Passage: Matthew 4:1–4:11
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Date: March 5th, 2017; Lent 1; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The devil knows when to attack. He comes after us when we are weak and vulnerable because it is then that we are most likely to give in to his temptations.
We heard in our Gospel lesson that Jesus was very hungry. He had been fasting in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. He was alone.
The devil saw his chance to tempt the Son of God. So he struck - and he struck hard.
Now Jesus could have simply said, "Go away, Satan," and that would have been the end of it. Our Gospel reading could have been much shorter than it is.
But our Saviour did not do that.
He was there in the wilderness for the very purpose of being tempted - he was at war. So he faced the testing and suffered through the temptations.
The devil wanted Jesus to choose a path of comfort and glory – not the path of suffering, humiliation, and death that was before him.
Just think of how tempting that is.
On the one hand, you can be despised and rejected. You can be hungry, thirsty, tired, and be filled with sorrow.
You can be wrongfully convicted as a criminal, be beaten, and be hung on a cross to die in complete agony.
Or, on the other hand you can have anything you want whenever you want it. You can receive all of the praise, honour, and respect you deserve.
Why go through all of the suffering and pain?
The devil began his temptation by preying on Jesus’ hunger for food. Our Lord had gone forty days and nights without anything to eat. Can you imagine?
But when tempted to turn the stone into bread, Jesus replied by quoting Scripture. The Word was his defence. He quoted Moses who said, “…man does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Comfort was not the path of Christ's life. Instead, it was pain and death. He chose this path of suffering by refusing the comfort of bread.
We know that Christ wouldn’t always refuse the comfort of bread. Nor would he always refuse to miraculously create bread.
But this was not the time or the place. This was the time of temptation.
The devil next tried the temptation of having Jesus prove himself.
If Jesus threw himself from the pinnacle of the temple, then surely the angels would catch him. And why not? It was promised in Scripture that the angels would protect him.
And even more, think of how many people would be won over by the spectacle!
They would see how powerful he is and realize that he is something special!
But, Jesus was not here to make a spectacle of himself. He was here to walk in humility.
He would not always refuse to put himself in danger – he walked on a lake in the middle of a storm. At that time he knew his life would be miraculously preserved.
But this was not the time or place. This was the time of temptation.
Finally, Jesus faced the temptation of the quick and easy fix.
The only catch was one little compromise with evil – he just had to bow down to Satan.
A moment of compromise, and our Lord could skip the horrible agony and suffering of the cross.
He could possess the kingdoms of the world without having to suffer and die to purchase them - or so Satan said.
But then, what kind of Saviour would he be if he willingly bowed down to the prince of darkness? He couldn’t do that. He would not give in to evil - not even a little bit.
The devil also whispers temptations like this in our ear.
If only we would compromise on this doctrine or that - then we will win many people for Christ.
But there is no quick and easy fix for us either. We stick to the Word alone, through suffering with trust in God.
Jesus endured Satan’s temptations for us.
He needed no victory over Satan for himself.
He came to do what we are unable to do. He came to succeed where Adam and Eve, you and I, failed.
He came to defeat sin, death, and the devil.
It did not look like a victory. There was a man, alone in the wilderness, who seemed about to starve to death.
Glory and reward was offered to him - but instead he chose humiliation and suffering.
But, contrary to all appearances - this was not failure. This was the victory of God in his Son who chose suffering and death to save us.
Jesus resisted Satan in our place. He crushed the ancient serpent's head, both in the wilderness and upon Calvary.
Now our sin is not counted because Jesus took it all upon himself and defeated it.
Satan will try to remind you of your sin and tell you that you are too horrible of a sinner to enter into God's eternal rest. He will tempt you to believe this.
When he does that - remember the Cross. Remember the blood shed for you.
Remember that Jesus Christ is the Son of God - and his death is more than enough to wash away all of your sins.
Satan will try to tempt you by saying, "Look at your life! Look at the pain and sorrow! Look at all those troubles! God must not be pleased with you! No way are you one of God’s children!"
When he does that remind yourself that you are a child of God, claimed to be so through the waters of your Holy Baptism. Being baptized in Christ means that we suffer and die with our Lord.
But as we hear in Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Just as we suffer and die with him - so we rise with him to new life.
Living in this fallen world means that we will find ourselves in the wilderness being tempted. We will suffer. We will experience sorrow.
But, Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh, resisted all of the devil’s temptations and he gives us his victory.
As we heard in our reading from Romans, “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
Our destiny in Adam was death.
But, In Christ, our destiny is righteousness and eternal life! Life without temptations. Life without sorrow, suffering, and death. Thanks be to God! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.