Dylan for Lent: 1st Sunday of Lent

Michele Somerville
3 min readMar 5, 2023


Jesus Refuses to Throw It All Away

“I once held her in my arms
She said she would always stay
But I was cruel
I treated her like a fool
I threw it all away

Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through every day
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away

Love is all there is, it makes the world go ‘round
Love and only love, it can’t be denied
No matter what you think about it
You just won’t be able to do without it
Take a tip from one who’s tried

So if you find someone that gives you all of her love
Take it to your heart, don’t let it stray
For one thing that’s certain
You will surely be a-hurtin’
If you throw it all away
If you throw it all away”

— Bob Dylan

We could think of it this way: if Jesus had fallen into the snare of the devil, if he had taken the devil up on his offer — if Jesus had flown off the mountain, had eaten the bread (which the devil had turned into stone), and had claimed the power and glory the devil promised to bestow, Jesus might have sung a lyric like the following:

“Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through every day”

The Gospel for this week, (Luke Lk 4:1–13) for the first Sunday of Lent features the devil’s attempt to make a fool of Jesus.

Jesus goes up the mountain for 40 days to meditate and fast. Jesus removes himself from the support of his loved ones. (Let’s notice, with reverence — Christians need a lot of work in this area — the importance of Jesus’ contemplative Jewish practice here.) He makes himself alone. The story insists that we notice that while Jesus looks alone, he does not necessarily feel alone. He is sustained by a commitment to refusing to believe he is not alone. The devil in the narrative cannot see this, maybe, because love is alien to the devil.

It helps me, as I read and think about Christian prayers and ideas to imagine that maybe the faith Jesus holds is not entirely impermeable. In other words, perhaps weak spots and moments of doubt troubled him. Why? Because in some regards faith is a risk. Details that depict Jesus in doubt abound in the Christian Testament and crop up mightily in accounts of the days leading up to his execution.

Dylan’s “I Threw it All Away” is a remarkably straightforward song. It is both obvious and an understatement to note that Dylan’s speakers, generally speaking, don’t generally express much contrition for being assholes in love. (I’m treating the songs as lyrics not as Dylan’s amorous bio here.) The singer/speaker of “I Threw It All Away” is contrite and even a mite humble in admonishing others poised to make the same mistake. Dylan has a talent for being baroque with words, but not here. Here, both composer and speaker say quite a lot about (what the singer/speaker views as) his transgression/mistake/sin in so few words. (When I went looking for the song and a little information about the song, I saw one Google “hit” that credited Johnny Cash as co-writer of the song. I don’t think he, was but I could be wrong. Something about this lyric feels very metaphysically.) Without coming right out and using the “G” word, the one who “threw it all away” informs us that he betrayed his beloved. He took the bait. He traded more for less.

In today’s Gospel, the devil tries to get Jesus to trade more for less.

Read Bob Dylan for Lent, 1st Sunday (2022) in its entirety here on Indie Theology.

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Michele Somerville

She/her. Poet, writer, teacher, hermeneut punk. Author: Glamourous Life, Rain Mountain Press, http://rainmountainpress.com/books-glamourous-life.html