The Way (Truth and Life) of the Cross: Reflecting on the Road to Calvary through the Temptations of Jesus Christ

Typology is defined as the study and interpretation of types and symbols that, from a theological perspective, views the Old Testament people and stories as foreshadowing New Testament events. A primary example of typology from sacred scripture points to Jesus as the New of 2nd Adam. The first Adam, who in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3) had everything; but due to his pride strove equality with God. Jesus Christ, the New Adam fasted in the desert for forty days and overcame temptations. As Saint Paul states, “though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather He emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:6-7).

TED Talks provide insight into a variety of fields and philosophies. An example of a thought-provoking TED Talk is titled “Resume versus Eulogy” (2014) by David Brooks. It indirectly demonstrates the theological premise of typology by identifying two personas which are called Adam1 and Adam2. These identities are based on the book, The Lonely Man of Faith (1965) by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Adam1 is concerned with earthly goals and accomplishments, such as those reported on a resume, while Adam2 is focused on heavenly goals and the impact of a faith-filled legacy. The lessons of the Fall Narrative in Genesis includes the first human, Adam (or Adam1), desiring earthly goals. However, the road to Calvary brings us closer to the humanity of Jesus (or Adam2) through His strength to fight the weaknesses associated with His human nature; therefore, overcome earthly goals, and provide the legacy of sacrificial love which reflects the principles of the Adam2 persona.

The Gospel of Matthew (4:1-11) explores Jesus’ temptations in the desert prior to His ministry in Galilee. Jesus, as true God and true man, encounters Satan who tempts the Lord on three levels, challenging His role as definitive priest, prophet, and king. The temptations experienced by Christ extend beyond the literal desert from scripture and enter our figurative desert as we discern how to “carry our cross and follow Him” (Matthew 16:24-26). During this Lenten season, may we reflect upon the temptation to embrace the principles of Adam1 while striving to emulate the model of the persona of Adam2.

The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
The devil took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple, and said to him, ‘if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, he will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone’ (Matthew 4:5-6). This temptation challenges Jesus as the priest who becomes the true mediator to unite humanity with divinity. Unlike the first priest, Adam, whose pride was part of his spiritual death; Jesus, through His physical death, provides humanity the opportunity for eternal life. Jesus overcomes the temptation to give up even though words He will soon hear remind Him of his sentence: “are you not the Messiah, save yourself and us” (Luke 39:23) and “He saved others, he cannot save himself” (Matthew 27:42). However, through the cross, Jesus, becomes the definitive Adam and sacrificial lamb of atonement in spite of His humanity. During this Lenten season, consider the following: how are you giving the gift of mediation to your family and friends, thus bringing them closer to Jesus Christ and the eternal life that He offers?

The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time
If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread (Matthew 4:3). The New Adam, Jesus Christ resists this temptation unlike Adam from the Garden who gave into the lure of temptation and ate from the tree of knowledge. Jesus, as God Incarnate, is equally omniscient and His plan of salvation is poured out for us just like the sweat pours from His body upon falling the second time. He knows the value of sacrifice along with the importance of using His divine powers for good instead of selfish gain. Jesus’ journey along the Via Dolorosa, becomes the Way to eternal life while reminding us of the strength to endure physically and mentally as disciples. Jesus’ Last Supper on earth is behind Him, and the hunger and thirst Christ felt is nothing compared to the Spirit within. The perseverance in light of His sacrifice aligns us spiritually and we get nourished along our own road to Calvary through the Bread of Life. During this Lenten season, consider the following: how can fasting aid in your own spiritual alignment?

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, ‘all these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me’ (Matthew 4:8-9). The kingship of Jesus Christ is challenged as the main theme of this temptation is repeated in the words of Pilate in the Gospel of John, “So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, ‘are you the King of the Jews?’” (18:33). Jesus endures the questioning by Pilate in the Synoptic Gospels; however, in John’s account, turns the tables on Pilate and questions him. This leads Pilate to reflect upon the following: “what is truth?” (18:38). Unlike Adam who is willing to bow down into temptation falling victim to the false claims of Satan; Jesus, as the Truth of God’s love overcomes yet another temptation in the desert and overwhelms the world with love along His journey to Calvary. During this Lenten season, consider the following: how does prayer, contemplation, and silence offer a way to discover the truths in your life?

About the Author
Adam P. Zoeller is the theology department chair of Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, KY. He earned his B.A. in religious studies and B.A. in clinical psychology from Spalding University (Louisville, KY) and his M.Ed. in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH). He holds a Master’s Catechist Certification from the Archdiocese of Louisville.


Adam has presented the following workshops for the National Catholic Educational Association:

  1. Practice & the Game: Using Sports Language to Teach the USCCB Curriculum Framework (NCEA Webinar 2017)
  2. Media Literacy & Scriptural Exegesis: Essential Skills for 21st Century Religious Educators (NCEA Convention and Expo 2017)
  3. From heart to missionary zeal: Using language and lessons from athletics to aid adolescent catechesis in the New Evangelization (NCEA Convention and Expo 2018)
  4. Framing Brain-Based Learning in High School Theology (NCEA Webinar 2019)

Adam has written the following reflections for NCEA Talk:

  1. Paschal Mystery: Storytelling and Media Literacy (September 2016)
  2. Personal Litany of the Saints (April 2017)
  3. Motion Offense in Basketball. (November 2017)
  4. Bully, Victim, and Bystander in light of the Woman Caught in Adultery (July 2018)
  5. Searching for God in the MCU (September 2018)

Adam can be reached at [email protected].