In the name of Jesus. (Amen)
During Lent, it is popular for people to fast. Cut out M&M's from your diet. Ok, but God did not command you. Give up beer and chips. Ok, but God did not command you to do it. My point is that there is no command for you to fast and even Jesus did not choose to fast but rather was led by the Holy Spirit into a forty day fast.
This morning I want to focus on the temptations Christ bore. A broadcaster from South Dakota liked to sign off from his radio show saying, “And remember, keep it between the ditches!” Well, I will treat the first and second temptations as the ditches but address the third temptation as curvy road in a bad rainstorm. And point you to a safe, narrow road.
The first temptation of three comes from MISFORTUNE. It is written: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry.3 And the tempter came and said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
This is the first ditch to avoid. If you have a full bank account and a full belly, you are not very conscious of this temptation. But to be led into the wilderness and left without the basic stuff to live and supportive people around to help you, then you are in the real school of hard knocks to learn how weak your faith is. The temptation is that in misfortune, God has forsaken you. But not true. You have been attacked with the daily cares about food; and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all that you have. In your misfortune you are attacked by Satan so that you anger, impatience, and unbelief.
But Jesus answered the attack saying, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
Jesus is quoting Moses from Deuteronomy 8 which fits into the larger context of how God nourished the Israelites in the wilderness wanderings for forty years and their clothes did not wear out and they were fed with manna. In other words, Jesus means that since God has permitted you to hunger and you still continue to live, you should realize that God nourishes you without bread through His Word. Think of it this way, if you should live and feed yourself with bread alone, you must be continually full of bread. But God's Word promises us and makes known to us that He is our God and desires to be our God.
So, whoever has God's Word and believes in Jesus has both blessings. First, he has the promises. “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He is taking care of you” (1Peter 5:7); and “God richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17); and “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:33-34). Second, he has bread. He is still alive. And the food he does have tastes even better than usual. The Danes have a saying, “The best sauce to any meal, is a splash of hunger.”
The second temptation of three comes from PROSPERITY. 5 Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city and 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 will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
This is the second ditch to avoid. Brought out of MISFORTUNE, then having your needs met, and then having your wants met, what happens? You get tired of what God has given you. You desire something new, something different. You are driven to lust, joy, honor, and prestige.
The devil is teaching you to tempt the Lord your God. It's appropriate this falls on the heels of the first temptation. For when Satan sees that your heart trusts God in your MISFORTUNE, he turns the tables on you. The temptation of PROSPERITY is specifically found among Christians. You believe and you think your faith is so strong and you are so spiritual you refuse to use what God has given you. You refuse to go to HyVee but expect that if God fed the Israelites with manna in the desert, He can feed you with manna in Muscatine.
It is like the old joke where a man is trapped in his house during a flood. Rescue workers boat over to him but the man refuses to get in because God will save him. The water gets deeper so he climbs onto the roof. A helicopter arrives and throws down a rope, but the man says no thank you because God will save him. Well the man drowns and appears before God. The man asks, “Lord, why didn't you save me from the flood?” And God answers, “Well, I sent a boat and a helicopter, what were you expecting.”
The devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Jerusalem temple.
Notice, not inside the temple. Many people know the Scriptures but don't enter the Christian faith. And notice that Jesus could also take the stairs instead of throwing himself off the pinnacle.
But, to you who know Holy Scripture in your PROSPERITY, Satan misquotes Holy Scripture. “Throw yourself down and angles will bear you up.” But the full quote from Psalm 91:11-12 is this, “...the Lord gives angels to protect the children of God-----in all their ways.” So, the Lord does not give angels to protect all people. The Lord gives angels to protect the children of God who walk in the ways God has commanded. You wonder outside your way, and outside the protection of the angels, when you revel in lust, joy, honor, power and prestige.
In your PROSPERITY, children listen to your parents and do what they ask. Parents love your children and teach them the faith but don't worship your children or crush their spirits. Husband love your wife and wife respect your husband and both of you in mutual subordination to the Lord. This is the way the Lord commands, even in the midst of your PROSPERITY even in the boredom of your great wealth.
Why? For Jesus said to the devil, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
The third of the three temptations is the most dangerous. It is not an outward temptation such as MISFORTUNE or PROPERITY, but rather it takes place in the heart. It is the temptation to believe what God has not commanded. It is the temptation to believe ERROR. The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Jesus, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Avoiding the first ditch, MISFORTUNE, and the second ditch, PROSPERITY, you tempted to drive the curvy road in a downpour.
God never commanded anyone to worship the devil. The temptation is to believe what God has not commanded. The temptation is to believe ERROR.
The devil uses tricks to lead you to reason away from faith.
A powerful and clear example is that God has commanded that SOME men be ordered (ordained) to preach. SOME men.
What is not commanded? It is not commanded that MANY men or ANY women be commanded, ordered, ordained to preach. So the devil uses the temptation to ERROR in order to love what God has not commanded.
NOT all of our sons and NONE of our daughters should be commanded to preach. If so, we are in ERROR and in unbelief. AND we place our sons and daughters outside the protection of the angels and of protection of the the Lord. Even the congregations they pastor. Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”
What is else is not commanded? Fasting. There are uses for it. But remember it is not commanded.
So now we know the temptations of Christ. In His MISFORTUNE, Jesus assumed human flesh and trusted His Father to take care of Him. In His PROSPERITY, Jesus, the Son of God, humbled Himself unto death even to death on a cross. And in both MISFORTUNE and PROSPERITY, Jesus did not ERR but did all things well even to resurrection from the dead and ascension to the right hand of His Father in all glory. Jesus avoided the ditches and stayed on the curvy road.
You are tempted in MISFORTUNE, in PROSPERITY, and toward ERROR. But Jesus now offers to place you on the straight and narrow road that has no ditches. Jesus offers to exchange His faith for your unbelief. The offer is in Holy Baptism. The offer is in Absolution, the forgiveness of all your unbelief. The offer is in His Supper. The offer is in the written Word of God which even Jesus used as a mighty shield and weapon against all enemies. Against Satan.
This Gospel lesson of Christ's temptations is written for your comfort. You are attacked by one devil, but remaining on the straight and narrow path, you are also ministered too by many angels. The angel's ministered to Jesus in all His weakness during His temptation. The angel's will also certainly minister to Christ's brothers and sister; to all the Father's baptized and believing ones, who are His children, too. Even to you.
His faith for your unbelief, offered to you right now.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, guard and protect you in body and soul through Jesus, our Savior. Amen.