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The Devil’s Temptations February 14, 2016

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Luke 4:1-13

First Sunday in Lent

February 14, 2016

 

Focus:  God sent His Son to reclaim us.

Function:  That the hearers worship and serve Yahweh alone.

Structure:  Walking through the text.

 

The Devil’s Temptations

 

Today’s sermon is going to be a little different.  We’re going to walk through our gospel reading verse by verse and just break it down.  You hear this text every year, it’s in multiple gospels, you know it well.  So let’s look at in a deeper way today.  So go ahead and open your bulletins back up to the gospel reading.

To first put it into context, our text from Luke chapter 4 immediately follows Jesus’ baptism.  Chronologically at least, as there’s a genealogy in between those two sections.  Christ has just been baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  The Spirit has descended on Him like a dove, and the Father has proclaimed, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

We’ve talked about this before.  Christ came, Jesus came to be Israel reduced to One.  That is, to fulfill everything God commanded, to live as God’s people should live, and ultimately to then restore and reclaim God’s people.  This is Christ’s mission.  This is what Matthew means in his recounting of the baptism and temptations when he says it was to “fulfill all righteousness.”  Jesus is doing this on our behalf.  He’s enduring all these things for us.

2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The Jordan River, led by the Spirit, wandering a wilderness, 40 days, tempted by the devil.  Is this starting to sound at all like Israel?  The people who only had to cross the Jordan River to enter the land God had promised them?  A people led by God as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night?  A people lost wandering the wilderness for a period of 40 years on account of their disobeying God?  A people who bought the devil’s temptations that they could not trust God to care for them?

And then we have Jesus eating nothing at all for 40 days.  So, yeah, of course He was hungry!  He was fasting.  Fasting is a huge topic as we started the season of Lent this week.  If  we want to get technical, Jesus fasted.  He gave up food for a period of time.  Now days, the word fasting can be applied to anything we give up, usually done within a religious context.

Catholics give up meat, thus all the fish fries and even Culver’s putting a fish of the day on their sign.  In another faith outside of Christianity, Muslims fast during the season of Ramadan.  But for them it’s a matter of eating and drinking nothing while the sun is up.  So you wake up in the dark, eat a large meal, and eat another large meal after the sunset.

Christians are certainly divided on the value of fasting.  So where do we stand?  Do you fast?  Should you fast?  Martin Luther wrote in the section on the Lord’s Supper in our Small Catechism that “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training, but a person who has faith in these words, ‘given for you’ and ‘shed for you for the forgiveness of sin’ is really worthy and well prepared.”  He was also known by many to fast long enough periods of time that he would look frail.

If you want fast for Lent, by all means go for it.  The purpose of fasting is to focus on God and your relationship with Him.  Perhaps you’ll give up something like Facebook or TV so that you have more time to spend with God in His Word.  Or maybe you’ll give up sweets and desserts so that every time you see one or are tempted toward it, you’ll bow your head in prayer instead.  For this reason, you can’t fast from coffee if you never drink the stuff nor can you fast from a pet sin of yours since you shouldn’t be doing anyway.  Fasting is a sacrifice.

And then we see the three temptations that we know of.  It certainly sounds like Satan was tempting throughout the 40 days, but this is what we have recorded.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

What’s the trouble here?  He is the Son of God.  He can command the stone to become bread.  He’s fully capable.  So what’s the issue?  The issue lies in His fast.  That by eating bread He would break His 40 day fast and He would be disconnecting Himself from being Israel Reduced to One.  He had to see it through from start to finish.  He’s fasting to take our place!

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

He’s talking about meat and wine right?  Maybe some cheese and a fresh salad?  Nah, He’s talking about faith, about trust.  About knowing where life really comes from.  True life is in the blood of Christ, the blood that frees you from the guilt and the punishment of your sins.  The blood that washes you clean and makes you pure in the eyes of God.  The very same blood that gives us a relationship with Him, that we would be loved, that we could receive His gifts through His Word and His sacraments.

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

There might be some power here.  For Satan to be able to show Christ the whole earth in just an instant.  The devil’s powers are limited, but they are real.  Maybe they’re on display during the 40 days.

The temptation here is to ask: who’s the king of the world?  Who owns all of this?  When God created, it was all His.  And He willingly and gladly entrusted it to Adam and Eve, like a Father entrusts His children.  So He did.  And we betrayed Him, we handed over the garden to Satan.  This is the fight.  This is what Christ’s ministry is all about.  Who has the power?  Who has the keys?  Who’s world is it?  Christ has come to reclaim it for God.

6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.

7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

So yes, we could argue they aren’t his to give.  But what if?  What would have happened if Jesus agreed?  He could have decided to do this Satan’s way, definitely easier than the cross.  But what would have been lost?  Like the Israelite’s He would have failed and made Himself a golden calf and I don’t know, maybe the universe would implode.  We’d certainly be doomed.

8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder.  We don’t have to guess, because Christ refused.  He stood up to the temptation and stated what Israel should have, that Yahweh alone is God.  And in this sense, worshiping and serving the Lord are the same thing.  Live your life trusting in the Lord, believing in Him to provide for you and to deliver you.  And that’s precisely what Jesus is doing by refusing the devil’s temptations.

9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.

And maybe we have yet another showing of Satan’s power here, lifting Christ up to the high point of the temple.  Maybe.  But regardless, he’s setting the stage.

10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;

11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

Satan quotes Psalm 91.  Here he throws the Word of God right back at Jesus.  You want to quote me Scripture, I can play that game.  And in fact, he loves playing that game.  He loves taking the Word of God and contorting it, twisting into something else.  He did with Eve in the garden, and he’s been doing it ever since.

12Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

But again, Christ denies the temptation.  We are not to put God to the test.  That was rare indeed, for God to allow someone to test Him.  He did it once with Ahab, and Ahab refused.  Thomas got to put his hands in His wounds.  Many people today still ask for a sign.  They want proof.  But then it is no longer faith, it’s no longer trust.

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

It’s not that Satan had given up…he still hasn’t given up.  But rather, he’s conceding this battle and admitting he’ll have to try again.  And while he certainly works against Jesus over the course of the next three years of His ministry, the opportune time that Luke mentions is likely Maundy Thursday, with the betrayal, the arrest, the torture of Christ.

To each of these temptations, Jesus responds the same way.  He trusts in the Lord, He remains faithful to what the Father wanted Him to do, and He uses Scripture, God’s Word, as His weapon to fight off the temptations.

Martin Luther wrote in his House Postil sermons, “The experience of Christ after His Baptism shall teach us how every Christian after he is baptized is enrolled in the army fighting against the crafty devil, who makes frequent attacks, and stirs up persecutions all the days of our life.”

As followers of Christ, as children of the Lord, Satan attacks us all our days.  It’s so easy to forget it, to get caught up wandering the wilderness of life and not even realize the war is going on.  But that’s just another form of attack, convincing us there’s nothing to be fought.

But the truth is that when you come to the font to be baptized, God looks down upon you and calls you His child.  “You are mine.”  And in doing so, He rescues you from the clutches of the devil, He restores you to His side of this war.  And the devil’s temptations come at you in full force, trying to steal you back, to win you over to the fires of hell.

The way Christ responded to the devil’s craftiness is the same way we respond.  We know that the gifts of God are the very things that sustain our life.  From His death on the cross to His resurrection, those gifts that free us from sin, death, and the devil, to the gift of His Word that we can grow in our relationship with Him each and every day.

And then we also know that we are to serve Yahweh alone.  There are no other gods before Him.  And so we gather as His community, in this place that He has blessed us with.  We receive His gifts in Word and Sacrament.  We pray, praise, and give thanks for all He has done for us.  And then we go out into the lives He’s given to us and we serve Him, we love our neighbors as He loves them.

And lastly, we don’t test the Lord.  We know better than to toy with the fire.  We know better than to wonder how close to sinning can we get before getting burned.  That’s not how you fight a war.  We put our trust in the Lord. We put our hope in the body and blood of Christ, and in the sure power of the resurrection.

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