Today we welcome a new writer, Leonard Koh, to our team.
Leonard had his world turned right-side-up when he personally encountered Jesus at the age of fifteen. Since then, the purpose of his life is to make Jesus famous. He serves full-time at the Catholic Spirituality Centre of Singapore previously as its Youth Ministry Director, and now as a Senior Manager of Programme and Pastoral Care. Leonard is passionate about leading people in a growing relationship with God, bringing the Word of God to life and helping ministries flourish. He holds a Masters in Theological Studies and was working as an art director in advertising before being called into full-time ministry.
Leonard is happily married to his best friend, Cassilda. He enjoys a good bowl of Laska and is known to bleed coffee when cut. His other interests include photography & boardgaming, and moonlights surreptitiously as an Instagram Influencer combining them both. He hopes that his reflections will help people to see that there is nothing else more compelling, more meaningful, more beautiful and more worthy thing to do in this life than to follow Jesus.
10 March 2019
Moses said to the people: ‘The priest shall take the pannier from your hand and lay it before the altar of the Lord your God. Then, in the sight of the Lord your God, you must make this pronouncement:
‘“My father was a wandering Aramaean. He went down into Egypt to find refuge there, few in numbers; but there he became a nation, great, mighty, and strong. The Egyptians ill-treated us, they gave us no peace and inflicted harsh slavery on us. But we called on the Lord, the God of our fathers. The Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders. He brought us here and gave us this land, a land where milk and honey flow. Here then I bring the first-fruits of the produce of the soil that you, the Lord, have given me.”
‘You must then lay them before the Lord your God, and bow down in the sight of the Lord your God.’
Scripture says: The word (that is the faith we proclaim) is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart. If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’
Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says:
You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’
Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says:
He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you,
They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’
But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said:
You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil
Imagine if you were the Devil getting up that morning and your job for that day was to derail the purposes of not just a ruler of some country, but the Son of God Himself. Ever since the day you received news that the Divine Son had showed up as a human baby on the doorsteps of earth, you knew this day was coming. You had watched him all this while, growing up in the household of Joseph and Mary. Every devil-underling dispatched through the years in attempts to snuff or sniff out the nature of His mission has been largely unsuccessful. Recent reports of increased divine activity and an actual audio-visual incursion of the Creator at the Jordan River, in the presence of on-looking human subjects, have sent alarm bells ringing through the halls of hell. Enough is enough. Today, you will personally step in and take care of business.
As a lion that watches its prey, you observe the Son of God from a distance, clothed in the insufferable flesh of the humans, wandering in loneliness and hunger through the wilderness. You ponder on your angle of attack. How does one tempt the very Son of God? Fetch a harlot from the nearby town? Perhaps devise a ploy to lure Jesus into lying, stealing or even murder? No. Those temptations are far too obvious, amateur games reserved for the trainees to toy with the weak saints. This is the Son of God we are talking about and he is certainly no pushover. It will certainly require the highest levels of sophistication and subtlety if these temptations were to succeed.
Experience has taught you that often the best way to tempt a person in any given situation is to ask what the Creator wants to make of it, and then to do the exact opposite. You observed that it was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness in order to subject him to the suffering. This is no surprise. In His schemes to win over the humans, the Creator had always relied more on troughs than peaks; many of His favorite saints have had to endure far greater sufferings than anyone else. In truth, unlike you, the Creator actually takes no delight in making his saints miserable, but would often permit their suffering to promote their greater good. These sufferings seem to be designed to form them into the sort of creatures He wants them to be, namely those who would freely choose to put their trust in Him, in spite of the presence of pain or the absence of divine incentives. However, this divine strategy is a risky gamble. And in the heat of suffering, trust in the Creator’s goodness is often tenuous, and therefore open to exploitation. The angle of attack becomes clear to you — hinder Jesus from suffering at all cost.
You close in for the kill. Your opening salvo aims at Jesus’ identity: “If you are a child of a King, why are you living like a pauper? Surely you deserve better than this? Just say the word and turn these stones into bread. Claim your princely blessings.”
Your second move is to offer Jesus an easier way of accomplishing his mission: “I can offer you a shortcut. A path that does not require any suffering. You only need to worship me and all that you have come for will be yours in an instant!”
Your final attempt was to incite Jesus to use his divine power to relieve his own sufferings: “Let everyone in Jerusalem see you for who you are, the Son of God! Prove to them that even the angels of God will do everything in their power to keep you from suffering.”
So willing were you to even allow the city to acknowledge Jesus’ divine son-ship if it meant keeping him from suffering.
But time and time again, each temptation was met with Jesus’ unwavering resolve to obey the Creator. He was determined to trust God and to embrace his suffering as the will of His Father. Not once did he give in to the temptation to murmur against God like the Israelites did in the wilderness. The Son of God has prevailed.
As you make your retreat, you know that even though this battle may have been lost, the war is far from over. There will be other opportunities. So you continue your prowl, stalking the Son of God as He begins his ministry, looking for any means to devour Him and to ruin all those who call themselves his followers.
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matt 16:23-25
(Today’s Oxygen by Leonard Koh)
Prayer: We ask for the grace of perfect submission to your most holy will. That even in our afflictions, we will choose the way of Christ, deny ourselves, take up our daily crosses and follow You faithfully.
Thanksgiving: We thank you dear Lord, that we are held in the unshakable assurance of your love and goodness towards us. Inspired by this confidence, we can remain steadfast in all our storms and sufferings.