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2020 Sermons Lent

Lent 5 Midweek

Categories
2020 Sermons Lent

Lent 5

Categories
2020 Sermons Lent

Lent 4 – Midweek

Categories
2020 Sermons Lent

Lent 4

Sermon – Isaiah 49.8-13 (Lent 4 – 2020)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You fed five thousand men in the wilderness with five loaves and two fish, showing that you nourish our bodies: We beseech You to nourish also our souls with Your gospel, that by the redemption of Your Son, we may be freed from sin, and be led with believers from every nation to our eternal inheritance by Your merciful Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, 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.

8 Thus says the LORD: “In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;

 9 That You may say to the prisoners,`Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness,`Show yourselves.’ “They shall feed along the roads, And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.

 10 They shall neither hunger nor thirst, Neither heat nor sun shall strike them; For He who has mercy on them will lead them, Even by the springs of water He will guide them.

 11 I will make each of My mountains a road, And My highways shall be elevated.

 12 Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, And these from the land of Sinim.”

 13 Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

In the desolate place, Jesus fed the many who were hungry and faint. He had mercy on them. They needed food. Where there was very little to nourish them in this desolate place, Jesus gave them a feast. Miraculously He fed the multitude out of five loaves of bread and two fish.

This miracle is a sign, or indication, that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah. But this feeding is not the feeding that is prophesied in Isaiah. 

Let’s examine the prophesy Isaiah puts before us. Pictured before us is Israel returning to their inheritance. God’s servant will go and say to those imprisoned Israelites in exile, go free. They who are in darkness, come into the light. They who hunger in desolate places, will now have pasture from which to eat. They shall return to God. The mountains will not prevent them. God will make His mountains into roads. The highways in the valleys will be lifted up. They shall come from all over the earth. He who has mercy on them will lead them. He will give them plentiful pasture, and water for them to drink to sustain them on the way. They will return with singing and great rejoicing, because they are comforted and have received God’s mercy.

But what exactly is pictured? What is God prophesying here?

He’s speaking about the acceptable time, the day of salvation. At the time of Isaiah, the day was yet to come, but for us the day has already come. The Father hears the prayers of the Son. The Son of God became man and though He was without sin, He was able to sympathize with weaknesses of man, and thus He prayed to the Father on behalf of all mankind. And so the Father hears, and He plans out the day of salvation. He sends His Son to be the covenant of the people. That means He will be the personal bond which unites Israel and its God in a new fellowship. 

So this return prophesied in our gospel reading is not a return to the land, but a return to God, who created us, but from whom we have lost communion. But on the acceptable day, the day of salvation, the Father gives up His Son to draw us to Himself and accept us for the sake of Christ alone. This is not a two-sided agreement, that we do our part and God does His. Rather Christ has made all things right between us and God. He has accounted for our sins, paying the price for them. He is the righteousness that justifies us with God. He is the bloodied, beaten, and crucified Mediator that creates peace between us and God.

This is meaningful for us only when we know what our spiritual situation is. We were in exile, separated from our Creator on account of our sins. We were in darkness, alienated from God, not knowing Him as our gracious God, but only our Judge, from whom we hide in the darkness. 

We are hungry and thirsty in this wilderness. There is that innate longing for something that is missing, something lasting, that which we lost, the relationship with God. But we cannot satisfy it. Even the crowd Jesus fed had the answer before them–there was Jesus who is their righteousness and life. But they wanted from Him only satisfaction for their bellies. So also, in this wilderness, there is nothing to give us what we lost. In this wilderness, we try to fill our longings with whatever we can find, we even try to produce our own righteousness to make us right before God, but this is a delusion. It fails. 

Furthermore, our spiritual situation can be compared to captivity. We can perhaps relate to this most of all these days. We’re stuck at home. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a blessing to be home, but yet, we are limited on what we can do outside the home. We leave only for necessities. But how much greater is the captivity under sin and the devil. Our wills were completely bound to the devil. We were slaves of sin. We think we were free, but we were not. We could not budge from their grasp, not an inch to the left or to the right.

The way to God, is fraught with mountains and difficult terrain. There is no way we can make our way to Him.

But then because of Christ, what happens!? By His saving work, and through the preaching of His gospel, what wonderful things now happens for you. You in captivity: “Go forth.” You are free! Free from sin and Satan! You in the darkness, “Show yourselves, live in my light and life, and see that I am gracious to you!”

“The way to Me has been opened. Jesus is the Way. Through Him I have drawn you to Myself.” My mountains have been made into roads, the highways in the valley have been lifted up. There no longer anything separating you from Me. You are Mine, and I have claimed people from all four corners of the earth to be Mine as well. I have drawn all of you to Myself through My Son, who was lifted up on the cross. And while you remain on the earth, though it will be difficult, suffering the evil of the world, war, disaster, and famine, He will be with you. He who has mercy on You, will lead you. He is your Good Shepherd. He is also the Bread of Life. Eat of His Word, and partake of His body and blood, for He satisfies your hunger, for He is the righteousness by which you have peace and communion with Me. He will lead you beside still waters, upholding you in the grace of your baptism, and refreshing you in my grace.”

And so we go led by our Lord, feasting on Him, and living in our baptism, until we enter the glorious presence of God in heaven. And so we go, with believers from every tongue, tribe, and nation.

[Pause]

It hasn’t been long that we’ve been away from church, but I’m really looking forward to when we can leave the walls of our house, and we will come from the north, the west, the south, and east, and join together within the walls of our Father’s house, to gather in His most gracious presence, and partake of the Bread of Life, in Word and Sacrament, receiving from Him, His forgiveness, righteousness, and refreshment! It will be a joyful day!

And this is a foretaste of heaven, isn’t it? Gathering together with one another in God’s most gracious and glorious presence. And so we sing and rejoice, for the Lord has comforted us and has mercy on us! He has united us to Himself, and we shall be with Him forever. 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. 

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Lent

Lent 3 – Transfiguration Sunday – 2020

Sermon – Matthew 17.1-9 (Transfiguration – 2020)

O merciful and everlasting God, heavenly Father: We thank You that You have revealed to us the glory of Your Son, and let the light of Your Gospel shine upon us: We pray that You would guide us by this light that we may walk diligently as Christians in all good works, ever be strengthened by Your grace, and conduct our lives in all godliness; 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.

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;

 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”

 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.

 7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”

 8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Hear Him

Dear fellow redeemed,

It was quite a sight that Peter, James, and John had on the mountain. Jesus’ appearance changed before them, and He displayed His divine glory and brilliance. There are the two natures in Christ. It is not the character of human flesh to shine like the sun, and to emit light. We can enter into a pitch black room, and our bodies will produce no light. It will be pitch black. But the body of Christ, which is a real human body, shines like the sun, because He is also true God. The fullness of the divinity dwells in Christ. The early church fathers used to give this picture, and our Lutheran Confessions make use of it, it is like fire and iron. Iron does not have characteristics to glow. It produces no light. But it is the character of fire to glow. So that when fire is joined to the iron, it causes the iron to glow and emit light. So also, because of the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, the divine attributes of His divinity, such as majesty, is communicated to His human nature, such as His body. Christ did this whensoever He willed during His humiliation, such as we see in our gospel reading. And since His ascension, His divine majesty always and fully is being revealed through His flesh.

And Peter, James, and John were in awe of Christ and His glory. They loved this sight!

It is interesting to note that they weren’t afraid of Jesus. Three years earlier, much less caused Peter to flee Jesus’ presence. Jesus gave them the great catch of fish, and Peter seeing the divine power of Jesus fell down at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). But now they see not just the works of His divinity, but also His divine radiance, and they are not afraid. They have come to know not only of His glory, but also His grace and meekness. For John also testified of Him, being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And they know that He has come in mercy for the benefit of sinners.

But they see their friend, their teacher in such glory, and speaking also with Moses and Elijah, who represent the entirety of the Old Testament. They want this to last. They want to remain in the presence of His glory.

So Peter, still showing respect to His Lord, requests the will of His master “if you wish.” But it is Peter’s desire that he build three tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

Peter much preferred this sight over the words that Jesus spoke six days earlier, that He would “go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Mt 16:21). Peter wished to remain in the glory, but tried to prevent Jesus suffering. Of course Peter didn’t learn his lesson. Peter wanted the mountaintop glory, but not Jesus’ suffering on the top of Mt. Calvary. And when Jesus was being judged under Pilate, Peter denied Jesus. And when Jesus was on the cross, Jesus and the disciples abandoned Him.

But on that mountain, the Father intervenes and turns Peter’s attention to where it should be directed: to His Word. He says, “Hear Him.” “Mark this vision you see now, remember who this is before you, this is My beloved Son, begotten from eternity. Hear His Word. He speaks of suffering, humility and death. Do not object to Him. Do not dismiss Him. Hear Him, and trust upon His Word.”

Like Peter, we want to dwell in glory. We want to see it and experience it. This desire ordered in the right way is a good desire. We want to be in heaven with Jesus. That is good. We should wish to dwell in the presence of His glory. This is was the good intention of God in creating us. But the desire for glory in sinful human hearts is easily turned bad.

There is the desire to have a connection to God’s glory, through means other than His Word and Sacraments. There’s that desire to have that mountaintop experience. Some actually go to the mountaintops, or else look for experiences in creation and seek in the beauty of creation, a connection with God. God’s creation declares the glory of God, but it gives no indication of how we stand before Him. In fact, when we think about it, being held accountable to this glorious Creator is very frightening.

Another place where the desire for experiencing God’s glory goes wrong is seen in some styles of worship. God’s Word is to be preeminent. “Hear Him” is God’s command. Music is to serve the words. But for many the music is played for the purpose of eliciting emotions, getting a person to feel God, and feel His love apart from the words. It is often the case that there is a lack of substance in the lyrics, which goes to show that they don’t matter much.

But how else does this desire go wrong? What do we wish to see in our every day lives. A happy life! We have a plan for our lives, that everything would go swimmingly. We seek to build our little kingdom here on earth. And of course, we don’t want things to go bad. We pray to God for blessings, and our daily bread. Jesus tells us to pray for this. And certainly, we are blessed with so many things by God in our lives here on earth. And we give thanks to Him for it. But it goes bad when this becomes the glory in which our hope, confidence, happiness, and comfort is grounded. For these things come and go like a mist.

Life is good, everything with God is good. Life is bad, God’s glory has departed from me. Well, this isn’t how we are to see it.

We operate our lives so much on what we see and experience, and what we want to see and experience. But when it comes to God, and our status before Him, His will for us, we ought to close our eyes and hear Him.

God’s glory on this earth wasn’t only found on that mountaintop. It was also found on another mountaintop, on Calvary. God’s glory was revealed in the crucified Christ. We can’t see it with our eyes, but God calls us to hear Him who was crucified, and there in Holy Scripture we learn, this is God’s atonement for our sins. He is defeating the devil. He is winning salvation for the world!

We need to close our eyes, and open our ears and hear Him, because we don’t see glory in our own lives, for Scripture says, “In this world you will have trouble,” and “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.

But we have the confidence

God is with us. That through faith, we are His children. His glory will not destroy us, for we are forgiven.

This word is sure. This is what Peter speaks of in our epistle reading. This is not the word of man. This is the word of God, and they have seen with their own eyes His glory. What they have heard, what they have seen, they reported. And this Word, which is God’s Word is sure! Peter was sure of it, and was willing to die for it. And we too, must be willing to bear our cross, and suffer, but we know that we have the glory of being God’s children, righteous, and forgiven, and that when our time here comes to an end, we will enter into glory, where we will live in the light and brilliance of God’s glory.

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.

Categories
2020 Sermons Lent

Lent 2 – 2020

Sermon – Matthew 15.21-28 (Lent 2 – 2020)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us, we beseech You, by Your Holy Spirit, that He may strengthen our hearts and confirm our faith and hope in Your grace and mercy, so that, although we have reason to fear because of our conscience, our sin, and our unworthiness, we may nevertheless, with the woman of Canaan, hold fast to Your grace, and in every trial and temptation find You a present help and refuge; through 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.

  21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”  23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”  24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

These are Your words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Christ Makes a Theologian

Dear fellow redeemed,

What is a Christian theologian? Strictly speaking, a Christian theologian is a person who has a special measure of the knowledge of God and His Word. This is the special knowledge that pastors should possess. But a Christian theologian can be a name more broadly used. Francis Pieper, a theologian himself, wrote the three volume set of Christian Dogmatics from which I and many other students at confessional Lutheran seminaries learned their theology. He said that a Christian theologian can also include a person who possesses the knowledge of God and divine doctrine, namely all Christians.

In our gospel lesson, we see Jesus take on the role of theology professor, and this poor woman in anguish His student. Jesus here seems to be one harsh teacher, one of those you would try to avoid. As a parent, you would write the principal requesting another teacher, or as a college student you would register for the class with the other teacher. But here Jesus, though appearing very harsh, is full of love and mercy towards this Canaanite woman.

This woman is receiving the kind of theological training that Luther spoke about based on Psalm 119. Remember Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, all about devotion to God’s Word. Luther divides this “right way to study theology into three main rules: Oratio, Meditatio, and Tentatio.

In the English, it is Prayer, Meditation, and Trial.

All true theological training, knowledge and practice is based on the God’s Word. Therefore meditation on God’s Word is at center of becoming a Christian theologian.

Now we don’t know how much she studied the Old Testament. It’s likely that she didn’t know it too well, especially since she wasn’t an Israelite, but a Canaanite. But what did she know? She knew that one of the main characteristics of God spoken of in the Old Testament was His mercy, as Jeremiah said, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness,” (Lamentaions 3:22-23) and as the Psalmist says, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

She knew that Jesus wasn’t just a man from Nazareth, but that He is the Lord, the Most High God, Yahweh, the great “I Am.” She also had the knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah. She knew the words that Nathan spoke to David, that His offspring will sit on the throne, and His kingdom will last forever. Jesus is that Son of David.

She may not have had theological training, but she trusted in God’s Word. And with this knowledge she held in faith, she was more of a theologian than the learned scribes and Pharisees. These so called “doctors” of God’s Word are those who have eyes, but do not see, and ears but do not hear (Jer 5:21). They are so called experts of the law, but they applied the law only to outward actions, and not the sinful thoughts and desires of the heart. They also believed that favor before God was achieved by obedience rather than by grace, through faith in God’s Promised Son. And therefore, they rejected Christ and crucified Him.

Many today are like the Scribes and Pharisees who think that they are wise who exalt themselves over God’s Word that think that they are real theologians. Pieper talked about this departure from Scripture among theologians that has been taking place among Protestants since 1750. He spoke about how the human Ego has become the judge over Scripture. And so it continues today, when theologians exalt certain things to authority over Scripture. They place pseudo-science like evolutionary theory, the so-called “progress” of culture, and human reason and feelings above Scripture. Thus they twist Scripture to fit their own desires and the perversions of the world. These theologians think they are great and wise, but they are enemies of God.

But the true Christian theologians are those who humble themselves before God’s Word, who confess the Bible as God’s true Word, and the source of all knowledge of God and all divine wisdom. The true Christian theologian therefore, submits to that Word, and studies that Word and takes the Word to heart. Luther says, “You should not only meditate inwardly in your heart but also outwardly by repeating the words out aloud and rubbing at the written word (like a sweet-smelling herb), by reading and rereading it, carefully, attentively and reflectively, to gather what the Holy Spirit means by them.” This is the faith of a child that Christ talks about. It is the humble faith that puts aside our own wisdom, and trusts in the wisdom of the heavenly Father that we have revealed in God’s Word. This is the starting point of a Christian theologian.

It is upon the truth of God’s Word that the Canaanite woman relied, and motivated by this truth, she prayed. Prayer is the word of the theologian to God that flows from faith in God’s Word, and is shaped by the truth of His Word. Because of the surety of God’s Word, she expresses her faith by praying to Jesus. It is an exercise of faith. She knows He is merciful, so she prays to Him for help.

But Jesus gives her further training. Jesus sought to strengthen her faith through trial. St. Peter writes: “Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pe 1:6-7).

17th century Lutheran theologian John Gerhard uses the picture of faith as a fire, as Scripture talks about faith being a lamp sitting on a stand lighting up a house. He says, a flame burns more brightly if it is blown by the wind, “so also the light of faith shines much brighter if the bitter north wind blows various trials into it.”

Notice the trials she encounters in our text. The first comes from the devil, for he had sent a demon to possess her daughter. So she looks to Jesus for help in her time of need.

But sometimes, it’s not just the devil afflicting us, but sometimes it seems as though Jesus Himself acts as our enemy. For though she cries out to Jesus, He gives her no response. He acts as though He did not hear her.

Her faith is not destroyed, she does not question the Word of God that her heart had meditated upon and took hold of. She doesn’t wonder, “Maybe, I’m not trusting in the right God,” or “maybe the Word about Him is wrong.” No, she doesn’t take Jesus’ silence as a refusal, but she trusts the Word that says that He is her merciful Lord. She keeps after him, crying out to him for help, so much so, that the disciples got annoyed by her.

Then Jesus acts as a harsh teacher towards her again saying that He was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. She was excluded, for she was a Canaanite. Certainly Jesus came for the salvation of all people, but His ministry was focused on the Israelites. It wasn’t until Pentecost that the Word was to go to all the nations of the world. But again, her faith is strengthened, as by the power of the Holy Spirit, she plants herself more firmly into God’s Word, trusting in God’s mercy. Her response, she falls before His feet, worshipping Him in prayer, “Lord, help me.

Then Jesus gives her a great insult, what seemed to be a mortal blow to her faith. She equates her to an unworthy dog, saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But Jesus knows what her faith can take, and knows that she has the solid foundation upon which she stands. And her faith proves to be precious like gold refined by fire. She admits that she is unworthy. But she doesn’t come to Jesus for help, expecting Him to answer based on her worthiness. She says, yes, I am an unworthy dog, but then she pins Jesus with His Word, for she knows from the Word that Jesus is her merciful Lord, and that it is on account of His mercy that He will help her. Even if a morsel of that mercy that is lavished upon the table of the Jews falls to her, that would be enough for her.

O what a faith! What a theologian she has become! Jesus rejoices in her great faith! And according to His great mercy, He answers the woman’s prayer, removing the demon from her daughter.

It is by this method we become theologians—through meditatio, oratio and tentatio (meditation, prayer, and trial).

You have come to the knowledge of God’s mercy as revealed to you in His Word. You know His Word is true and infallible in every part, and you submit to it. And based on that word, we come to Him in prayer, and are exercised and refined through trial.

Though it sometimes seems like He does not hear, we know the promise of God, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Is 49:15). Though it seems that He cares little for us, we put our confidence on the Word, “Cast all your cares on God, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Though your sins accuse you, and you feel your unworthiness, know from the Word that Christ receives every poor and broken sinner that comes to Him in repentance, for during His earthly ministry, Jesus received sinners and ate with them. And the promise is for us today, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).

Trials are difficult. The crosses in this life we bear are heavy. But Jesus is our Teacher, our Guardian, and our Helper, who is full of love and mercy toward you. And when He drives us to His promises of grace through trials, we are blessed because of it.

So, hold fast to that blessed Word of His mercy, and be more firmly planted in it, that we come to Jesus in prayer for forgiveness and for help in every need. And in trial, cling to that Word of God’s mercy towards you. For He will strengthen your faith through trial. May God grant us such strong faith, that we might become such strong Christian theologians like the Canaanite woman. That might be a dangerous prayer.

But God is merciful and faithful to His promises. He loves you, and will deliver you. You who trust in Him will not be put to shame. 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.

Categories
2020 Sermons Lent

Lent 1-2020

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.