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“The Temptations of Jesus” – First Sunday in Lent

“The Temptations of Jesus”

St. Matthew 4:1-11
18 February 2018

The Temptation of Jesus

+Grace, mercy and peace unto you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.+

According to Lenten tradition people often times give up special foods or snacks such as chocolate or soda or some other kind of snack that people take pleasure for the sake of piety. And after just a half a week people are tempted to splurge. They are tempted to lose their discipline and just have that one small piece of chocolate, or just a swig of soda, or just one potato chip. But as we all know, we can’t eat just one.

So it is with temptations. Our temptations stem from our lustful desires of this life. These desires are often times associated with the belly. They are our physical desires. The desires to eat, have sex, and feel good about ourselves. These are the desires of our needful flesh.

Jesus was tempted for forty days after being christened in His baptism. After He was anointed as the Messiah he was lead out by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And for forty days and forty nights Jesus was tempted with the same temptations that we are faced with today and he was victorious over them.

The first temptation of Jesus was to trust himself rather than the word of God. Jesus was hungry after being in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. Then the devil said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” The devil’s temptation is to cause Jesus to use his power so that his own needs were met. Satan is trying to get Jesus to trust in himself rather than trust God. However, Jesus does not take the bait. Jesus answered saying, “It is written, “Man will not live on bread alone, but on every word coming forth through the mouth of God.” Jesus doesn’t succumb to Satan’s temptation. Jesus knowing the Scriptures, used them to refute Satan just as we ought to.

But people despise His word and do not desire to listen to His preached word. In Jesus’ day, “every word coming forth through the mouth of God,” which is the preached word, was heard in the Synagogue. It was the word that strengthened and kept people in faith just as it is strengthens and keeps you in the faith today. The devil wants Jesus and you to despise the word of God. The devil desires us to meet the desires of the flesh through our own means. Satan doesn’t want us to live on the Word of God alone because it is the bread of everlasting life, the bread of salvation, as opposed to his bread, the bread of evil, sin, and death.

It is a strong temptation for us today. We are tempted to turn away from the preached word of God and instead trust that we should live by work alone, or even money alone, or even by the food that we place in our stomach alone. We are tempted to live apart from the preached word of God and sleep in on Sunday morning and miss church. As ministers we are tempted to abandon the Divine Service and live by public relations, publicity, statistics, techniques, and meetings instead of putting these in service of the word of God. When we place things that are not God’s word and make that the purpose or reason why we exist we have given into this temptation. We put our trust in ourselves, and it drives us away from God’s word.

Despite this first temptation, Jesus held his ground. In denying himself and relying on the Word of God Jesus stands as our new, second Adam. This Adam does not live by bread alone, but on “every word coming forth through the mouth of God.”

The devil’s second temptation of Jesus was to invite Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple to show whose son He is. The devil wanted Jesus to test the Father. He didn’t want Jesus to go the way of the Father, which was down the stairs. Instead, the devil wanted Jesus to go his way and jump.

Satan is crafty with the way that he presents this temptation to Jesus. He leads Jesus to the holy city, to the holy mountain, and even to the holy temple. He brings him into the place where the Father promises to be. And in the presence of the Father Satan presents before Jesus the Father’s promises written in Holy Scripture. He quotes from Psalm 91, “He will command His angels concerning you and in their hands they will carry you lest you strike your foot against a stone.” Satan meets Jesus’ quotation of scripture with his own quotation of scripture.
Holy city, holy temple, holy Scripture. There’s a pattern here. While the first temptation was one of physical needs, this temptation is one of religiousness. This temptation is one of eternal things, holy things. This temptation is all about Jesus’ relation with the Father.

The temptation of desiring a different father than our Father in heaven is one we struggle with daily. Whenever we sin we rebel against our heavenly Father. When we sin we choose Satan as our father instead of our Holy Father in heaven who loves you, and invites you call him Father, and to come to Him in prayer. When we sin we rebel against our heavenly Father and show no regard toward His only begotten son who died for us.

But the invitation to come to our heavenly Father in repentance does not end. Our heavenly Father and all the holy angels in heaven rejoice over the one who repents and is reconciled with the Father. This is the Father’s good and gracious will.

Finally Jesus was tempted to compromise. He was tempted to give into the practical for the greater gain. “The devil takes him onto an exceedingly high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of earth and their glory. And he said to him, “All this I will give to you if you fall down and worship me.” This sounds like a pretty generous offer. Satan goes straight for Jesus’ mission. Jesus is here to reconcile the world back to the Father. Satan is working to strike a deal to give Jesus what He wants. Satan after all is the prince of this world and Jesus has humbled himself by becoming a man. He became poor depriving himself of the very thing that Satan is offering Him.

This looks like highway robbery. This should be a no brainer. Yet Jesus said, “No.” Satan is trying to spare Jesus of the cross at a small, small price. All Satan is asking for is just a little recognition. In exchange Jesus would get everything that he wants. He would get you. But this is not the way that God promises to redeem you. Jesus does not redeem you by giving Satan what he wants. Jesus does not give power and authority to Satan. Rather Jesus saves you in a better way. He saves you in a way that gives glory to His Father. He redeems you in His death on the cross. Jesus does not compromise. He does not give in to the practical for a greater gain.

Yet, this is another temptation that we give into easily. We compromise the truth of God’s Word for our desires all the time. We skip church for our children’s sports teams or extracurricular activities. We compromise our work schedules and skip out on our vocation as father or mother, husband or wife, or student. We compromise with our language cursing and swearing when we are around certain people instead of being a godly example for others. We compromise when we drink too much or practice sexual immorality and pornography, making our own bodies idols for which we give into the needs of the flesh. Work, self, and others become idols of which we bow down to so that we can gain what we want when God has not given it.

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.” Jesus denied himself from all temptations to save you. Jesus begins His ministry suffering under the temptations of the devil for you; this all points to His suffering on the cross. In His death on the cross his victory for you is complete. He takes on your temptations, your sin, your suffering, and carries it on his shoulders. Your suffering pierces his hands, feet, and side and His blood covers you, forgiving you all of your sins. Your victory has been won in the person and work of Jesus Christ who battles Satan and is victorious over him for you. Your victory has been won; the kingdom is yours forever because Jesus is raised from the dead, and he is coming back again. On that blessed day when your fight against the temptations of the devil and your sinful flesh cease, Christ, the one who won the victory for you will lead you out of this wilderness and into His kingdom forever.

+In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.+

+The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.+

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