The First Sunday in Lent 2016

Bible Text: Matthew 4:1-11 | Preacher: Rev. Mark Buetow | Series: 2016

Admit it. Confess it. You would turn the stones to bread. You would jump off the temple to see if the angels caught you. You would take a knee for Satan just for a few seconds. Admit it. You would. I would. Know how I know? We do it all the time. We come into God’s house and hear of His immeasurable grace. We hear of His great forgiveness. We hear all of the Lord’s promises. And then we go right back out and live and do things as if the whole point is to test it. “Can I do this and still be a Christian? If I do this, will anyone find out? If I go through with this, if I give in, I can just be forgiven again.” For us temptation isn’t even a struggle usually. It’s a foregone conclusion. After all, we are our parents’ children. How long did it take from creation until Adam and Eve botched the whole thing? And this is why we need Jesus. Because when the devil shows up, we wave our hands and say, “Pick me!” And Jesus doesn’t play that game. And we would want Him too. Turn stones into bread? That would be awesome! But He does the only thing that will actually save us: He denies Satan his accusing power and He defeats temptation for us. He defeats it by not giving in. And He doesn’t do this so we can say, “Hey, Jesus stood firm. You stand firm too!” He does it so that it will count for you. So it will be, as you are in Christ, as if you have never given in to temptation. As if you have never sinned. As if you are perfect as He is perfect. In Him. In Jesus.

“If you’re the Son of God, turn the stones into bread.” Not that kind of Son of God. “If you’re the Son of God, jump off the temple and let the angels swoop down and catch you.” Not that kind of Son of God. “Fall down and worship me and I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world back.” Not that kind of Savior. Here’s the deal with Jesus. If He does something for Himself, if He saves Himself, satisfies His own hunger, takes the easy way out, then there is no hope for you. You can’t save yourself. You’re right there ready to make loaves of rock bread. So if Jesus listens to the devil, we’re done. That’s what Adam and Eve did. They listened to the lies. Jesus does the opposite. He stands firm in the Word. He glorifies the Father. He saves you. The devil will be back. It’ll be the voices of the people around Him on Good Friday. The people looking up at the cross: “He saved others but He can’t save Himself. Let Him come down off the cross if God loves Him so much!” The thieves next to Him: “Hey, save yourself…and us!” Save yourself, Jesus. He could. But if He did, that’s the only person He would save. So He loses His life to save yours. He gives Himself into suffering and death so that the devil will have no claim upon you, no power over you, no accusation against you. You see, the ultimate temptation of the devil was to make man believe he could be God. And that lie is finally defeated when the God who became man saved you by dying and rising for you.

So Jesus is tempted. He wins. He’ll be tempted worse. We’d come down off the cross if we could. Anything to end the pain. Jesus stays there. For you. He overcomes the devil in the wilderness by showing his accusations to be a lie. The devil accuses Jesus of not really being the Son of God. But Jesus shows that He is most of all the Son of God because He obeys His Father and saves you. Now, when temptation is thrown at you, you have the weapon to defeat it: The Word of God who was tempted for you, died for you and rose for you. When you have the whisper that you aren’t really a child of God, so do whatever you want, you have the Word and water of Holy Baptism to remind you that you ARE a child of God. When you go after that temptation and fall into it, you have the Word of Holy Absolution that you are forgiven. When your flesh is weak and frail, then you have the Word made flesh and given you to eat and drink in the Supper of salvation. Get it? The way out from temptation isn’t you. It’s Jesus who has already defeated it. Held fast. Overcome. His victory is your victory. And when the devil, the world, and your sinful nature are whispering, calling, shouting, urging you to dive into that pool of sin, you throw against them your baptism, Jesus’ words spoken by your pastor, Jesus’ body and blood which you have feasted upon. Those are the things that defeat the devil. They drive him away and declare he has no power, no authority, no accusations that can stick. These gifts are the ones which stand fast against a world that is passing away. These gifts are the ones that give you new life while putting to death that Old Adam who loves to give in to temptation. Now, you won’t turn those stones into bread. You love the Word of God above all things. You wouldn’t jump off that temple. You wouldn’t take the knee for Satan. You can’t. Because Jesus didn’t. And what He didn’t do you didn’t do. And what He has done you have done. And what’s His is yours. And now, where paradise was shut by the sin of our parents, now it is once again opened to you by the Son of God. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.