in Sermons

17. February 2013
Invocavit
Matthew 4:1-11

Remember that Jesus compelled John to baptize Him with the statement: “thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Dripping wet from the Jordan waters, the words of the heavenly Father ringing in His ears, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The Holy Trinity is all about doing what is necessary for His bride. Jesus took our sin upon Him as those sin-drenched waters poured upon Him. Immediately He goes into the wilderness to be tempted and defeat the devil by the truth. We should take notice of the devil’s tactics with Jesus.

First, The devil tries to break Jesus’ Lenten fast (forty days!). And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Why did the tempter fail? Not because Jesus has some kind of super human tolerance for hunger. Matthew clearly says, he was hungry. To follow the tempter’s suggestion would not just fill His empty belly. It would deny His relationship to the Father. It would be unfaithful. For the Father said, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus confesses that His life is in His Father’s hand. Bread will be given as needed but the true bread is the Word.

Satan will tempt you to be unfaithful. To wring your hands when the paycheck does pay the bills. To worry when He has promised to take care of you. To love your life more than His Word. You are hungry. But you will never be satisfied by earthly bread, whether made of grain or greenbacks. Hungry of the stomach and greed of the heart can lead a man to desperate things. Look at the birds, right? They neither sow nor reap, yet your Father feeds them. Jesus trusts this Word. His stomach will be taken care of. No worries. In his parlay of the tempt, Jesus reminds us to be hungry. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Hunger for His Word and He will satisfy you. Unlike the bread that only satisfies until the morning, His Word will always fill your hungry soul richly. This bread from heaven will nourish you and will give you eternal life.

Second, the devil tempts Jesus to ask of the Father something He has not promised. The tempter says, “It is written, He will command his angels concerning you.” True statement. And “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against the stone.” Also, true. But these statements aren’t given to test God but rather to have strength to be steadfast in the midst of trial and temptation. Will the Father preserve His Son Jesus? Absolutely. Does this give Him license to be reckless with His body? To throw Himself off the Temple Mount would be to deny the promise. He would seize and use His Father’s promise for His own aims rather than receive it as the Father wishes to give it.

God the Father has promised to protect and guard you. We pray in the morning or evening to “have His holy angel watch over us that evil foe may have no power over us.” The prayer rightly instructs us to the purpose of the angels’ command and the promise of protection. God the Father promises to guard us from all evil—from the world, from the devil, and even from ourselves. He gives us His Word that no manner of evil that we experience will destroy our faith. Even when we fall and even if we die, His angels will carry us to safety in heaven. Faith does not use the promise as an excuse for sin and but receives it for hope. “You shall not put The Lord your God to the test.” Rather, you shall hope in the Lord’s promises during trial and temptation.

Third, the devil tempts Jesus to take for himself glory rather than receive glory in the Father’s will. The tempter took Jesus up a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of this world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” There are two problems with Satan’s word. Jesus cannot worship the devil. God cannot worship a creature. So Satan is tempting Jesus’s humanity, his created nature, to take the place of the creator. The same sin was committed by Adam and Eve. They ignored God’s Word and listen to the word of the tempter. They put their desire for glory ahead of how God wished to glory in them. They worshiped their desires over the true worship and desire for God.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. His glory is not our glory. Christ was incarnate and born of Mary not to make God like us but that would be like God in Him. The kingdoms of this world are governed with selfishness, hedonism, and falsehood. As Jesus looked from that high mountain He saw kingdoms ruled of tyranny, murder, and death. Their glory is Babel restarted. All pomp and majesty directed towards themselves. Glorious towering structures, sprawling infrastructure, spectacles, and triumphant. But in the eyes of God, no glory at all. Therefore, the eyes of Jesus are not swayed by Satan’s temptation.

God’s glory is revealed not in strength but in weakness. A kingdom ruled by a despot is powerful. Medically induced sexual license empowers pleasure and freedom from children. Economies built on destroying your neighbor’s source of income or exacting penalties upon the wealth are wise in our eyes.

But our ways are not God’s ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. God’s kingdom is not ruled by a tyrant but by a merciful and kind king. His Word does not give license but rather frees us from sin to live in freedom in Christ. His economy is not barter or exchange. Rather than demand our works, He gives us His work. Rather than demand our love, He loves us first and fills us with it. Rather than enslave us as captives, He makes us His children.

Our king is weak in our eyes. This weakness is revealed most in Jesus’ suffering and death. The cross shows us how God provides for our needs of body and soul, wins for Himself a kingdom, and keeps His promises. His Holy Scriptures have promised bread for the eater and bread for the soul. The Holy Spirit by the Word calls, gathers, and enlightens His kingdom and keeps it with Jesus. God has promised to forgive His people and this forgiveness is in the blood of Jesus. Just as Jesus was tempted to forsake His relationship to the Father, to be unfaithful, so also we are tempted to reject the work of God in us and be unfaithful.

It’s hard to be faithful. Our earthly relationships are full of temptations to unfaithfulness. In marriage, we say those who commit adultery are unfaithful to their spouse. The faith of matrimony is that you will take no one as your husband or wife other than the one whom you are vowed. To be faithful is to stick with the other in thick and thin, richer and poorer, life and even in death. You love them to a fault, despite their faults. Matrimony is built upon trust that believes the other belongs only to you. As God describes His institution, the man separates from his parents and is joined to his wife and they are one flesh. Faithful is keep the flesh whole and undefiled. It’s hard work and suffering.

This faithfulness is similar to our union to Christ. We are joined to Him in Holy Baptism, one flesh and one blood. To be faithful is to remain with Jesus. No other gods will do. The Scriptures describe those idols we like to bring into the church home as foreigners and even whores. They pollute the one-flesh union of Christian to Christ. There can be no one else to whom you vow true faithfulness. Not country. Not lodge. Not club. Not even friends. There is only one faith, one Lord, one Baptism. Thus, there is only one church, one body of Christ.

St. Paul warns us. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14). Like any marriage, our relationship to Christ requires holding faith. It requires constant reminder that faith can be shipwrecked, unbelief is a constant evil, sin is perennially lying to you. Only in Jesus is faithfulness be sustained.

To be faithful to Christ is to listen to Him, to hear His Word. Your marriage with Christ is created, fed, and preserved by this Word. It is sharper than any two-edged sword.. and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Like the true intimacy in marriage Jesus is brutally honest. He lays our whole relationship out on the table. Every time we gather He reminds us how we have departed from Him, with lustful eyes, greedy hearts, and murderous thoughts. Like the confessions of husband and wife, we hate to say it. We mumble through those words and refuse to look upon the cross.

Despite our continual walking away from Jesus, He is faithful. He does not lie about or ignore our sin. But His overwhelming Word is not accusing or condemning. He is a loving husband. He forgives. He is faithful to His bride, even when she is battered and bruised. He welcomes her back even when she has shared her bed with idols. He suffers our sin and redeems us by His perfection.

We have a bridegroom who knows suffering, knows pain, knows evil, and knows unfaithfulness. He is flesh and blood. True man. He knows it and overcomes it for us. He is tempted as we are but without sin he suffers our sin, dies our death, and rises to give us new life in Him. Thanks be to God He heals our union, suffers our weakness, and forgives without end.  “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana

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