern confusion about what is morally good and morally bad. To put God to the test is similarly familiar. Jesus withstands each of these tests. Our gospel ends with the departure of the devil ‘to return at the appointed time’. Luke knows that the critical time will come at Calvary.