Lent 0119 – “Lead Us not into Temptation.” Luke 4:1-13

Lent 0119 – “Lead Us not into Temptation.” Luke 4:1-13

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of St Luke, the 4th Chapter:

“1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” 5And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”
9And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
12And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This past Wednesday we entered into the Holy Penitential Season of Lent. It is during this season of the Church Year that God’s people focus their attention on the suffering and death endured by Jesus Christ in behalf of sinners. The theme for this year’s midweek meditation is based on The People of Jesus’ Passion.” Each week we will consider the people who have a part in the betrayal, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus.

Most times we think only of Jesus suffering and death in the last hours of Jesus life. We think only of the scourging, beating, mockery and crucifixion suffered by Jesus at the hands of sinners. We think only of the betrayal planned and perpetrated by Judas Iscariot. We think only of the denial of Peter. We think only of the nails, the crown of thorns and the anguished cries of Jesus as he hung on the cross for those 6 agonizing hours. We walk only from Gethsemane to Golgotha, and look in silence upon the grave which engulfs the lifeless body of Jesus, the Son of God. These are true accounts of Jesus suffering.

Yet, there is more to this suffering of Jesus. It did not begin with the arrest of Jesus, but began long before not only in the wilderness, but also in Jesus’ very incarnation and birth into this sinful world. Jesus’ whole life is one of enduring suffering and living in subjection as a servant under the will of His Father in heaven.

Today we consider the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry as we journey through the Lenten Season. We consider the beginning of Jesus saving work carried out in the face of all people and on behalf of all people. We look for a few moments as Jesus endures suffering shortly after His baptism in the Jordan River. Filled with the Holy Spirit and led by that same Spirit into the wilderness, Jesus spends forty days subject to the Father of Lies and the Master of Deception. Jesus battles this strong enemy and begins the final battle to destroy the hold which Satan has over sin and death.

The Gospel of St Luke speaks of Jesus being tempted by Satan for forty days. They in a wilderness area well away from inhabited houses and places where people do business. Jesus ate no food during those forty days and Luke notes Jesus is very hungry. So continues the inaugural event of Jesus ministry. This teaches us that Christian Baptism always implies service and dedication to One in whose name we are baptized.

We are reminded in Jesus’ service of the 6th Petition to the Lord’s Prayer. As you run through those petitions in your mind, of which petition am I speaking? Yes it is “Lead us not into temptation.” Yet here we witness the Lord being led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The Holy Spirit is driving Jesus out to this place, and it appears that God quite actively desires to put His Son in harms way. What’s with that? Do we not confess the following to be the meaning of the sixth petition?

“God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”

Who is the one perpetrating the temptations? Satan not God. This is what we must always remember. It is Satan the world and our sinful flesh that lead us into temptation. It is God who leads us by the hand as we walk this earth and face the temptations which come upon us. Sometimes the path we must walk takes us to places which would bring danger to our life and faith, but it is not God who brings the danger. No God would hold our hands and strengthen our faith that we may not falter or fall prey to those things which destroy His gifts to us.

Dr. Luther so wisely teaches this in his explanation to the 6th Petition. Temptation abounds in the world today. Some temptations are rather obvious and readily recognized. You see these as they relate to the commandments of God. Memorizing these as children keeps us from these obvious sinful and faith destroying temptations.

Still other temptations are less obvious. They are not readily seen or recognized for what they are. Satan is very subtle at times, and he leads us to believe that something is good when in reality it is a means of our destruction.

Consider what happens with a cooled lava flow, or crossing a snow-covered glacier, or crossing an ice-covered lake. The surface looks solid, safe and strong, but there are places that may be thin and not able to hold your weight. Lava may cool on the surface, but ebb away below the cooled surface leaving a cavern. Snow may accumulate on a glacier and cover a crack in the ice. A frozen lake may be spring fed and the ice above the spring will be thin. What happens when you walk on these thin coverings? You fall through suffering injury or even death.

Such is the way of Satan. He makes a good play and says it’s okay. He holds his hand out to us that we would let go of the hand of our God. Satan’s hand is far enough away that we must let go of God’s hand in order to grasp his hand. But Satan will never grab hold of our hand to save us from falling. His hand will always be just out of reach.

Witness what Satan does with Jesus. Jesus is tempted to prove himself to be the Son of God. If you are God’s son use your powers to meet your needs. You are hungry. I know it to be true. I have seen these humans when they do not eat. They become very hungry and will eat almost anything to stave off that hunger. You can avoid this hunger by changing stones into bread. It’s no little thing for the son of God. Satisfy yourself and feed you hunger, take care of yourself and give your father a break.

The subtle nature of this temptation is deadly. Jesus is offered a choice. Prove you are God’s Son or go away in shame showing God to be a liar. Jesus is being tempted to abuse His power as true God. Serve yourself, because God does not care for you.

Yet, Jesus understands the nature of this temptation and faithfully uses His power speaking the very Word of God from Deuteronomy 8. Jesus rebukes Satan with these words, “It is written; man does not live on bread alone …” and if we turn to that passage we also read these words which finish that verse, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We may hunger but God sustains us even in that physical hunger. The word of God is our true food and satisfies the longings of our heart with the satisfying grace of salvation and eternal life.

Satan takes that word in another temptation and twists that word with his own editing. Satan uses the very word of God to serve his deception and hope of causing Jesus to fail in His work as Savior. Satan is a student of God’s Word, but his learning is to manipulate and to deceive for the purpose of destroying what God builds. Look at his quoting of the passage from Psalm 91.
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

It would appear that Satan is taking two separate passages of Scripture to make his point. But Satan has skillfully edited the Psalm and omitted these words which connect the two phrases. Satan omits “in all your ways.” It should read “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” The way upon which God will guard us is the path of His righteousness and salvation.

If we walk a path outside of God’s righteousness, if we walk in unbelief, there is no protection. If we frivolously put God to the test, challenging Him to do things He has not revealed He will do for us, then we cannot expect His protection. But in matters of faith and the trials of faith which come our way, God will always defend His redeemed and forgiven people. It is why Jesus says to Satan, “Do not put your Lord to the test.”

Satan will tempt us to doubt this protection of God. He will seek to plant seeds of doubt in our heart that we would begin to question whether we are truly children of God. How many times have you questioned God’s presence and protection in your life? When have you gone to the edge of your faith, been stretched to your limit, and wondered where are you God?

God is where He said He would be. God is in His Word, in His Baptism and in His Holy Supper. Moreover, God is where two or three of His people gather in the name of Jesus. It is to these places we look in time of trouble and call upon the Lord of heaven and earth to deliver and preserve His people. In His word God bids us to call upon Him and to know that He will not give us any more than our faith can endure. How much is it that we can endure, but what Christ Jesus himself endured. We are given faith to sustain us even to the point of death.

In His sacraments we have the very presence of Jesus Christ to calm us and remind us of everything done for us. In Baptism and Holy Communion Jesus says, “I have overcome the world.” St Paul echoes this truth when he writes to the Corinthian Christians:

“54When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Truly, God indeed tempts no one, but when tempted, we have one who will defend us Jesus Christ. He overcame Satan, sin and death. In Holy Baptism, Jesus imparted to each of us this victory. Each day that we walk in this world God walks with us and guards us with His Word and His holy angels. While we are not exempt from the day’s trials, difficulties and other evil from the realm of Satan, we do know they hold no power over us. What did we sing earlier that expresses this truth:

This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none.
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.
Our vict’ry has been won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

“The kingdom ours remaineth.” We are in God’s Kingdom. God leads us not into temptation but defends us as we walk through temptation to the consummation of our faith in Jesus Christ. Amen