Sermon – Matthew 4.1-11 (Lent 1 – 2019)
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, inasmuch as the adversary does continually afflict us, and as a roaring lion walks about, seeking to devour us: We beseech You for the sake of the suffering and death of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to help us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and to strengthen our hearts by Your Word, that our enemy may not prevail over us, but that we may evermore abide in Your grace, and be preserved unto everlasting life; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written,`Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:`He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and,`In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again,`You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'”
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written,`You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Dear fellow redeemed,
It is a tragedy that many people think that Christianity is merely a moralistic religion—that we’re all about rules and laws, that Christianity is all about what we ought to do and what we are not to do, and that is it. Now it is true that there exists a universal moral code, a moral code that written on the hearts of all people, and it is written down for us in the words of Holy Scripture.
And we uphold these moral laws. We speak the truth. We call good good and evil evil. But many of those around us, those who rebel against the natural law, say that these laws are our laws, the laws of the church, ones that the church has come up with, and that should not apply to all people of all times. They see these laws as arbitrary, that apply only for a certain time and a certain place. And when we proclaim these morals, well people despise it.
But it is important for us to keep in mind that the moral law, summed up in the 10 Commandments, and summed up even further with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself,” that law is God’s Law. God’s Law inherently and universally good, and nothing changes that.
We know that, but we don’t always think about the law in that way, because we know that the law accuses us of sin. It condemns us. For Scripture says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:19-20). The Law demands perfection, and the Law shows that we have fallen short. So it seems like the Law is a bad thing. But it is not! Again Scripture says, “Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law….The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Rom 7:7,12).
We look at the First Commandment, basically the foundational commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” And Luther explains it, “You shall fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” Isn’t that a good thing!? What a blessed relationship it is! God is the Creator, the source of all blessings, of life, of love, of peace, righteousness and joy! And it is only right to fear Him because of His majesty, righteousness and mercy. It is only right to love Him, for He has loved us first from even before the foundation of the world. It is only right that we would trust Him, seeking from His goodness and generosity, everything needed for our bodies and souls. And He is God, and to give Him our fear, love, and trust, is to treat Him as our God. This is the first and foremost law. And it is good and beautiful.
But the law was broken, and man’s relationship with God was broken in the Garden of Eden. The devil, the old evil foe, tempted Adam and Eve to do the opposite of fearing, loving, and trusting in God. The devil tempted them to dishonor God, to think little of God’s command, to take glory from God and give it to themselves. The devil tempted them to spurn God’s love for them, and instead of love Him, they disobeyed Him. The devil tempted them to put their trust in themselves, to find blessing and sustenance in what God had forbidden.
Adam fell, and we are guilty of Adam’s sin. The devil was successful against mankind. He brought sin and destruction into the world. Man’s relationship with God was destroyed. There was no more righteousness coming from the heart, mind and will of man. The heart of man became corrupt, no longer fearing, loving and trusting in God above all things. And certainly with this Law broken, so also all the others are broken, too.
And so the second Adam came. The Son of God became flesh, was born of a Virgin, so that He may be born under the Law, to redeem us who are under the law.
He had to be perfect. He had to be guiltless under the law, so that there would be a record of perfection, a righteousness that could be imputed, or credited to mankind. And so Jesus lived under the requirements of the Law. And again the devil, in his wickedness, made every effort to destroy the saving works of Christ. The devil knew who Jesus was! What a victory it would be for him if he could make Jesus fall. And so he attacked Jesus. He tempted Him, not just with these temptations recorded for us in the text, it is likely that the devil tempted Him the entire time. But interestingly, the devil tempted Jesus, like Adam, to do the opposite of fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things. The devil tempted Jesus jump from the pinnacle of the Temple, testing His Father, which is an act of disrespect toward the Father. That would not be being fearful of the Father. He would be stealing glory from the Father to gain worldly glory for Himself.
And the Devil tempted Jesus to not Love the Lord your God, by tempting him to love the devil and worldly wealth and might more than the Father.
And the Devil tempted Jesus to not trust in the Father. He suggested to Jesus to turn those stones into bread. He should no longer trust in the Father to provide for Him. He should take it into His own hands, and provide for Himself.
And the Devil tried to get Jesus to break just one little bit of the Law. But the devil failed! Jesus won! Jesus obeyed the Law. He obeyed the Father’s will perfectly! Jesus came out of the wilderness with His righteousness intact. Still He remained without guilt! He has a righteousness to clothe you!
And He took the curse of the law for you, the condemnation that we deserved for our breaking of the Law. And so He hung on the tree willingly becoming a curse for us, suffering the Father’s just wrath.
So when we examine ourselves according to the Law, and see clearly that we have broken the good and holy law. We have been unholy, and have done evil in thought word and deed, but you have a Savior, who kept that Law, and has a holiness and righteousness for you.
When we see that we have not kept that First Commandment, not fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things, but that we belittle the demands and threats of God’s law, and fear rather people, loss, or trouble in this world. When we steal glory from God which He alone is worthy, and we exalt ourselves and our will above God’s will; when we make any object, person, or thing as something we desire or love more than God; when we doubt God’s providence, and put things into our own hands, trusting in ourselves rather than God, you have Jesus who perfectly feared, loved and trusted in His Father above all things! And He has, by His death on the cross, forgiven you all your sins.
When the devil attacks us and tempts us to stumble, we need Jesus who is the Victor over the devil, and in spite of the devil obtained a righteousness that saves us and gives us victory over that old evil foe.
And so through Christ, we are justified! That means that through faith in Christ, we have by His sacrifice on the cross the forgiveness of all of our sins, and by His perfect keeping of the Law, we are credited with His righteousness. Through faith in Him, in the sight of God, you are guiltless. You have perfect, you have kept the good and holy Law. You are His saints! The righteousness that the devil stole from humanity in the Garden of Eden is restored to you through Jesus!
And not only is His righteousness imputed to us, but the Holy Spirit gives us the new man, the new creation, the image of God that was lost in the Garden, that we have new hearts and minds to delight in God’s law, to love what is good, to hate what is evil, to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. And though the devil still battles against us, we have Christ our Savior, forgiving us and giving us His Word that keeps us in faith and guards us from the foe.
And so Christianity isn’t just a moralistic religion about the dos and don’ts of life. Rather it is about Christ, who has in grace kept the law for us, and sacrificed Himself for us, so that we may be saved eternally. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.