Sermon – Matthew 4.1-11 (Lent 1 – 2020)
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.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
As soon as Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to do spiritual battle in the wilderness. Jesus would fast for 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus was entering into conditions that were not in His favor. He suffered hunger. He was without anyone to accompany Him. Day and night he had to endure whatever harsh conditions he encountered without the help of shelter. Also, He was in danger of wild beasts that roamed the land. And so under these conditions, the Holy Spirit gave the devil opportunity to tempt Jesus.
Through the baptismal waters, the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus into His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. And immediately, by the Holy Spirit, Jesus entered into the wilderness to do spiritual battle.
Something similar happened to us. Through the baptismal waters, we were made citizens of the kingdom of God and were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. And instantly, we became strangers in a wilderness. Immediately, we became surrounded by enemies. A target was painted on our backs, and now the devil incessantly attacks us seeking to tempt us to sin, to doubt, to despair.
This world is not a wilderness to those who are of the world, but for them it is home. Though they deal with difficulties and trials, their hope and their comfort are in the things of the world, or in the lies of the devil. The world often does not recognize the hostility of temptation, because they often do not fight temptation. Their minds and will are already bound to the devil who tempts them. They go along with it. It’s hard to notice it when temptation doesn’t conflict with one’s conscience and will. And if they feel tempted and fight, they fight for a different reason than believers fight temptation. The world fights temptation out of fear of losing their earthy gifts, such as reputation, relationships, or the world’s acceptance. Or they might fight to preserve their delusion of self-righteousness.
But through baptism, we have been saved from Satan, under whom our hearts and will were completely bound. We’ve been saved from being of the world, to being strangers in the world, in this wilderness, and now we are under attack.
Our enemies are the evil three: the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. If you do not feel their attacks, I ask you, are you trying to keep the Commandments? For if you wish to see what it is to be under attack in this wilderness and feel the temptation of the devil which we should see and feel, since it is the reality in which we live, stop living as one who is of the world, and strive to live as one who has been baptized into Christ. Try to keep the Commandments, and you will see how temptation daily gets in the way.
You ought to be content with what God has given you. You try, but then there gets in the way temptations to be ungrateful and covet that which belongs to another. You ought to put the best construction on your neighbor’s words and actions. You try, but then there gets in the way temptations to be cynical of your neighbor, assuming ill intentions. You ought to live a chaste and decent life. You try, but then there gets in the way temptations to lust after unwholesome images on your devices. You ought to befriend your neighbor, but then there gets in the way temptations to be greedy, to be begrudging, to demand penance rather than to heartily forgive. You ought to have the hearing of the gospel and the partaking of the Lord’s Supper as your priority in life, for in them you find your precious heavenly treasures. You try, but then there gets in the way temptations to prize the things in the world first, to think you’re too busy for them, and to doubt in the power of the gospel to cleanse us of our sins. You ought to trust in God to care for you both in body and soul. You try, but then there gets in the way temptations to doubt God’s care, and to doubt His love and forgiveness for us who fail miserably when the fiery darts of the devil strike us.
Daily we are met with temptations from the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. This is obvious, for “the good that I will to do, I do not do it, but the evil I will not to do, that I practice!” (Romans 7)
But thanks be to God, that we have our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has walked the wilderness, who has endured the attacks, who can sympathize with all our weaknesses, though was without sin. Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit went to do battle for us. He wandered among the beasts of the wilderness, and among them the fiercest of them all was the devil, who is the roaming lion, and the fiery red dragon who sought to devour the Child with his temptations.
The devil tempted Jesus to doubt the Father’s care and to take his sustenance into his own hands by turning the stones into bread, but Jesus steadfastly continued to trust in His Father’s care. The devil tempted Jesus with glory among men rather than the shame of the cross, but Jesus remained faithful to the mission for which His Father sent Him. The devil tempted Jesus with all the treasures and power of world, but Jesus remained faithful to His Father’s mission. The treasure He continued to seek was your redemption, for which He would sacrifice His life.
Jesus walked in the wilderness. He walked under the Law. He walked under the fiery darts of the devil. And on the end of the 40 days, hungry and weary of body and spirit, emerged perfect under the law for your sake.
Therefore, He remained the perfect sacrifice for your sins, the unblemished Lamb. And He is the righteous One, whose righteousness is yours through faith.
So, though we become spotted and filthy with many sins as we traverse this wilderness. The fiery darts come at us, and we falter. We stumble. We sin. The same forgiveness that washed you clean, and the same righteousness that clothed you in baptism, is yours now again through the Word and Sacrament. The wounds of the fiery darts are completely healed by the gospel. It is as though you have remained untouched by the devil and the enemies of the world. It doesn’t feel that way. We know we have been hit, but Christ has made their attacks of no effect. You remain righteous in the sight of God. Christ has made you saints in this wilderness. You are clean, because of Christ who remained clean in the wilderness, and His word of forgiveness.
Finally, as you dwell in this wilderness among enemies, remember also these two things. First you are citizens of the kingdom of God! You belong to God. This is why you are attacked, and temptations are thrown your way! You are not long for this wilderness. Your inheritance is to be with God.
Secondly, Christ goes with you. The devil hates it that you belong to God. But Jesus who has already won the battle is with you, as the hymn says,
“I walk with Jesus all the way;
His guidance never fails me.
Within His wounds I find a stay
When Satan’s pow’r assails me,
And, by His footsteps led,
My path I safely tread.
In spite of ills that threaten may,
I walk with Jesus all the way.”
And so equipped with God’s Word and prayer, we continue to live as God’s children in this wilderness, strengthened by Christ and His gospel to do the commandments. We go in confidence, finding our refuge in Him, and having the joy that we are Christ’s redeemed, citizens of His eternal kingdom. 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.