The gospels say that after his baptism, the Holy Spirit led Christ into the desert for a spiritual retreat (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Although there were wild animals in the desert, the angels looked after him. After he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, the Devil arrived to tempt him.
Pope Benedict XVI explained: “At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus had to unmask himself and reject the false images of the Messiah, which the tempter was suggesting to him. Yet these temptations are also false images of man that threaten to ensnare our conscience, in the guise of suitable, effective and even good proposals.”
He went on: “The Evangelists Matthew and Luke present three temptations of Jesus that differ slightly, but only in their order. Their essential core is always the exploitation of God for our own interests, giving preference to success or to material possessions. The tempter is cunning. He does not directly impel us towards evil but rather towards a false good, making us believe that the true realities are power and everything that satisfies our primary needs.”
The first temptation involved Satan asking Christ to prove that he was the Son of God by turning some stones into bread. Despite being hungry after fasting for forty days, Christ told the Devil: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
The Devil then switched tactics, carrying him up to a high mountain and showing him a vision of all of the kingdoms of the earth. He promised all of this power to Christ if he would bow down and worship him. But Christ said: “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Deuteronomy 6:13)
So Satan tried one more time, carrying him to Jerusalem and placing him on the top of the Temple. He dared Christ to leap off, even quoting Scripture to prove that God would protect him. However, Christ responded: “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
These three stained glass scenes of the Temptation of Christ form part of a series of windows that focus on the Ten Commandments. They are found within Sacred Heart and St Teresa, Coleshill. Created around 1950 by the artist Gilbert Sheedy, the windows illustrate each of the three temptations in turn. Their cartoonish style is quite striking, with the Devil pictured as a particularly comic figure.
In the first window, which illustrates the Tenth Commandment (against envy), the Devil offers Christ a stone to turn into bread, which Christ refuses. The second relates to the First Commandment, serving God alone. It shows Christ perched on top of a mountain, while the Devil tempts him with political power.
The third scene pictures Christ on top of the Temple, as the Devil tempts him to jump off. This is linked to the Second Commandment, which forbids blasphemy. Although they form a set, for some reason Satan is presented slightly differently in each – yellow and white, sporting a beard and not, as well as with various patterns in his wings.
The First Temptation:
Gilbert Sheedy / The Temptation of Christ / Stained glass / 1950
The Second Temptation:
The Third Temptation:
Where to find this work of art
Sacred Heart and St Teresa, Coleshill
Read the relevant passage
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: Christ’s resistance to temptation by the Devil is contrasted with the temptation of Adam and Eve in Eden.
- From the New Testament: During his Agony in the Garden, Christ spoke further about resisting temptation.
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