Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 17, 2013

First Sunday in Lent


First Sunday in Lent (C)
February 17, 2013
Text: Luke 4:1-13

            Three temptations, and they’re common to all mankind, to every one of us.  The first concerns daily bread, the stuff of this life; the second concerns false worship and a striving to be like God, to become your own god; and the third concerns putting God to the test… “If you’re really God, then You’ll do this or that for me.”  “I just can’t believe in a God who would…”  Fill in whatever it happens to be that you find objectionable about God: “…allow people to suffer, send people to hell, condemn behavior I find acceptable, expect me to do this or that,” or as the devil wanted Jesus to think, “I just can’t believe in a God who wouldn’t miraculously rescue me if I jump off this tall building.”  Three temptations, and they ultimately come down to the same temptation with which the devil tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden: God is holding out on you, keeping you down, not allowing you to enjoy good things to which you have a right.  Go around God.  Be your own god.  Can you really trust His Word, anyway?  And with this temptation, successfully perpetrated against our first parents, humanity is sent spiraling down the bottomless pit of sin and death.
            But in our text, it’s time for a rematch.  Our Lord Jesus faces the evil one head on in the wilderness as our stand in.  He comes to undo all that went wrong in Eden, all that is wrong in the world, in the Church, in your life.  He stands there in the wilderness, toe to toe with the tempter, in your place.  The devil was victorious in the Garden of Eden.  Did God really say?  You won’t surely die.  Take and eat.  Eve took and ate and gave some to her husband Adam.  By food Adam was overcome, along with all his progeny.  And in Adam’s fall, you fell.  It’s not just that he took a bite of the forbidden fruit.  It’s that in taking that bite of fruit he lost faith in God, rejected Him, and worshiped himself rather than his Creator.  Jesus Christ comes as our New Adam, the head of a New Creation, and He is faced there, in the wilderness, in the emptiness, among the wild animals and the demons, with the primeval temptation.  You’re hungry.  Eat.  If you are the Son of God… Notice here the doubt Satan tries to cast upon the Father’s proclamation at Jesus’ Baptism: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22; ESV).  If  you are the Son of God, God wouldn’t want you to starve.  What kind of heavenly Father is that?  Command these stones to become bread.  It’s the same temptation as that in the Garden.  If God really loved you, Adam and Eve, He wouldn’t hold back this fruit, which is so pleasing to the eye and good for food.  But whereas Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, our Lord Jesus rebuffed Him with a Word from God: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’” (4:4; Deut. 8:3).  Indeed, man must live by bread.  Jesus, being a man, must live by bread, but not alone.  Rather, by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.  And what is that Word by which Jesus, and you, must live?  You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  And if that is the case, trust me.  Even in the hard times.  Even when you’re hungry.  Even when you lack.  Even when you face the cross and suffering and death.  Believe me, dear child, it will all be for the good.  In the Garden, Adam fell by doubting God’s Word and taking and eating.  In the wilderness, Jesus defeated the devil by trusting in God’s Word and refusing to eat.  And the curse begins to unravel.  Strike one for the devil.
            Again, the devil showed Jesus all the mighty kingdoms of the world and their glory, a sweeping view of history and geography.  All these I will give you, says the prince of this world, if you will worship me.  Here the temptation is to win a kingdom without suffering and the cross, to have it all, and to have it now.  You and I know something of this temptation, too.  So did Adam and Eve.  Don’t wait upon God.  Seize the day.  Take what you want.  Look out for yourself.  Have the glory and the honor without the pain.  Just reach out and take that fruit.  It will make you wise.  You’ll be like God, knowing good and evil.  See, once again, it’s the same temptation as that in the Garden.  But once again, the Lord Jesus is victorious.  He keeps the First Commandment in your place: You shall have no other gods.  It is written,” declares the Lord Jesus, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:8; Deut. 6:13).  You don’t make a deal with the devil for temporal gain.  That includes selling out to the world to get what you want, or to avoid suffering and persecution.  Adam sold out and we’ve been suffering the consequences ever since, enslaved to sin and doomed to death.  But where Adam sold out, Jesus redeemed.  He’s redeemed you and me.  He did not sidestep the cross.  He shed His blood, for Adam, for you, for me, and for all people.  And in so doing, He won a Kingdom to which you and I belong as citizens, the Kingdom of the children of God.  Here is true glory, true power, won by suffering and death, that we who are dead in the sin of Adam might have life and salvation in the righteousness of Christ.  Another blow to the curse of Eden.  Strike two for the father of lies.
            One more try, though.  This is where the devil gets especially crafty.  He quotes the Word of God against Jesus.  Taking Him up to the pinnacle of the temple, probably about 100 feet off the ground, He whispers, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you” (4:10; Ps. 91:11), and again, “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (v. 11; Ps. 91:12).  Ah, the devil knows Scripture, too.  In fact, beware of this.  It is absolutely true that you should resist the devil with God’s Word, as Jesus does in our text, but don’t try to outwit him with it.  The devil knows Scripture better than you do.  Just throw the Word in his face, and then flee the temptation.  Get out of it, lest you be overcome.  That was Eve’s big mistake.  She stuck around to discuss the options with the serpent.  Did God really say you cannot eat of any tree in the Garden?  Of course not.  The devil knows that.  But he always twists God’s Word, just as he did in the Garden.  He quotes it out of context.  He leaves out important things.  For example, the Scripture he quotes here says that God will command His angels “to guard you in all your ways” (Ps. 91:11; emphasis added), a striking omission.  For God has promised the angels to guard the Lord Jesus only in the way set out for Him by God.  And remember, that way is the cross and suffering for the redemption of humanity.  There would come a time when Jesus would not be defended by the angels, though He reminds us that at any moment He could call upon His heavenly Father and more than twelve legions of angels would deliver Him (Matt. 26:53).  Jesus doesn’t choose to do that.  Because He loves us, and He wants to save us.  So once again He opposes the deceiver with the pure Word of God: “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Luke 4:12).  And don’t miss what is happening.  This is a direct command that the devil cease and desist.  The devil shall not put the Lord his God, Jesus Christ, the Savior, to the test.  Strike three.  The temptation is over.  The devil’s out.  And he must leave until a more opportune time, until another struggle, the ultimate, that of our Lord’s Passion, His suffering, His death on the cross, where He will once and for all win the victory over the devil and bring the curse to an end.
            Three temptations our Lord endures for us, and three times He successfully overcomes them.  And here is the good news.  His victory is your victory.  He is your stand in.  For you, who have been tempted to forsake God for the stuff of this life, over concerns for your daily bread and your appetite for more and more, Jesus has successfully resisted the devil and given you not only bread for your belly but every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  For you, who have worshiped false gods, particularly the self, and sought honor and glory without suffering and the cross, Jesus has remained steadfast, worshiped the Lord His God and served Him only by embracing the cross for your redemption.  For you, who have put the Lord God to the test and exchanged Him for other gods more to your liking, the Lord Jesus has been faithful.  And His faithfulness is your faithfulness.  Behold the great exchange that happens in your Baptism into Christ.  Jesus takes all your sin and unfaithfulness, your death and condemnation upon Himself and nails it in His body to the cross.  And in exchange He gives you His victory over Satan, His faithfulness, His righteousness, His status as God’s Son, His eternal life, His Kingdom.  And it is all by grace, apart from your works.  He does it for you.  He does it to make you His own.  Take and eat the fruits of the tree of life where He continues to deliver all of this to you in His crucified and risen body and blood.
            So the next time the devil wants to throw your sins in your face, the next time he shoots a flaming arrow at your heart, the next time he tries to convince you that you are anything other than God’s own child, you tell him where to go.  You belong to Jesus Christ, God and Lord.  Jesus Christ has defeated the devil and his kingdom once and for all.  Satan cannot harm you.  You know him for what he is.  He’s nothing but a big fat liar.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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