First Sunday in Lent (2020)

It is quite fitting today that we celebrate the baptism of Sawyer Ann. Baptism is when Christ puts his name on us and tells us, “You have been buried with me and raised to new life with me.” It is great to have a baptism on this day we hear of Jesus’ temptation because this is what happens to Jesus right before our reading today. Jesus is baptized in Matthew chapter 3 and the father says, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

After you win at a game or some athletic competition your confidence is often very high and nothing can stop you. In war, soldiers who have won and gone through a battle to arrive at victory, it is they who are often motivated to fight harder. Losing does the opposite, it has a demoralizing effect on us. It makes you want to give up. What about when the game is rigged? Or what about when a team wins but someone comes and says, “You won but it was only because the referee was betting on you to win.” You thought you were successful but in reality it was a mirage, a fake. The Houston Astros have been dealing with this idea. They had won the World Series, many playoff games but now it comes out that they were cheating. Public relations nightmare. Everyone now wonders, were they really the champions? Many players came forward, some ran and hid.

The devil does this to Adam and Eve. They have everything. God had promised them their lives were not just good, but very good. What does the devil do, “Hey things aren’t so great. God cheated you! You can’t trust what God said to you.” They wondered, “Did God cheat us?” Thinking God was not trustworthy Adam and Eve now questioned God’s promise to them and they fell for the temtation. The human race is now plunged into defeat. Adam and Eve ran and hid.

Elijah after he had defeated the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel was victorious. God had sent fire from heaven to burn up the offering even burn up water. The prophets of Baal were slaughtered. Jezebel said, “Let this be done to you Elijah by me.” Elijah ran and hid.

Moses witnesses the crossing of the Red Sea and he doesn’t trust God’s word and strikes the rock instead of following God’s word to speak to the rock.

How about you? Would you run and hide from God after he has given you so much?

Or maybe you don’t have reason to run and hide from God. That’s a common problem in our society now. There is no shame over sin. Adam and Eve had the decency to try and cover their sin our world today so often is proud of their sins. Pride parades they’re called and those who cheer them on are no better. Consider the people who sought Jesus out. They knew shame. The knew they didn’t deserve Jesus. The woman of the flow of blood who would try to sneak just to touch Jesus. The woman at the well only came out at noon when no one would be at the well. The quarantined leper bowed down to Jesus’ feet. Faith sees sin for what it is wicked. This is repentance. Knowing that we deserve the discipline God sends.

Christ now in Matthew 4 has no sin no reason to be ashamed. No reason that his heavenly father would keep anything from him, unlike you he’s done nothing wrong.

Well the devil comes to Jesus after he is baptized, after the Father promises Jesus, “You are my son” what does the devil do? The devil says, “If you are the son of God turn these stones into bread.”

Immediately after Jesus has been told, “You are my beloved son” the comes and says, “Oh yes the father said that but you can’t trust his word. If you really are the son then make bread for yourself.” As soon as Jesus has his victory a the Jordan river the devil tries to take it away. If you really are the son of God you shouldn’t be suffering this way. The devil like an enemy of God comes and tries to steal away the certainty of God’s word.

Jesus was hungry. The devil wanted Jesus to listen to his stomach more than God. But Jesus refuses. Jesus refuses to use his power as true God for his own benefit.

Meaning, Jesus will not make his own bread, he will trust God to give to him when the father sees fit to end Jesus’ fast. This always makes me think about that supposed dilemma when someone says, “If you are starving is it ok to steal food?” Here Jesus teaches us no. You see the world is just like the devil. Most people say, “Yes it’s ok for you to steal bread if you’re hungry because sinning is not as bad as dying of starvation.” The devil tells Jesus, “You can use your power for yourself, don’t trust God.” Jesus though here world rather starve than sin! Jesus sees sin for what it truly is, the wages of sin is death. So would you rather have a full belly and enter hell or an empty belly and go to heaven?

This is the temptation of the devil to Jesus, don’t trust God. That’s his temptation to you as well. Explain away your sins, “I was hungry.” I didn’t know. I was tricked. It was the woman, it was the serpent. All the ways you try to excuse your sins. Have you lost your patience and blamed someone else? Have you cursed and figured they deserved it? Have you been lazy and said, “I’ve worked hard all day, I deserve a break.” Have you excused your sin instead of confessing?

When you blame others or make excuses for your sins of thoughts, words or deeds, you are blaming God. This is why Jesus’ temptation is so wonderful. Jesus doesn’t deserve to be led out to the wilderness and to be deprived of food but he does it anyway because the Holy Spirit led him out there to succeed where we have failed.

Jesus goes out to be tempted so that he may succeed where we have sinned. Where Adam and Eve, Elijah, Moses, you and I have sinned, Jesus doesn’t. as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for fall men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Where we buckle and fold just because we experience a little uncomfortableness Jesus endures. This is what is so important for us to understand about the temptation of Jesus, he endured as our substitute. In a sports game when one team member gets injured another substitute comes in. When that team wins even the player who was injured gets credit for the teams win even if he didn’t even participate in the game. Jesus is our substitute. Everything he did he did for us. Even facing down the devil’s temptations so that we would not be held accountable for our falling for temptations.

Jesus was crucified and died but was raised. This one act is the defining victory for us. He gives that victory to you over and over again. Greater than any team victory greater than any military conquest. Greater than staring down Pharoah and seeing the Red Sea part. Greater than slaying hundreds of prophets of Baal and seeing fire fall from the sky. Greater than seeing the Garden of Eden, your Savior places his body and blood on your lips for the forgiveness of your sins. This fruit reverses the curse of your sin. Where Satan cause the fall with food so now by a new food Christ reverses our death and feeds us life. His baptism is your baptism, God is well pleased with you.

Jesus undergoes his own 40days of Lent to bring you into an eternal Easter. So also we should walk with him through this wilderness disciplining our bodies for the benefit of our neighbor. So that we would change from blaming our neighbor for our sin to helping our neighbor avoid sin. That is in the end what Jesus has done, by his suffering temptation shows us how to escape temptation, knowing and trusting the promises of God.

We have the victory of Jesus and Jesus shows us what to do when the devil tempts us to think we have to give into temptation. The scriptures say, “When you are tempted God will always give you a way out.” Jesus teaches us what the way out is. It is the word of God. Jesus could’ve just used one word to make the devil explode into a million little pieces. If you remember in the gospel when the soldiers come to arrest Jesus, Jesus just says “I am he.” And they are all knocked down to the ground. Jesus doesn’t do that with the devil. What does Jesus do? He says, “It is written…”. Jesus uses what we have. Jesus doesn’t use his power and authority to his advantage even against the devil. This teaches us what a great and powerful thing the word of God is for us. When you are tempted, seek the word of God. Amen