Sermon for Invocabit, the first Sunday in Lent, AD 2021

Sometimes when we think of Jesus as our God and Lord, which He is, we put Him into a place so beyond ourselves that it seems hard to relate to Him. When we view Jesus as one who is far beyond us in power, majesty, and glory, it is certainly easy to understand that He can do things for us. He rules for us, he died for us, he answers our prayer for us. This is good, but we cannot forget that Jesus is God and man, and therefore is with us. As it says in Hebrews, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
           
Jesus faced His temptation as a man. This is probably the most important thing to remember. God cannot be tempted. The Father and Holy Spirit could not be tempted because the Father and Holy Spirit did not take on flesh and become man. Jesus became man, and was tempted as a man. He never stopped being God, but He held back His divine power during His earthly ministry. Think about when Jesus is arrested – he says he could have called twelve legions of angels to protect him, but He doesn’t. He doesn’t because He knows He must face this path as a man, both for us and with us. He faced it like Adam and Eve faced temptation. Like we face temptation every day. Except He defeated it every time, and now He is on our side.
           
Unlike Adam and Eve, who were full and content and fell, Jesus was starving and alone and still succeeded. After His baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit in order to face this trial. This was the Father’s will and plan. Yet this was not a relaxing time for Jesus. Unlike other times when Jesus would go into the wilderness to pray, this was not forty days of spiritual retreat, but of spiritual attack. For forty days he faced temptations from the devil, temptations which are not described in scripture, but we know include every way that we could be tempted. He defeated them all. Then the devil came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.
           
Jesus faced this as man. He was not a spirit, in that he did not need to eat, but with human flesh needed human sustenance. Certainly as God, Jesus could do it. He could have turned the stones into bread and instantly proven that He was the Son of God, right? No! Jesus just came from his baptism, where the voice from heaven said “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus doesn’t need to prove He is the Son of God. The very voice of the Father from heaven said it. His Father has sustained Him without food for these forty days. He will trust in God’s Word, which says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
           
The devil’s goal was to get Jesus to distrust God’s Word. He attacks what God said at Jesus’ baptism, that He is the “beloved Son.” The devil pulls the same trick He did with Adam and Eve – “did God really say?” This trick often get us to doubt and thus break the first commandment – that we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The devil sows this doubt in our hearts, and even despite everything that God has provided for us, we forget and grumble. Such was the case of the Israelites in the wilderness. They had been saved from slavery in Egypt, given promises by God of a new land, and while they were in the desert they grumbled that there was no food. God had sustained them so far, yet they fell into the temptation and forgot God’s promise. It is the same in our lives, when hard times come we think, “where is God?” We turn to other solutions. Yet all the other times God was sustaining and keeping us and promises to do so still. While we often fall, Jesus did not. He trusted God’s word in His baptism, that he was the beloved Son. He trusted that God would continue to take care of Him, as He had before. He clung to the Word of God because He knew that that was ultimately where all provision came from. There is nothing good we receive outside of God. Remember this and cling to His Word.
           
Knowing the power of God’s Word, the devil then tries to use it against Jesus. Taking Him to the pinnacle of the temple, He tells Jesus to throw himself down and prove He is the Son of God. But this was not all. The devil brings in scripture - He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” The devil rightly quotes Psalm 91, for truly God will care for the Son, and Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus doesn’t argue against the devil or says that He misunderstands scripture or takes it out of context. Jesus simply answers with scripture, Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.
           
The devil knows he cannot merely get Jesus to distrust God, so he uses scripture to try to create false trust. The devil twists scripture in the most effective and deceitful way – by pitting it against other scripture. The devil has many pupils in this world who do this, even those who are called Christians. Many religions and cults have been started by emphasizing one part of scripture and ignoring all the others. The devil even does this in our hearts. When we are tempted to sin, the devil says, “It’s ok, God is forgiving, you will be fine.” And after we sin, he comes in with the Law – “You failed to follow God’s will! You broke the commandment! You can never been forgiven!”
           
Jesus shows us that scripture interprets scripture, that Law and Gospel work together. He knows He should not develop a false trust in God, to think that because of God’s care He should foolishly throw himself down. As a man, he certainly would have died. For he understands Psalm 91 with the scripture from Deuteronomy 6 – yes, God cares for you, but you should not put him to the test. So it is also with us. When the devil tempts us to sin, we cling to the Law of God and say, “Yes, God is forgiving, but I love God and desire to follow him. I know His way is best.” And when the devil accuses us in our sin we say, “Yes, I am a great sinner, but I am baptized. Christ died for sinners like me.”
           
This sacrificial death of Christ, his death as a man for men, is the ultimate thing the devil tried to prevent. Being unsuccessful at the temple, the devil brings Jesus to a high mountain, shows him all the kingdoms in their glory, and promises them all if Jesus will simply worship him. If distrust and false trust wouldn’t work, then the devil will try idolatry. Idolatry is the ultimate loss of trust in God. It is turning from God’s plan to our own. Jesus knows his sacrificial death, taking on the sins and afflictions of humanity, will ultimately lead to His resurrection, and His resurrection to His ascension to the right hand of the Father. There He rules the world with all authority and power. The devil is offering Jesus a shortcut. He is saying, “skip the suffering and death. I have this authority myself. I’ll give it to you now, for a price.” Jesus replies, Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.
           
Everything the devil presents is a lie. He is not the Lord of this world, and he has nothing to give. He is a usurper. If Jesus worshiped Him, the kingdoms would not be His. Jesus’ mission would not be completed, but completely lost. Jesus, without sin, defeats this temptation and sends Satan away. Jesus will go to the cross. Jesus will suffer and die, He will take on our sins, and He will rise from the dead.
           
It seems like this temptation is the easiest, it is not tricky. It is false. Yet Satan has been successful with it from the beginning, ever since he told Eve “you shall be like God.” Submerged in sin, humanity cannot overcome this simple lie, and we need someone to free us. This is where Christ comes in. Christ who died and defeated Satan, who made peace between us and God, has freed us from the devil’s lies. In baptism we are given new hearts and begin to trust God and are aware of the devil. Jesus was baptized as man, and we are also baptized with him into his death and resurrection. Jesus faced this temptation as a man, as an Israelite, as one who worships God, and so defeats Satan as a man.
           
This man who suffered all temptation is now with us in our temptation. For while we have begun to be made new, sin still clings to us. The devil still gets us many times. Yet Jesus is there. He gives us His Word – He shows us how to defeat temptation through the Word of God. He gives us His body and blood – He is here bodily to strengthen us in body and soul so we may cling to the true faith and not doubt. He tells us to pray – lead us not into temptation – He intercedes for us to the Father. And He knows that it is like. He has born every temptation you have, yet without sin. He is here through the Holy Spirit to strengthen, forgive, and preserve you.
           
He is the King, but the king is also our brother. Cling to His Word, call on Him, receive Him. He is with you every step of the way. Though many temptations assail you, He remains your shield and refuge, your fortress. Trust through His promise that one day you will overcome and win the victory. Amen.

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