IN NOMINE JESU
And lead us not into temptation. "What does this mean?" Martin Luther asks. He teaches us, saying, "God tempts no one. We pray in this [Sixth] petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory." This is why we are where we are today, here in the Lord's house on the First Sunday in Lent. Today we hear of the Lord being tempted by none other than the devil himself.
The Lord was not led into temptation, but He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. Even as the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, our Lord was in the wilderness for forty days, where He had nothing to eat. At the end of those forty days, He was hungry, as would we, if we had been there and gone that long without any food. Had we even gone that long without eating, we would be looking for anything to put into our mouths. As it is, we sometimes have a hard time going just a few hours without munching on something. However, that is not the point. The Lord was led into the wilderness, where He roamed for almost six weeks, without eating, so that He would be tempted by the devil. Why did the Lord allow Himself to be tempted? Certainly He could not be tempted because He Himself is true God and, therefore, is without sin. Certainly He could be tempted because He Himself is true Man and, therefore, is full of emotion, full of feelings, full of sensation. So He was tempted—three times—by the devil, the prince of darkness, the great accuser.
The devil sought to make quick work of his Adversary and played to the Lord's "felt needs." "Felt needs" is a psychological tactic used by churches that have abandoned the Word of God for the sake of gaining more members—gaining members strictly for numbers' sake. Such churches have deemed the Word of God irrelevant and antiquated and seek to employ more "modern" methods of padding their pews with warm bodies with the hope of making money. They claim to serve God while they lust after mammon. So those churches seek to entertain, not catechize; to grow numerically, not spiritually. They want to be friendly, not loving; to be friendly, not faithful. These false churches seek to provide what they think their members want, as opposed to what they truly need, namely, to be fed on God's Word and Sacraments. They seek to entertain, just as the rest of the world does. They have given in to temptation. They are the devil's prey, for they listened and gave into him. If a church cannot be immune to the temptations of the devil, then certainly we need to watch out and pray that we do not fall into temptation.
Martin Luther, in his section of the Small Catechism on Daily Prayer, encourages us to pray the Lord's Prayer each day when we rise in the morning and at night when we go to bed. For the morning prayer, Luther gives a prayer that we may offer to the Lord, part of which we pray that God "would keep [us] this day from sin and every evil, that all [our] doings and life may please" Him. It is imperative that we pray each day that we not give in to temptation. There is no sin and being tempted. The sin is in giving in to temptation, acting against the Word of God. We pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Yet we constantly fall into it. Does the Lord lead us there? No, for He tempts no one. We listen to the devil's lies, lies like the ones he told the Lord in the Temptation. We listen to the devil, and we listen to the world and our own sinful nature. The Lord does not lead us into temptation, nor does He want to. He does not need to, for we find our own way there without any problems at all. Satan plants the seed of the weed, and that seed we heed. He is good at this…really good. In fact, he is so good that he is bad—he is evil. He twists the Word of God to suit his own selfish desires, and he has done this since the creation of the world. Did God really say that, Eve? What does he say to us today? Just take a look at the Ten Commandments. Did God really say that you shall have no other gods? Did He really say you shall not take His Name in vain? Did He really say that you shall remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy? Did He really say that you shall honor your parents? Did God really say that you shall not kill, not commit adultery, not steal, not bear false witness against your neighbor, or not covet? He plants the seed and continues to distort the Holy Scriptures so that we have doubts about what the Lord says to us today. He even lied to the Lord, showing Him "all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give You, and their glory, for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours'" (vv. 5b-7). The devil owns nothing, for nothing has been given to him, and he seeks to steal. He seeks to steal us from the hand of our heavenly Father, and we do our best to oblige, for we daily sin much. We sin because we give in to temptation. We give in to temptation because we are sinners. We are sinners who need to not only be not led into temptation but also to be delivered from evil. "The old evil Foe / Now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might / Are his dread arms in fight; On earth is not his equal" (TLH 262:1). We have no tools of our own to fight against the evil one, we need help. We are in need of divine aid…and comfort.
"With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, of Sabaoth Lord, And there's none other God; He holds the field forever" (TLH 262:2). How does Jesus Christ fight against the devil? He uses the Word of God against the devil. In the Lord's hunger as true Man, the devil tempted Him to command the stone to become bread. The Lord quoted Scripture: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God'" (v. 4), citing Deuteronomy 8:3. When Satan offered to "give" Him all the kingdoms of the world, which did not belong to the devil anyway, for an act of devil worship, the Lord said, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve'" (v. 8), quoting Deuteronomy 6:13. When the devil brought the Lord to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, the devil tempted Him to throw Himself off the temple. Here the devil quotes Scripture—Psalm 91, our Psalm for today—saying, "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone'" (vv. 10-11). The great accuser had the audacity to quote Holy Scripture against its divine Author. Yet He who authored the Scriptures knew where else to turn to refute the devil and said, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God'" (v. 12), pointing to Deuteronomy 6:16.
The devil tempted Jesus three times, using the Word of God (rather, misusing it) to do so. Yet each time the Lord was armed with the written Word. The Word of God is our defense against the assaults of the evil one and his band of demons. "Tho' devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpow'r us. This world's prince may still / Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none, He's judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him" (TLH 262:3). Yes, one little word can fell the devil, even the smallest word from the mouth of God. This little word from God announces that the devil has been defeated once and for all. This word in Greek is tetelestai, which means, "It is finished!" This single word announced to the world, to heaven above, and to hell below that the Lord has paid for the sins of the entire world. Every time we have fallen into temptation has been forgiven, for the Lord has paid the price for our sins, that price being His very life. The roaring lion, the devil, thought he had devoured the Christ. But during the three days leading to our Lord's resurrection, the Lord "also went and preached to the spirits in prison" (1 Pet. 3:19). Our Lord Jesus Christ descended into hell, where He preached victory over the devil—on his own turf! The serpent has been trampled, for the Lord has gone to hell and shown Himself the Victor over the old evil foe, and death has been destroyed once and for all by the resurrection of our Lord. The devil has no power over us. Death has no hold on us. Even when we are being tempted, we need not be terrified, for the Lord knows our weaknesses, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
What does this mean for us? The writer to the Hebrews also says, "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). This means that we can come before our heavenly Father without fear, for He has promised to hear us through His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who says about us, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand" (Jn. 10:28-29). By faith in Christ you have the joy of knowing and firmly believing that, despite the best efforts of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh, you belong to God. He has made you His own through Baptism; you are His child. He will not let your foot slip. Saint Paul writes, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separated us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39).
But deliver us from evil. "What does this mean?" Luther asks. He answers, saying, "We pray in this [Seventh] petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow [this vale of tears] to Himself in heaven." God grant this for the sake of Him who was tempted as we are and yet is holy, that we would be with Him in heaven into all eternity. In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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