The Temptation of Jesus

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. (Mark 1:12-13)

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’ ”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you’, and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:1-13)

The final confrontations with the darkness inside of him, the same darkness found in all humans, would not occur psychically until the suffering of the cross. He did retreat to the desert knowing that the engagement he required was an inner engagement. The fasting, the isolation, and the meditation exposed the interior components of his being. These components of his being were primordial forms of identity and power that ego-centered consciousness repressed and used to create false limits to his authority and power, false limits from which he sought liberation—liberation for himself and others. The material manifestation of that authority and power, though possible, as suggested by the darkness he encountered, was secondary to the higher forms of consciousness his inner being was moving toward. Jesus discovered and knew that his interior process was shared in some form by every human being, and this discovery was the seed that grew into the Sermon on the Mount. The interior being—unrecognized by humans—was the true indication of the spiritual reality that existed for each person. He called these forms of unconscious spiritual reality into the open. At times they emerged in the behavior of people as embarrassment or consternation, sometimes as anger or fear of his knowledge and wisdom; other times these behaviors spilled out in demonic forms when confronted by his authority and awareness.