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First Sunday in Lent

Luke 4:1–13

James T. Batchelor

Lent 1, series C
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Feb 14, 2016 

Every year, the gospel for the First Sunday in Lent tells us about the time that the devil personally tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  Last year, we heard the story from Mark.  Next year, we will hear the story from Matthew.  This year, it is Lukes turn to tell us the story.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. (Luke 4:12) That little phrase, returned from the Jordan, reminds us that the temptation happened right after Jesus was baptized.  When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. (Luke 3:22) This was not only an amazing epiphany to John the Baptist and the other people who witnessed Jesus baptism, but it was also a message to the devil and all his evil angels.  God the Son has taken up human flesh.  He is bringing the battle to the earth.  This is the one who will crush the serpents head.  Not long after the Holy Spirit descended on [Jesus] in bodily form, like a dove; this very same Spirit led Jesus in the wilderness for forty days of temptation.

And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. (Luke 4:2) My first response to this little nugget of knowledge was, Well of course He was hungry.  I cant go without food for forty hours without complaining.  Who knows how crazy I would be after forty days without food?  Isnt this just common sense?

But there is a difference here.  Jesus is not only true man, but He is also true God.  I have heard more than one person say, Jesus on the cross is no big thing.  All He had to do was administer a little divine anesthetic and the cross would not hurt a bit. That phrase he was hungry is one of many clues that tell us that Jesus did not always use His divine power.  It tells us that when Jesus took our place under the law, He did not use any resources that we ourselves do not have.  The Holy Spirit working through Luke wants us to understand that Jesus endured the temptations of the devil and the tortures of the cross without using His divine power in any way.

The first temptation is very subtle.  Sooner or later most people will wonder what the big deal is about converting stones into bread.  The Gospels record two accounts of Jesus multiplying loaves in order to feed thousands of people.  What could possibly be so terrible about making a little bread out in the wilderness where no one else even needed to see what Jesus did?

The bread itself isnt the problem.  The problem is doubt lack of faith.  Jesus is living in our place.  Therefore, just as we should trust God to give us all things, so also Jesus should trust God as well.

The devil tried to plant doubt in Jesus mind.  God has forgotten you.  He is willing to let you die of hunger.  Back when you were baptized, He said that you were His beloved son, but did He really mean it?  After all, what loving father would allow his son to wander around hungry in the wilderness?  His promises mean nothing to you.  Your concern is for bread; forget about Gods Word.  Take matters into your own hands.  Dont rely on God.  The devil hoped that thoughts like these would enter Jesus mind when he said to him, If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. (Luke 4:3) You can see doubt at work in all three of the temptations recorded in todays Gospel.

Now lets consider the next temptation that Luke recorded.  The devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6and said to him, To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours. (Luke 4:57)

The devils words it has been delivered to me remind us of the tragedy of Adam and Eves surrender to the devil in Eden.  Here the devil would try to convince Jesus that the world belongs to him ever since Adam and Eve fell.  You made them stewards over the world and they gave the stewardship to me.  Now it is mine.

Then the devil offered Jesus a deal: That voice who claimed to be your loving father wants you to suffer and die in order get this world back.  What kind of loving father would do that?  Ive got an idea that is so much better.  You dont have to go through all the shame and pain of suffering and death to win back the world.  There could be peace between us now.  Its a win-win situation a real no-brainer.  I would be willing to give this world back to you.  All I ask in return is that you would worship me just one time.  Thats all.  Im not asking for much at all and you would receive so much in return.  Why cant we just get along?

This temptation is still around today.  The devil readily tells us that we can be at peace with all people.  All we need do is surrender our faithfulness to Gods Word.  So what if not everyone agrees with the Bible one hundred per cent.  The important thing is that we all get along, right?  As long as we make this a better world where everyone is happy, were all good, right?  Thats the important thing worshipping the true god is not really that important.

In the final temptation, the devil put on the robes of the preacher.  He quoted from the Word of God, but He only quoted the words that suited his purpose.  9And He took [Jesus] to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, 11and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Luke 4:911) the devil quoted from the very psalm that we used in the Introit for today, but he left out words that change the meaning of the passage.  In this way, the devil changed the psalm from Gods promise to protect us into Gods permission to do stupid things like jump from the pinnacle of a very tall building.

False preachers still do this sort of thing.  They pick and choose which words they will use and which words they will discard.  Even though Jesus said, This is my body; This is my blood, what He really meant was, This represents my body; This represents my blood. Even though Jesus told the church to teach all that He commanded, we only need to learn enough and we decide what is enough.  We simply forget that telling God that we dont need any more of His word is the same as telling Him that we dont need any more of Him.

Sadly, we must all confess that we do not listen to the Word of God as we should.  We often let the devil, the world, or our own sinful nature pick and choose the words of God that we will hear.  The devil and the world seduce us with the words that we want to hear, and we have especially made ourselves into false gods by listening to our words instead of Gods Words.  We all deserve punishment both here in time and forever in eternity for listening to the words we like instead of the words we need.

We regularly fall to the devils lies, but Jesus never did.  Jesus fought back with a strategy that is available to all of us.  He quoted from the Word of God.  Jesus answered him, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone. (Luke 4:4) from Deuteronomy 8.  Jesus answered him, It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. (Luke 4:8) from Deuteronomy 6.  Jesus answered him, It is said, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. (Luke 4:12) also from Deuteronomy 6.  Gods Word is the weapon Jesus used to stop the devil.  It is the weapon God has given us.  How sad it is that we often doubt this weapon and fail to use it as we should.

Todays Gospel tells us that when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13) This means that the devil did not depart forever, but only until an opportune time.  The devil tempted Jesus over and over again.  He did not quit until Jesus was dead.

Even while Jesus was on the cross, we hear the devil speak through his servants saying, You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. (Matthew 27:40) There is that phrase of doubt once again: If you are the Son of God Even at the cross, the devil still tried to sow seeds of doubt.  Even as Jesus died, He fought off the temptation with the word of God.  His last words were a psalm: Into your hand I commit my spirit. (Psalm 31:5)

We often fall to the devils lies, but Jesus never did.  Jesus withstood the devils temptation on our behalf.  He is our champion.  He never sinned.  He stayed on the hard road to the cross.

Eventually, the World was His again, but not through compromise.  Jesus fulfilled every promise God made.  Jesus withstood the devil himself in the wilderness of hunger.  He endured temptation even to the cross.  Jesus never wavered.  In the end, Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil.  He rose from the dead. He bought us back with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death that we might be His own and live under Him in His Eternal Kingdom.

With His victory on the cross, Jesus earned forgiveness for us.  The Holy Spirit brings that forgiveness to us as He works faith in us through Word and Sacrament.  The Holy Spirit will aid us in our struggle with the devils temptations including the temptation to compromise Gods Word.  The Holy Spirit will strengthen our faith and bring us home to Life Everlasting.  Amen



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