First Sunday in Lent
Human Nature of Christ - And Faith
KJV Matthew 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Lent begins with the temptation of Christ, which by itself should remind us of the human nature of Jesus. The Incarnation is the greatest miracle of all, and one which I think surpasses the Creation of the universe in six 24-hour days. The reason? Mankind has imagined all kinds of Creations, many of them absurd - like the ultra-slow evolution kind. But no one could possibly conjure up anything as wonderful as God becoming man, born of the Virgin, growing up and taking on a public ministry.
Every action and Word of Jesus is God speaking through the Son. As Luther wrote, we should always thank God the Father for showing us His graciousness in His Son. That itself shows the gracious, loving, forgiving nature of God the Father. Besides, it reminds us of the unified voice of the Father and Son, witnessed by the Holy Spirit.
Luther described two kinds of temptations. One is when we test ourselves to subject ourselves to God's Word. the other is that which God allows to fall upon us, testing our faith.
The first is often mocked because people turn self-denial into a good work to please God and to impress others. That is addressed in the text for Ash Wednesday. My earliest memory of Lent is hearing people say, "I am giving up desserts for Lent." And others would chime in with the mini-trials of the same type.
Parents subordinate themselves to their children when they lovingly take care of a sick or weak child, or when they show great patience in the trials of youth, which are many and varied.
God places trials, afflictions, and temptations in our way to test our faith. This faith in Christ is something which God creates through the Gospel, so we are new creations (creatures) in Him. That which He fashions he also makes stronger.
An athlete will go to the gym to see if a new exercise makes a set of muscles ache with pain the next few days. Why do that? Athletes know that the exercise tears down muscle fiber which is that much stronger afterwards.
People take that for granted when they see someone struggling with weights, hanging from pull-up bars, or stretching. If we understand that so well, then the same experience from God should help us see how we are strengthened.
In this sermon Luther calls us larvae and mummers. Larva become what they must, completely transformed by what is placed there in that tiny egg. Mummers are costumed players on a stage. Whatever they do is written in the script.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
When we are surrounded by plenty, it does not demand that we exercise this faith God has given us. The danger is always that we take God's bounty for granted. But when we are surrounded by desert stones instead of prosperity, then faith is definitely put on trial.
Jesus did not say, "I will prove a point and go into the desert." Instead the Spirit led Him there. It was God's will that He live there and be tempted by Satan with all that was lacking. So Jesus is both Teacher and Example.
How it is that the Savior understands our experiences of being abandoned, hated, ignored, shunned? He faced them too, though He did nothing deserving such treatment.
Greed is the enemy of faith. Thankfulness can be overflowing for ordinary blessings, but greed is never satisfied. Greed only fuels the need for more money, more power, more honors.
That does not mean that people experiencing want are greedy. That is a test of faith, to say, "I trust God will provide." And the experience of want make us more thankful.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Faith means the very nature of the lack is understood as God's will and will bring a blessing in time. Two actions help. One is to find answers in the Scriptures. The other is to pray for help in time of need and trust in the answer. "Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you."
Long-term experience shows that peace and happiness do not come from material blessings and the honors bestowed by man, but from believing and thankful hearts.
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
This is the most common temptation expressed today. And many do not fall into it - they jump into it. They demand that God prove who He is by giving them exactly what they demand. In fact, there is a teaching floating around that - God cannot give until He knows exactly what we need. And the - Name it and Claim it teaching, too,
So we hear, "I prayed for my disability to go away, but it did not. So where is God?" Paul addressed this, and Jesus experienced it.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
God does not worry about losing a believer because He is God. But this gets transformed into congregational and pastoral action, where certain people cannot be offended.From time to time are visiting. The scolders miss the opportunity to tell the complainers about the Word of God. But Jesus says: "You must believe as children." and "Let the children come to Me. Do not forbid them." And instead the scolders increasingly harden their own hearts and blind themselves spiritually.
So one moves from indifference and blending in then into outright hostility toward the clear teaching of the Word.
How is this a temptation? There are no magic tricks involved. The temptation is to please everyone by blunting the Word and making sure no one even knows about the painful nature of bearing the cross, suffering because of the Word.
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
All spiritual falsehood comes from Satan, in fact all lies - and murder as well. The process in manufacturing or following falsehood is simple - separate the Spirit from the Word.
"I feel this is true."
"God told me in a dream last night..."
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
One is sorely tempted to say, "If someone teaches the Words of Christ, everyone will be grateful and multitudes will sign up." That temptation has ruined what was left of Protestantism.
Multitudes followed Jesus while everything looked good. Multitudes deserted Jesus during the Passion. Jesus said, "Serve only God," and “the increase belongs to God.”