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Lent 1C: February 25, 2007 – The Three Temptations of Us All

26 Feb

Text: Luke 4:1-13

The Three Temptations
of Us All

            Grace,
mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ, amen.  The text for the
sermon this morning comes from the Gospel, which was read earlier.

            A few years
ago in southern California,
in the span of a few days, a biker was killed by a mountain lion and another
man was mauled in a separate lion attack. 
The stories were all over the news, and people were terrified of these
aggressive lions.  A few days later, the
lions were killed; people went back to talking or thinking about mountain lions
only rarely.  However, during that same
time, and even today, there are lion attacks taking place all around you of
which many people are unaware.  The Bible
tells us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone
to devour.  He is always ready to pounce
and tempt people into all kinds of sin. 
Fortunately, this ferocious lion has done battle with another lion, the
Lion of Judah, and he could not overcome Him. 
At the very beginning of Christ’s ministry, the devil attacked Jesus,
but our Lord defeated him by resisting all of his temptations, and He did this
in order to save us.

            In our
Gospel reading for today, we see our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, facing
various forms of temptation.  This text
begins the account of Christ’s ministry in Galilee which follows immediately
after Christ’s baptism and which brings Christ face-to-face with Satan, the
enemy whom He has come to destroy.  Thus
at the very beginning of His work as well as at its close “when darkness reigns,” Jesus does not hesitate to fight against
the power of the Evil One on behalf of all people.

            Luke begins our text for today
with these words:“And Jesus, full of the
Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by
the devil.”
  Temptation faces
everyone, including Jesus Christ.  He is
no different than any other person throughout history.  Everyone faces temptation at some point in
their life.  It was no different for
Jesus.  The temptation of Jesus was
continuous over the entire period of forty days.  Our text gives us but three examples of the
many ways in which Satan attacked Christ. 
We have no way of knowing just how Jesus was continually tempted.  To tempt means to put to the test, here with
an evil intent, that is, to cause someone to sin.  Satan knew very well that Jesus had come to
crush his power.  If he could succeed
just once in getting Jesus to sin, he would win the victory.  And this was no sham or pretended
temptation.  According to his human
nature, Jesus was “tempted in every way,
just as we are,”
yet He remained sinless.

            All too
often, the devil tempts us to sin for our own comfort—and we give in!  We don’t see it as a problem if we get so far
in debt that we can never get out of it, just as long as my house has all the
“necessities” in it: a huge flat-screen plasma television, a sound system that
would make the sound in a movie theatre look like nothing, and everything else
that we need to survive.  This is our
“daily bread” as far as we are concerned. 
But that is not the daily bread which Jesus taught us to pray for.  Daily bread is what we need to sustain our
body and soul, NOT what makes us
happy. 

            It would be
very easy for Jesus to give in to the temptations of Satan, just like it is
easy for us to give in to temptations. 
Jesus trampled the devil’s real temptation with Scripture.  Christ, who has taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” had
Himself been led by the Spirit to go where temptation was.  He knew its strength and danger.  His own temptation, all three of His
temptations, stretching over a period of 40 days, were wholly concerned with
the choice between right and wrong, between higher and lower means of carrying
out the mission on which His heavenly Father had sent Him.

            Can we
doubt the seriousness of those forty days of decisive conflict?  On the outcome hung the whole issue of His
mission on earth and every hope of salvation of mankind.

            Our Lord
was setting out upon the mission of His heavenly Father.  His mission was to bring all mankind into the
kingdom of God, free from Satan.  For that mission, He possessed gifts and
powers that were brought to light in fullness at His baptism by John the
Baptist when the voice declared from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”
   

            The
temptations which Jesus faced were great temptations indeed.  They were meant for our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ to give up His divinity, to renounce who He is and to worship
Satan.  Christ knew what was at stake:
us.  We were at stake.  Our salvation was at risk.  Had Jesus given in, there would be no
salvation for us.  When God looks at us,
He would continue to sin our utter filth. 
That is not what God sees because Christ refused to give in to Satan’s
temptations for the sake of the Father’s will: that all men be brought to Him
so that we might be saved.

            The first
temptation in our text is the temptation of the flesh.  It starts with a big “If.”  “If you are the Son of God” is the devil’s central plea.  It is designed to undercut the completeness
of the loyalty and Christ’s acceptance of the necessary limitations on Him in
His redemptive mission as the Son of Man. 
He was never to use His divine power for self gratification or for
fulfillment of His merely human needs. 
Satan lured Jesus to preoccupation with His physical needs.  He was hungry, very hungry.  The appeal was tricky; it was a deep-seated
lure and allure which the miraculous tends often to hold for human beings.  What Satan was telling Jesus was this:
“Prove
your sonship, your messiahship!  Perform
a miracle!”  By performing such a
miracle according to the will of Satan, Jesus would show Himself to be a false
son.  He would show a lack of trust in
His heavenly Father to provide for Him. 
It would also be evidence of a desire to avoid suffering and pain, for
which He had come into the world.  The
true Son of God was also being tested by the Father through this
temptation.  Would He stand up to this
test?  Not if He would try to escape it
by performing a miracle.

            Jesus shows
his trust as the true Son of God by His reply. 
In this case as in each of Satan’s other attacks, Jesus answers with
Scripture.  God wanted His people to know
that He was feeding them manna by the power of His word.  Israel often complained against
God’s gracious care in the wilderness. 
They were not satisfied with the food that God provided.  However, Jesus does not complain.  His trust in God’s providence remains
firm.  It is that Word which continues to
strengthen us when we are tempted by Satan and all of his attacks against us.  The words which we sang just a few moments
ago echo the power which the Word has: “Though hordes of devils fill the
land/All threat’ning to devour us,/We tremble not, unmoved we stand;/They
cannot over pow’r us./Let this world’s tyrant rage;/In battle we’ll engage./His might is doomed to fail;/God’s judgment
must prevail!/One little word subdues him.

            The second
temptation of Jesus was to be a bargain sale of sorts.  Jesus is to choose between a whole unrestrained
display of power as second in command to the prince of this world now and the promise of future glory
after suffering by way of the cross and death would not be necessary.  The view was big.  The view was beautiful and alluring.  We have those same temptations in our lives,
to give in and exchange our beliefs for the things of this world.  We give up going to church from September
through February in exchange for the NFL season.  We give up going to church because of family
vacations.  “If we’re not in church for a
week or two, or maybe for months on end, it’s not going to hurt us.  Besides, I’ve heard it all before; you’re not
going to tell me anything new.”  It’s
true, you have heard it all before.  But
you need to hear it again: that you are a sinner and deserve nothing but
eternal damnation.  Jesus Christ came
into this world so that you might have everlasting life.  All of your sins have been forgiven.  We have that promise in His Word and in His
body and blood, which strengthens and nourishes our faith. 

            The third
temptation recorded for us in our text was the temptation of the spirit.  To tempt God is the highest spiritual
enticement.  “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is
written, “
‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “ ‘On
their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’

            Those who
want to argue that Satan doesn’t know Scripture do not really know the full
deception which Satan is capable of. 
Satan is quoting directly from Psalm 91. 

Since Jesus has used Scripture to resist Satan’s
temptations, Satan himself uses Scripture in his argument.  In his use of Scripture, however, Satan seems
to omit a few words to try to make God’s Word say what it really does not
say.  Nowhere does God say that we can
test His protecting care by exposing ourselves recklessly to danger.  By using this same kind of logic any child of
God could, for example, throw himself into the path of a railroad train and say
that he wanted to prove his trust in God’s power to protect him. However, this
is not the most important feature of this temptation.  Here the devil challenges Christ to test
whether the Word of God is as reliable as Jesus seems to think. He asks Jesus
to put the promise of God to a test to see if it is true.

            So often in
our own lives are we tested, to put the promise of God to a test to see if it
is true or not.  Do we put or trust in
the things of this world or do we put our trust in the Word of God?  The temptations of our Lord are the
temptations of all mankind.  The
temptations of Lord are the temptations of His church.  The temptations of our Lord are repeated in
the temptations that come to you in your daily vocation.

            When we are
attacked and accused, we trust in Christ, who saved us by His perfect
obedience, suffering, and death.  When
the devil tempts us to sin, we trust in Christ and His Word of truth.  When the Law accuses us of sin, we trust in
Christ and His perfect obedience.  When
death demands our life, we trust in Christ and His innocent suffering and
death.

            Our Savior
knows what it is to be tempted.  He
willingly faced temptation by our enemy, the prowling lion, and He did it for
our salvation.  He won the battle, and
His victory belongs to all who trust in Him. 
In the name of Jesus, amen.

            Now the
peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the
true faith until life everlasting.  Amen.

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Posted by on February 26, 2007 in LCMS, Sermons

 

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