Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by John Chrysostom

Jesus was led by the Spirit through the wilderness
where he was tempted.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” What does “then” mean? After the Spirit descended, after the voice from heaven said: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” The amazing thing is that scripture says it was the Holy Spirit who led him there!

All that Jesus did and suffered was for our instruction.

He consented to be led into the desert and to do battle with the devil so that when the baptized were assailed by greater temptations after baptism than before they would not be troubled as though this were something unexpected, but would remain steadfast, bearing them all nobly.

You did not receive weapons so that you might sit at ease, but so that you might fight!

The reasons God does not prevent the onslaught of temptations are these.

First, so that you may learn that you have now become much stronger; 

then, so that you may remain modest, for you will not be puffed up by the greatness of your gifts if temptations can humble you; 

next, because the wicked demon may doubt at first whether you have really renounced him and the test of temptation will convince him of your total desertion; 

fourth, to confirm you, who are now stronger and steadier than iron; 

fifth, to give you clear evidence of the treasures committed to you.

The devil would not have attacked you if he had not seen that you have been raised to a position of great honor.

Notice where it was that the Spirit led Jesus—not into the city or the market place, but into the desert. Since Jesus wished to entice the devil he gave him his opportunity not only by his own hunger, but also by his choice of place.

The devil usually attacks people when he sees them alone by themselves. He does not dare to do so when he sees them together with others.

It is for this reason especially that we should frequently meet with one another. If we do not we may become an easy prey for the devil.

And so, the devil finds Jesus in the desert, in a trackless wilderness.

Consider how vile and wicked the devil's approach is, and what sort of opportunity he watches for. He does not come near when Jesus is fasting, but only when he is hungry.

You should learn from this the great value of fasting and that no weapon is more powerful against the devil. After baptism you should not be filled with food and drink from a well-laden table, but should rather devote yourself to fasting.

Jesus fasted not because he himself had any need to do so, but to give us an example.

(On Matthew 13, 1: PG 57,207-209)

John Chrysostom (c.347-407) was born at Antioch and studied under Diodore of Tarsus, the leader of the Antiochene school of theology. After a period of great austerity as a hermit, he returned to Antioch where he was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386.

From 386 to 397 it was his duty to preach in the principal church of the city, and his best homilies, which earned him the title “Chrysostomos” or “the golden-mouthed,” were preached at this time. In 397 Chrysostom became patriarch of Constantinople, where his efforts to reform the court, clergy, and people led to his exile in 404 and finally to his death from the hardships imposed on him.

Chrysostom stressed the divinity of Christ against the Arians and his full humanity against the Apollinarians, but he had no speculative bent. He was above all a pastor of souls, and was one of the most attractive personalities of the early Church. 
 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson