25 February 2007†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††† St. Athanasius Lutheran Church
Lent 1††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Vienna, VA
ďA Mighty FortressĒ
Text:† Luke 4:1-13 (Romans 10:8b-13)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.† Amen.
The First Sunday in Lent is traditionally set aside to remember the temptation of Jesus.† When fresh off His baptism in the Jordan River, and the voice from Heaven that said, ďYou are my beloved Son,Ē (Lk 3:22) the Spirit leads Jesus out into the wilderness to fast and pray for forty days and forty nights.† Not as punishment, but as a time of preparation for his public ministry; for the work He was about to begin. And while Jesus is out there, alone and hungry, Satan decides to take advantage of this opportunity.† And so comes to Jesus and tempts Him to sin.
Now, whenever Iíve read this story (and maybe youíre like me) Ė Iíve always pictured the devil coming to Jesus in a very confrontational way.† If . . . you are the Son of God, Satan says.† Challenging the assertion.† Trying to get Jesus to prove it.† Trying to get Jesus to doubt it.† If you are the Son of God, your Father wouldnít be treating you this way.† It canít possibly be true.
And I guess Iíve always thought of it that way for Satan confronts us that way too, doesnít he?† Especially when difficulties come.† When struggles and suffering come.† When trial and uncertainty and darkness is all that seems ahead for us.† Sometimes we get that little, nagging, doubting voice in our heads, donít we?† You think youíre a child of God? †Really!† Would a heavenly Father treat His child this way?† Wouldnít He make sure this stuff doesnít happen to you?† Really, isnít this proof that youíre not who you think you are?† Donít believe it!† Youíve been duped.
So I think thatís part of it.† And I think those thoughts have caused a lot of people to doubt and fall away.† But I also think thereís more to it than that.† For Jesus in this story, and for us.† For I donít think Satan puts all his eggs in one basket.† And thereís another way he comes to us and tempts us.† Another way he gets under our skin and into our minds.† Another way he gets us to listen and lead us astray.† And if he does it to us, then he also did it to Jesus, who (we are told) was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)† And that other way is not by coming to us and confronting us, by coming to us and looking like our best friend.
And so imagine it like that, that day in the wilderness.† . . .† Jesus, listen Ė Iím not the enemy at all!† Iím your friend.† And (as it looks now) your only friend!† Iím here to help. To make thing easier. For youíre the Son of God, right?† And if youíre the Son of God, why are you hungry?† Just make some food for yourself.† Thatís not hard for you!† Whatís the harm in that?† Youíre Father would understand.† . . .†
And if youíve come for the kingdoms of the world Ė look, letís stop this!† Iíll just give Ďem to you.† If you just acknowledge that theyíre mine, Iíll let you have Ďem!† We donít have to be on opposite sides, you know.† Why canít we just get along?† . . .††
And speaking of that, why are you out here all by yourself?† This is no place and no way to get people to follow you!† Look, I know these people.† Let me help you out.† Iíve got a plan!† Show the people who you are Ė you know, your power and glory!† Throw yourself off the Temple.† You wonít get hurt.† For youíre the Son of God, right?† And if youíre the Son of God, then you got angels all around to help you.† Hey, theyíll add to the show!† . . .† Wonít that be better than this?
A better way than Godís way.† Isnít that how Satan convinced Adam and Eve?† Isnít that how he got to the children of Israel?† And isnít that how he gets us too?† . . .† Look, Iím here to help!† Really!† Thereís more than one wisdom.† Thereís more than one truth.† Thereís more than one way.† Your Father will understand.† Itís not that bad.† If it feels good it canít be wrong.† Canít we just get along?† Just do what comes naturally.† Everyoneís doing it.† Times have changed.† . . .†
And we fall for it, donít we?† I know I do!† I wish I could say I was like Jesus.† Who resisted the confrontation.† Who resisted the ďbest friendĒ act.† Who put down the lies and false promises of Satan with the Word of God.† Seeing through his tricks and sending him packing.† And trusting His Father.† No matter what.† Even when it didnít look good.† Even in the wilderness.† Even on the cross!†
Sometimes I do that.† Mostly I donít.† I know I should, but I find that I canít. (Rom 7) I am too weak.† I am too sinful.† I want to be like Jesus.† I do!† You too, I know.† Fresh off our baptisms, fresh out of Church and absolution . . .† But we are not.
And so itís important today to see Jesus here not as our example Ė in how to do battle against the devil and win!† To buck us up and get us to try harder next time.† No!† But to see Him here as our Saviour Ė the One who did do battle against the devil, for us who are weak and sinful; for us in our place Ė and won! †Jesus is not showing us how to fight, but fighting for us!† One on one.† A new Adam, against the same old enemy.† Or as Luther wrote, and as we just sang: ďBut for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.Ē (LSB #656 v 2)†
And He took it all.† Luke slipped that in there at the end: When the devil had ended every temptation.† Not just these three, but every temptation.† A much greater weight than we will ever feel!† For we usually cave long before we feel even half the devilís force and weight of craft and temptation.† But Jesus felt it all Ė its full and cumulative weight pressing down hard.† Here in the wilderness, and on the cross Ė when ďthe opportune timeĒ came for Satan again.† When on the cross not just one sin, or one personís sin, or one nationís sin, or all believersí sins, but every sin from the beginning of the world already committed, and every sin unto the end of the world yet to be committed Ė were laid upon Him.† And that familiar voice returned: if you are the Son of God . . .† Challenging Him.† Befriending Him.† Thereís a better way . . .† an easier way . . .† Iím here to help, Jesus!
But Jesus stayed, in the wilderness, and on the cross.† To atone for your sin.† And what looked like defeat in His death, turned out to be triumph in His resurrection.
And that victory is our victory too!† The victory we could never accomplish on our own, but now ours by grace through faith.† Now ours as we are baptized into Jesusí triumphant death and resurrection.† Now ours as we eat His body and drink His blood.† Ours, for we are not on our own, but now we live in Him and He is us.† And so His life is my life.† And yours.† For all He did He did for you.† His birth, His circumcision, His life.† His temptation, His obedience, his faith.† His suffering, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension.† All yours.† All given to you when you hear those wonderful words: I forgive you all your sins.†
For forgiveness is not getting off the hook.† Forgiveness is getting a new life.† The life of Christ, given to you.† The life of Christ that will never end.† Because, as St. Paul wrote, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. †You will be saved from the devil, from your sin, from yourself.† You will be saved, not because of what you did, because you said the right words Ė but because of what Jesus did for you.† You will be saved, for you have a Saviour.† Who fought for you, and won!
Satan will make you try to forget that, and rely on yourself.† Heíll make you try to doubt it, and think yourself unworthy.† Heíll try to make you think heís your best friend and has a better way.† And he will not give up.† And so Jesus taught us to pray: And lead us not into temptation.† And what do we mean when we pray this?† Father, rescue me, for only you can.† Donít leave me on my own!† Send Your Spirit to guard and keep me.† Your Spirit, to lead me to Christ and keep me in Christ.† In Christ, where I am safe.† In Christ, where is my life and victory.† In His flesh and blood Ė in the wilderness, on the cross, and on the altar.† That I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. (Small Catechism, explanation to the Second Article)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do not underestimate the enemy.† But also remember who won.† For that is the message this day.† That against the devil and all his works and all his ways, we have A Mighty Fortress.† A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. (Lk 2:11)
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit.† Amen.
Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. †Amen.