The Temptation of Our Lord

Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent based on Luke 4:1-13

            Dear people who are tempted: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

After air and water, food is the next greatest need for man to live on this earth. After forty days of fasting Jesus was hungry, so the devil tempted Him with food.

The devil had also tempted Eve with food in the Garden of Eden. The devil tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve fell into temptation even though she was sinless and perfect and she had a garden full of fruit to eat and was by no means hungry. Adam, who was with Eve, also fell into sin and ate the forbidden fruit.

Jesus, hungry though He was from forty days of fasting, did not fall into temptation. The devil tempted Him by saying, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Well, why not? God provides food for people all around the world. God miraculously provided bread in the wilderness to the sons of Israel, why not now to His only begotten Son? Why should Jesus not prove to the devil that He really is the Son of God and turn the stone into bread? Why would it be a sin to turn the stone into bread for Himself if He is the Son of God?

Surely it could have been rationalized this way. But the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to fast, so He was to fast. He was to wait for His Father to provide for Him, not take for Himself what He could. Jesus responds with Scripture and says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

The devil’s next temptation was to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment in time, and said to Him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

This really was a temptation for Jesus to skip over suffering and dying, and jump immediately into glory. Why go through suffering and death for the people of these kingdoms of the world, why not just take the kingdoms now? Skip the anguish of the soul to the point of death. Skip the beads of sweat dropping to the ground like drops of blood. Skip the torture, mockery, and death. Just take the kingdom now.

Once again, Jesus responds with Scripture, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” Jesus was obedient to the will of the Father. He was obedient to the point of death. Jesus didn’t come to take on our flesh for His own sake, but for our sake. He came to save us by dying for us. He would not yield to the devil and skip our salvation.

The third temptation was the devil setting Jesus on the pinnacle of the Temple and saying, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

This time Satan even quotes Scripture. Prove that you trust God and believe His Word. He’s promised angels to serve God’s children and intervene for you. Why not show it if you believe it? Prove that the Word of God is true.

Once again, Jesus responds with Scripture, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

We see throughout the temptation of Jesus that He doesn’t really look like the Son of God. The devil was permitted power to take Him around and tempt Him. The devil takes Jesus and shows Him the kingdoms of the world. The devil takes Jesus and sets Him on the pinnacle of the Temple. Jesus doesn’t face the temptations of the devil as God, but as a man. Thus He doesn’t look like the Son of God and He is tempted to prove that He is the Son of God.

But Jesus doesn’t use miracles or divine power to conquer temptation. He simply uses the Word of God. Jesus fought the devil with nothing more than what we have when the devil tempts us, but Jesus never fell into temptation.

And Jesus’ temptations were real temptations. Hebrews 4(:15) tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Jesus remained wholly faithful to the Father and obeyed Him in thought, word, and deed even through the fiercest temptation.

So is Jesus an example for us then, in how to face temptation? In a sense, yes. Whenever we are tempted by sin we should go to Scripture, to what God says. Whenever we are tempted by sin we should go to Scripture, our source of strength. And in a sense, no. When we are tempted, we are unable to avoid sin. Temptation itself arouses in us desires for those things that God has not given to us. We sin, just being tempted, before we’ve said or done anything. Desires are kindled within us to eat, to drink, to take, to say, and to do those things that God has not given us.

That’s the real temptation overriding all temptation. The devil wants us to place ourselves into the role of judge. I will judge for myself what is right and wrong. I will judge for myself how much I should have and take for myself whatever I want so I have that amount. I will judge for myself what gives me pleasure and I will do that. I will judge for myself what is most important for me and I will pursue that no matter what.

The answer to all these temptations is God’s Word. God tells us in His Word what is right and wrong. It doesn’t matter what we feel or what we want. It doesn’t matter what other people do or don’t do. Scripture is our answer to temptation.

But even with Scripture, we still can’t face temptation following Jesus’ example. We still fall into sin when tempted because the very desires of our flesh are sinful.

We can only be saved by Jesus. His temptation was for us. He fulfilled what we cannot fulfil. He never even for a second desired anything against the will of God the Father. He was obedient through all temptation; obedient even to the point of death on the cross. He never desired anything that was not according to God the Father’s will. He didn’t desire to eat even when starving because it was not the Father’s will. He didn’t desire to skip suffering and death because it was the Father’s will to save us. He didn’t desire to test God because He fully trusted in Him without testing Him.

We cannot conquer the temptations of the devil as Jesus conquered them. We can only conquer temptation in Jesus. Jesus has conquered temptation for us. If we could conquer temptation, we would not need a Saviour. Then we wouldn’t need someone to fulfil the Law in our place. We wouldn’t need someone to die for every time we have fallen into temptation.

Jesus did what we are unable to do. Jesus fulfilled everything demanded of us and died in our place, taking the punishment of all our falls into temptation. Now we have Jesus to set over against the devil. When temptation comes, which it will, it is already conquered by Jesus. We don’t have to overcome the devil – Jesus has already done that. We don’t have to suffer for our sins – Jesus has already done that. We don’t have to die for our sins – Jesus has already done that.

Adam and Eve fell into sin by eating what was forbidden. Jesus did not fall into sin when tempted to eat what was not given Him to eat by the Father. Now Jesus gives us His perfect, sinless body and blood to eat and drink to forgive us our sins of doing what has been forbidden. He gives us His body and blood to strengthen us in temptation. He gives us His body and blood to bring us to eternal life where there is no more temptation. He gives us food which we need more than air and water. This holy food meets our greatest need. It gives us the forgiveness of sins and gives us eternal life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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