Dear Friends in Christ,
Temptation arrives (early and often)
The kingdom of God is like a school aged child who wakes up on a stormy school day hoping for a snow day but finds out there will be classes that day. Worse yet, they don’t even have a late start. First thing in the morning, a bad attitude sweeps over her soul, she doesn’t want to get up, she doesn’t want to brush her teeth, she doesn’t want to make her bed, she doesn’t want to cheerful. Temptation has arrived.
The kingdom of God is like a mother of young children who wants to sleep in late on a Saturday morning. Two of her kids have different ideas altogether. They are up, they are hungry, they have no desire to go back to their bedrooms and be quiet. First thing in the morning, a less than loving feeling sweeps over that mother’s soul, she doesn’t want to be cheerful, she doesn’t want to be up and at it, she is as far away from wanting to rise and shine as she can be. Temptation has arrived.
The kingdom of God is like a man who wants to take his family to church, he wants to lead his wife and children in a strong way to know the Lord, but over the years he has gotten out of the habit. Other habits have risen up and more days than not, they win the day. This Sunday morning is one of those days. A small still voice tells him to roust everybody out of bed and get them on the way to God’s house, but a louder voice has a different message. It sweeps over his soul and assures him that today is a good day to let people sleep, next Sunday will be a new beginning. Temptation has arrived.
In today’s Gospel lesson, the Spirit of God leads Jesus out into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted. The Father has recently declared Jesus to be the very Son of God, and now was His appointed time to be tempted in every way that all of humanity will be tempted. In three ways, the devil tests the Son of God. He tempts Him first of all with regard to a basic need – food. Secondly with regard to fame, and third with regard to power. Food, fame, and power.
First he tempts Jesus to doubt God’s Word, secondly to twist God’s Word, and third to disobey God’s Word. In all three cases, Jesus quotes Holy Scripture as a way of resisting temptation. In all three cases, Jesus stays on track to follow His Father’s plan to save the world. In all three cases, Jesus had the perfect answer. Today’s sermon would fix our eyes on Jesus as the one with all the answers. Not only does He have all the answers to every question that matters in life, He is the answer to all that questions that matter in life. And so our sermon theme is “The Answer Man.
First of all, Jesus was Tempted to (doubt) God’s Word. Although Matthew tells us that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, it is also clear that Jesus went willingly. The temptations Jesus faced were serious efforts by the devil to rob the world of its Redeemer. Satan had been successful in leading the first Adam into sin so that a Redeemer would be necessary. The Greek word used for the devil is diabolos, from which we get the word diabolical. The meaning of this word is slanderer or liar; he is a constant liar. He is the father of lies. He invented the very idea of lying and told the very first lie.
For 40 days Jesus had neither food nor drink. For 40 days in a row, the Father had sustained him. It is interesting to note how frequently the number 40 occurs in the Bible. The great flood began with 40 days and nights of rain. Israel spent 40 days in the wilderness. Jonah had threatened the city of Ninevah they would be destroyed in 40 days if they did not repent. Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after Easter. This past week, the church worldwide kicked off 40 days of Lent, a season of living at the foot of the cross, admitting the messes we have made in our lives, crying out for forgiveness, a season of hearing and holding onto and treasuring the written Word of God.
In the Garden of Eden, the devil tempted Eve and Adam to doubt whether God had really meant what he said, and so also in the wilderness, he tempted Jesus to doubt that Father would do what He had already been doing. He tempted Jesus to take care of himself instead of trusting His Father to do what He had promised.
Instead of commanding stones to become bread, Jesus followed the plan to be the (Bread of Life). Instead of letting seeds of doubt grow, He answered with what the Spirit of God had already caused to be written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” For Jesus, life wasn’t about Him, it was about you and it was about me and it was about sinners in every generation. Our Epistle lesson for today reminds us that sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” That’s another way of saying (listen carefully now), we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. E sin because we are born sinners. The proof of that is death. Jesus isn’t just the man with great answers today, He is the answer to every important temptation that may be arriving in your heart in this hour.
The kingdom of God is like a man who has just returned from a mission trip and is tempted to wonder why a loving and good God would permit millions of people to live in abject poverty, he is tempted to wonder why a loving and good God would allow so many children and teenagers to grow up with such hopelessness, tempted to wonder why a loving and good God would let it be true that brutality and criminality are in so many places on the uprise. The answer comes to him in this very hour, he is still, he knows that God is his refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. He remembers, greater love hath no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends.
First Jesus was tempted to doubt God’s Word. Next, He is Tempted to (twist) God’s Word. The first temptation was intended to cause distrust, the second meant to engender a false trust. The devil quoted a promise of God to protect people by sending angels and suggested that if Jesus would not throw himself down, he would be showing a lack of trust in His Father. Luther commented, “If the devil does not succeed in robbing us of our confidence in God, he will go to the other extreme and try to make us cocksure and much too daring.”
Instead of throwing himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus followed the plan that required Him to be (lifted up high). At a place called Massah, the people had put God to the test by demanding a miracle that he had not promised them. All of God’s previous miracles back in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness should have convinced the people that God could and would always provide for their needs.
Jesus knew in perfect fashion His Father could be trusted, He knew that the written Word of God was without error, he knew His Father’s plan was for him to be lifted high on across, He knew that His one act of righteousness would lead to justification and life for all men.
The kingdom of God is like a young couple caught up in a lifestyle they know to be wrong. On the one hand, they feel guilty, and on the other hand, they have their reasons. On the one hand, they want Jesus to be close, and on the other hand, they want him to be at a distance. In this very hour, they wonder if in fact they are twisting God’s Word to suit their own purposes. The answer comes as they sit still, they know that God is in fact their refuge and strength in every trouble, they hear one more time, Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
First Jesus was tempted to doubt God’s word, secondly to twist it, and finally Tempted to (disobey) God’s Word. After failing to trip Jesus up the first two times, the devil puts on his Monte Hall “let’s make a deal” hat and takes Jesus to a very high mountain, he shows him all the kingdoms of the world, he offers a way easier than the way of the cross. He offers a plan where Jesus would not have to suffer, He would not have to die, He would just have to bow down and worship, just this one time, nobody else would even be aware. Yet one more lie, yet one more promise Satan could not have delivered, yet one more shortcut that would in reality be a dead end. In this temptation, the tempter offered what he loves to offer – an earthly pleasure in exchange for heavenly joy.
Instead of gaining earthly glory for Himself, Jesus followed the plan that acts (for the sake of others). One of the more amazing passages in the Bible, at least for me, is the one where the writer to the Hebrews declares we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize / empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Jesus tempted in every way that I am tempted? Really?
The kingdom of God is like a man who is tempted early and he is tempted often to live for himself instead of another. Day after day he has one foot firmly planted in the world and one in the church. He wants the best of both worlds, even though he knows better. The good that he would he so often fails to do, and the bad habits he is trying to break, more often than not, he fails. Again and again he is tempted to take the path of least resistance, again and again he hears the Spirit whisper, “Greater love hath no man than this, than he lay down his life for his friends”, now he hears himself speaking up, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther