Just finished reading Chapters 3 and 4 of Matthew’s Gospel. There is so much there that it would take pages to discuss. It is about His baptism by John and His temptation in the desert. Satan was tempting Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. He wants Him to embrace an earthly and political mission and thus subvert from His real mission of suffering and dying for our salvation.
Unlike us, Jesus could not have sinned at any time during His earthly life. His “temptations” were entirely the suggestions of the devil and had nothing to do with any kind of inner struggle or disordered desire of a fallen nature. We, of course, experience temptation because of our fallen nature. However, just because He couldn’t sin, doesn’t mean that He didn’t show us how the devil should be treated when he comes around with his “suggestions.”
According to St. John Chrysostom, Jesus gives us a perfect example of Christian obedience. Earthly life is our wilderness. Our goal is to get to the “land” of heaven. This life is like a probationary period for us. God wills that we overcome temptations (from the world, the flesh, and the devil) through the practice of penance and obedience to God’s word. We must desire Christ’s humility. And this is how we can increase the gift of righteousness: penance, obedience, and humility.
Righteousness is a gift from God. The word itself is used 7 times in Matthew and 85 times in the rest of the New Testament. Christ first gives us this gift in Baptism when we are restored in our relationship as an adopted son or daughter of God. It always means (from the Greek) the uprightness and faithfulness of God and His people. It is part of the unique covenant vocabulary that runs throughout the old and new testaments. God’s righteousness is because He is holy and is revealed as He takes care of Israel. Now, He has demonstrated His righteousness through the saving work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus wants us to be righteous, like He and His Father, are righteous.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you.” Jn 4: 7-8, 10
And, I might add, fill you with righteousness.