In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Invocavit, Lent 1
March 5, 2006
Text: Matthew 4:1-11
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 FATHER, YOU ARE OUR HIDING PLACE AND OUR SHIELD; WE HOPE IN YOUR WORD. AMEN. (Ps 119:114)
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,
Temptation is from the devil, and the goal of all temptation is to lead you away from God, to bring into the camp of Satan, to take away life and leave only death, final and eternal. That is what temptation is about. That is why temptation can never be considered minor, only a nuisance, or something into which we can safely fall since we’ll always be able to undo the temptation later. No, temptation is a great evil for us.
We may think of temptation as a reconnaissance mission by Satan. He wants to find out information about how strong you are, where you defend yourself the best, and where you are the weakest. You may discover within yourself some areas of temptation that Satan never uses on you even though those temptations work well on others. But even if and when we are strong in one area, there are always other areas that Satan will find as he probes and explores our spiritual condition. Remember, he always wants to bring you away from God, away from trusting God’s promises, away from forgiveness, away from Jesus.
The temptations which Satan brings to Jesus are designed with the same goal. Satan wants Jesus to be separated from the Father. Satan wants the Triune God to war against Himself, to pit one Person of the Trinity against the other. He wants the Son to tempt or distrust the Father. He wants the Second Adam to follow the path to destruction that the First Adam had taken so many years earlier in the Garden of Eden.
In the lesson from Genesis 3 today we heard of that terrible day when Satan tempted Adam and Eve, and they capitulated. Satan’s basic technique was to let Adam and Eve think they could be like God. It was the temptation to deny their status as created beings, and seek to be creators in their own right. Such an appeal worked there in the Garden. Now Satan tries to do the same with Jesus.
With daily bread, with divine protection, and with worldly wealth Satan brings his weapons to bear against Jesus. Satan wants Jesus Christ to doubt, to question, to take matters into His own hands instead of relying on His Father. Satan hopes Jesus will take the easy way to power. Satan knows that the easy way for Jesus means that Jesus will lose. There are no short cuts for Jesus. He must and He will follow the path of salvation all the way to the cross. But the devil tries to deflect Jesus from that path.
To each temptation Jesus responds with Holy Scripture. The Word made flesh uses the written Word to push away the lying words of the devil. Not even the devil’s own ability to quote the Bible works against Jesus. He defeats each and every trick of Satan. Jesus is the stronger, and He will not allow the devil to win.
But the devil, defeated as he is by Jesus, still tries to come after the sons and daughters of God hee among us. Martin Luther in the Large Catechism explanation of “lead us not into temptation,” points out what the devils uses to accomplish his purpose of pushing us away from God.
Temptation…is of three kinds: of the flesh, the world, and the devil. We live in the flesh and we have the old Adam hanging around our necks; he goes to work and lures us daily into unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, greed and deceit, into acts of fraud and deception against our neighbor — in short, into all kinds of evil lusts which by nature cling to us and to which we are incited by the association and example of other people and by things we hear and see. All this often wounds and inflames even an innocent heart.
Next comes the world, which assails us by word and deed and drives us to anger and impatience. In short, there is in it nothing but hatred and envy, enmity, violence and injustice, perfidy, vengeance, cursing, reviling, slander, arrogance, and pride, along with fondness for luxury, honor, fame, and power. No one is willing to be the least, but everyone wants to sit in the chief seat and be seen by all.
Then comes the devil, who baits and badgers us on all sides, but especially exerts himself where the conscience and spiritual matters are at stake. His purpose is to make us scorn and despise both the Word and the works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, to draw us into unbelief, false security, and stubbornness, or, on the contrary, to drive us into despair, atheism, blasphemy, and countless other abominable sins. These are snares and nets; indeed, they are the real “flaming darts” which are venomously shot into our hearts, not by flesh and blood but by the devil.
With the devil making such attacks against us, constantly seeking our areas of weakness, what defense do we have?
First, we have Holy Baptism. Baptism puts us into the life of repentance, the life of sorrow over sin and trust in the promises of God. Baptism put God’s name on us, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Even though the devil will fight against us, still he fears that holy name of God, and knows that he cannot defeat God except by getting us to believe his lies. But our strength is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. So we learn to call upon God in temptation, to pray, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer: lead us not into temptation. That is no weak work, but the very asking, seeking, and knocking that Jesus says we are to do. And when He says for us to do it it is because He is there to answer, to be found, to open the door and help us in all troubles.
Besides Holy Baptism, we have the Word of God. None of us, even if we have the Bible from Genesis to Revelation memorized, can ever know God’s word like Jesus. But that should not stop us from learning it more and more, and using it as the sword God says it is to fight against the attacks of Satan. Satan will try to twist and turn God’s Word to his own advantage, but finally it is not comfortable for him to fight on that ground. God’s Word, in truth and purity, will show his lies and perversions as the wickedness they are; they will reveal Satan to be the one who, despite his sweet words, is nothing more than the stench of decay and death. As we grow in learning, hearing, meditating on and trusting God’s Word, Satan is pushed away, not by us, but by the power of God’s Word, the Gospel of God’s mercy and free forgiveness which Satan hates.
Relying on Baptism and relying on God’s Word against the temptations of Satan is trusting Jesus, relying on His power and not our own, believing that Jesus has defeated Satan, and has given us the victory. Jesus’ words, “away with you, Satan,” are the very words which still send Satan running: “he can harm us none, he’s judged, the deed is done, one little word can fell him.” Trust in that word of Jesus, it is your strength and security, now and forever. Amen.