In the Minneapolis Institute of Art, there is a compelling work by the Venetian artist Titian. Most people who look at the painting assume they are looking at a scene of Jesus in conversation with a handsome young boy. When asked to suggest a title, folks often offer something like "Jesus Blesses a Child" or "Suffer the Little Children to Come to Me." I have heard people give an audible gasp of surprise when they learn that the painting is called "The Temptation of Christ."
All of a sudden, something comforting becomes something disturbing. Titian apparently intended to surprise the viewer when he depicted the tempter as a comely child offering something in his hand. That something is a stone, echoing the text: "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread."
If the painting and the text teach us anything, they indicate that temptation comes in all shapes and sizes, especially comely ones. That's why it's called temptation.
God our provider, you have not fed us with bread alone, but with words and images of grace and life. Bless us and all your gifts which come from your bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Luke 4:1-3 (NRSV)
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
2 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.
3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread."
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