Luke 4: 1 – 13 (First Sunday in Lent - 2016)
TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
“The Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth!”
During this quiet, contemplative time of Lent we are reminded to bring nothing before the throne of God but contrite and broken hearts. We need to know that the helpless have a Helper. We need to know the Lamb has begun his war with hell in a victorious first battle. There, led by the Spirit, fasting and praying, anointed to face the cross, we see the willing obedience of Christ. We need the comforting sight of a faithful Savior who will not give up in the face of his highest enemy. We need to know that the one “who was tempted is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2: 18).
1. To Endure our Humanity for Us.
The first temptation Luke records is one of the most common battles. It is simple. The devil wants Jesus to consider his physical needs more important than our spiritual needs. Jesus’ mission means the saving of our souls – the saving of all souls. The temptation to reach for bread is more deadly than it appears. For the temporary pleasure of a full stomach just to show the devil who is boss and all of humanity would be lost!
In our humanity this is low hanging fruit for the devil, fruit he grabs with us all the time. Given the choice between my physical needs and my spiritual needs, our sinful nature is drawn to be satisfied. It is sad, even embarrassing, to realize the time and energy we spend in meeting the needs of our bodies as compared to meeting the needs of our souls. One is tangible. The other is immeasurable. Do I spend one more hour in sleep or one hour hearing the Word? Our nature does not naturally want to spend time with God’s truths. It knows that God’s Word puts the body to death and raises the soul to life. We eat right, exercise, vacation, and work hard to provide for family. We sense the need to be good stewards of our body. Bread we have, indeed. We look forward to our favorite show, our favorite book, our favorite video game. We set aside time for the fishing hole, the golf course, and perhaps embrace a few “hidden faults” (Psalm 19: 12). Check your daily schedule. Add up the things that meet the needs of body vs. the things that feed the soul. The devil has beaten us at this little game: Which is most important: your stomach or your soul?
The Lamb goes uncomplaining forth: “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone [but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.]” Notice the devil has lost THAT battle. He moves on to the next. He does that because our Savior, who shares our humanity - on an empty stomach mind you - tells the devil that he is wrong. He – in our place – defeats the satanic attack on the well being of our souls. He endures our humanity with suffering. He endures our humanity with willingness. His endures our humanity with perfection and active obedience to his Father’s will. He rescues us from our sin-sick humanity by sharing in it with us as the perfect Son of God made man. He does that with his Word, the Living Bread for our souls.
2. To Do the Will of His Father for Us.
The next temptation shows us how logical the devil can be. He grasps the fact that Christ is focused on his Father’s will. So he cuts right to the heart. He goes back to the original battle in heaven: Why should your Father have all the glory? Your Father and I hammered this out a long time ago. Come on over to the dark side. Look at the glory you could have! Look at the world that is mine. Look at the attention that is on me. You can have your own glory if you just rebel against this Father of yours who sent you down here to die. You can be lord on earth of these souls without having to die for them, if you just come to be on my side.
Now that sounds familiar. Why put up with being the good little Christian and face the ridicule of the world. If you can’t beat the world join the world. What benefit is there, really, in doing the will of this Father in heaven. Does he really care about you the way I care about you? What a devilish trick! Billy Joel’s phrase rings out for all to hear: I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The world is too much fun and gives so much praise to me. The world and the devil are dying to love me. Why spend my days in this world being a ninny for Jesus – a meek persecuted soul - for the sake of a Father who demands so much of me?
Then the voice of sound doctrine rings out from the Savior. He speaks the first commandment: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Not only does he speak the first commandment. He also keeps it for us – perfectly. “My food is to do the will of will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4: 34). Christ is not interested in earthly glory. He is interested in the cross. He is about his Father business. He is about his Father’s holy Will. He is interested in saving you from hell. He stays the course and defeats the devil’s tricks. He would rather you spend eternity with him in heaven, than to have the praise of the one who was cast from heaven forever. The Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, for you!
3. To Defend His Mighty Word for Us.
Again, the devil is forced to shift gears. Well, if Jesus is so interested in the Word of God, perhaps I can do things with the Word of God to get him twisted around. Doesn’t the Word of God promise protection in danger? Doesn’t your heavenly Father promise to wrap his angels around you every time you are in trouble? Why not make him prove his promises?
Flesh that out a bit. He did it to Eve. Did God really say...? Let’s take a closer look at that thing you call the Bible. God makes some interesting promises in there. Have you received all those promises? Are you sure? I tell you what: you go ahead and believe that God says this and I will believe that God means that. Why don’t we both agree to disagree? Why don’t we just say that the Bible means whatever you want it to mean? Why don’t we make God prove this angelic promise and pray for grandma to get better and see if she does. Why stop there? How about all the thorns in your side right now – depression, pain, fear, family struggles, hurt … where are all those angels now? Didn’t God promise to guard you in all your ways? What are you doing with that hurt on your mind? Is God really the God he promised to be? Really? How devilish! How quick we are to fall for that one!
Not our Savior. He has come to defend the truth. He has come to be a better theologian than the devil. His theology is about enduring under the cross, not looking for the simple way out. His theology says let God be God and do not test his love with foolish, self-centered doubts. His theology says to the devil “Enough!” His theology says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9). He defends the truth. He upholds the truth. He defeats lies with the truth. He obeys the truth. He is the truth written in the blood of his cross that atones for the sins of the world, the blood that washes you clean! The Lamb goes uncomplaining forth!
Look at the devil run. Look at the devil flee from His marked defeat. Look at the devil not give up, but wait for “an opportune time” to strike again. Look at our humanity and its helpless, sinful state! Look at the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Look at the Lamb who goes uncomplaining forth! Look at the perfect endurance of the suffering and death scorning the shame of the cross that we might not lose heart!
“Because he himself was tempted is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2: 18). As we journey to the cross, we see reason to stop trying to rescue ourselves. We see that we need and have a Champion, a Valiant One, a Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, only to take back up again. This Lamb endures humanity for us. This Lamb does the will of his Father for us. This lamb defends the truth for us. That Word is now your sword in the battle against temptation. It is your armor against our foe the devil. It is your salvation. In this Word we see our Jesus, This Lamb who says for you “Willing all this I suffer!” Amen.