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LSB Lent 1C Sermon – Luke 4:1-13

February 14, 2016

February 14, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”

The temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness are not really any different than what humans encounter every day. Both the Son of God and all people face Satan’s wiles throughout their life. Note what the Gospel Writer mentioned regarding Satan’s work: “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” Jesus is described as “being tempted.” That phrase indicates a constant temptation was taking place during His time in the wilderness. What you heard in detail about the three temptations was just the final salvo in that forty-day period.

That constant temptation which Jesus faced in the wilderness is so much like what you experience. Nary has a day passed without a temptation to break the LORD’s Law, to fall away from trust and reliance on Him, to place your desires above His will. Anyone would be fortunate to have a single day without such temptation. But that is not your experience. Instead, temptation is nearly constant, something that appears every hour, if not more often.

Even Jesus was not exempt from that. For being true man, He experiences what the rest of humanity does. That truth is illustrated by this event in Jesus’ life. The author of Hebrews states that truth in this way: “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.” When you see Jesus in the Gospel Reading for this morning, you should also see yourselves, for the experience of temptation is the same for both you and Jesus.

During the temptations in the wilderness, Satan offers Jesus an opportunity to place His desire above the LORD’s will: “Command this stone to become bread…. The LORD has abandoned You; supply Yourself with what You crave. If You, then, will worship me, it will all be Yours…. The LORD hasn’t entrusted You with all this power and wealth; take it for Yourself. Throw Yourself down from here…. The LORD makes big promises; be the one who exposes whether He is trustworthy or not.” In each temptation, Jesus is given an option to act outside of the LORD’s will.

But unlike mankind who lacks the ability to withstand all temptation, Jesus does not become one of Satan’s victims. He does not falter in His adherence to the LORD’s will. Instead, Jesus demonstrates what true faith in the LORD looks like. Yes, He has suffered hunger. Yes, He has become impoverished in this world. Yes, He has been given the directive to lay down His life as a sacrifice. That is what the LORD has established for Jesus. This is the LORD’s will for Him…and it is His will also. Jesus endures this to accomplish the great objective of salvation for mankind, an objective that both the LORD and He have established. Jesus’ trust is in the goodness of the LORD’s will for mankind and that His actions would complete that will.

When encouraged to doubt the LORD’s will, Jesus returns to the statements that the LORD has made. He cites what the LORD had said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ … It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’ … It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Jesus express His trust in the LORD’s word, what the LORD has revealed. His repeating of them confesses His trust that they are correct. He shows His reliance on what the LORD had said instead of substituting His own judgment. That same faith and trust is commended to all who would follow Jesus.

The other Scripture Readings for this day revealed the connection of trusting what the LORD has said with salvation. In the Old Testament Reading, you heard what the ancient Hebrews were to do when they occupied Canaan. There was to make a statement of faith when offering their harvest sacrifices: “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us…. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which You, O LORD, have given me.” This declaration revealed what the people believed: that the LORD had made a promise about giving them the land of Canaan; that the LORD had delivered on His promise; that the LORD acted on their behalf; that the LORD’s will for them was good.

When the ancient Hebrews spoke that statement of faith, they confessed their trust in the LORD. It recognized the LORD’s goodness in providing deliverance from Egypt and giving them a land of their own. But what the LORD would do for His people is even greater than that. His will was more than granting a temporal rescue and years in a homeland. No, His will goes further. He desires to give a greater salvation, a deliverance from oppressors worse than Pharaoh. He desires to bring people into a dwelling place that lasts forever, a land where harvests take place without any human toil. That is His truly good and gracious will which Jesus achieves by His death and resurrection.

This is what the Epistle Reading brought to your attention. Recall what was said about the salvation that the LORD provides: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” This is another statement of faith that the LORD’s people make. It testifies to what the LORD has done through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Speaking these words again reveals a trust in the LORD’s will, a desire to receive the benefits that He offers. There is a turning to what the LORD has declared and relying on His trustworthiness and ability to deliver. When that is done, you act the same way that Jesus did in the wilderness. This is another exhibition of faith.

Satan’s great assault is to move your hearts and minds away from those statements that the LORD makes about His will. He desires to create doubt, so that the LORD’s words and actions are not the foundation on which your faith is built. Satan offers the suggestive questions: “Are you really the LORD’s child? Then why do you suffer through illness or hardship? Does the LORD act powerfully for you? Then why are so many people opposed to Him in places of authority over you? Has the LORD said that His will is truly good? Then why are there desirable things that He prohibits you from doing or having? Is the LORD able to make good on His promises? Where is the evidence of that?” These temptations can be subtle or blatant. But they all attempt to pry you from trusting the LORD’s statements about His will for you.

But that is when you are called to perform the same act that Jesus did in the wilderness. It isn’t left to you alone; the Holy Spirit assists you with it as you are led by Him. He brings “the word near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” He returns you to what the LORD has spoken, just as Jesus cited what had been written and said: “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame…. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” He allows you to recall the mighty acts that the LORD has done for you: the death and resurrection of Jesus to deliver you from sin, death, and Satan. He reminds you that you have not been left alone or abandoned.

This doesn’t mean that the times of temptation are easy. No, they most certainly are not. The times of temptation are constant. As you live in the wilderness of this world, Satan and his minions are present. You are “being tempted” like Jesus was. But the LORD’s presence is just as constant: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” His shelter and shadow are with you all the days of your life, even these days of temptation. Redeemed by the LORD’s mighty hand through the work that Jesus has performed, you will be brought into the land where all temptation is ended.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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