Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder
February 17, 2013 – Lent I
Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13
From the book of Deuteronomy:
And you shall make response before the Lord God; a wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage.
From St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil.
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
Every day of every year, we are presented with choices and temptations; we have to make decisions. Some decisions are easy, some might be hard. Some decisions may not involve sin, while others may. Some decisions might fall into that gray area of right or wrong.
Should I get out of bed in the morning; should I get something to eat? Should I go to church? These are fairly easy decisions to make and would usually be the right thing to do. Should I call in sick to work because I want to go to the beach? Should I shout obscenities at someone who cuts me off in traffic? Should I miss church because I want to go shopping instead? These decisions would probably be the wrong thing to do. How about you see a dollar bill on the ground of the supermarket parking lot: Do you pick it up and put it in your pocket or bring it inside and turn it in? If your wife asks you your opinion on how the new dress looks on her: Do you answer her truthfully or tell her what she wants to hear? These decisions might fall under the gray area.
After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist and by the Holy Spirit, he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by Satan. Just as Jesus used those 40 days to prepare Himself for His ministry, we too use these 40 days of Lent: a time of prayer, fasting and abstinence in order to prepare us for the victory that we share in Christ; Christ’s victory over death.
Why was Jesus tempted? For one thing, it was proof that the Father’s approval was deserved. Jesus is indeed the “beloved Son” who always does whatever pleases the Father. Also, in His temptation, Jesus exposed the tactics of the enemy and revealed to us how we can overcome when we are tempted. This experience helped prepare our Lord for His present ministry as our sympathetic High Priest, and we may come to Him for the help we need to overcome the tempter (Heb. 2:16-18; 4:14-16). The first Adam was tempted in a beautiful Garden and failed. The Last Adam, Jesus, was tempted and succeeded.
You may think that of course Jesus was able to resist temptation. He was the Son of God, the Messiah. Perhaps you think that you are just a simple human being; your strength, faith and will power is not that strong. You feel you are no match for Satan’s devious ways.
We have at our disposal the same spiritual resources that Jesus used when He faced and defeated Satan: prayer (Luke 3:22), the Father’s love (Luke 3:23), the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:1), and the Word of God (“It is written”). Plus, we have in heaven the interceding Saviour who has defeated the enemy completely. Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us, but God can use these difficult experiences to put the best into us. Temptation is Satan’s weapon to defeat us, but it can become God’s tool to build us.
During those 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus did not eat, so at the end, He was hungry. In the first temptation, Satan suggested that there must be something wrong with the Father’s love since His “beloved Son” was hungry. In years past Israel hungered in the wilderness and God sent them bread from heaven; so surely Jesus could use His divine power to feed Himself and save His life. Satan subtly used this same approach on Eve: “God is holding out on you! Why can’t you eat of every tree in the Garden? If He really loved you, He would share everything with you!”
But the test was even more subtle than that, for Satan was asking Jesus to separate the physical from the spiritual. In the Christian life, eating is a spiritual activity, and we can use even our daily food to glorify God (Rom. 14:20-21; Corr. 10:31). Whenever we label different spheres of our lives “physical,” “material,” “financial,” or “spiritual,” we are bound to leave God out of areas where He rightfully belongs. Christ must be first in everything, or He is first in nothing (Matt. 6:33). It is better to be hungry in the will of God than satisfied out of the will of God.
When our Lord quoted from Deuteronomy: “Man shall not live by bread alone.” He put the emphasis on the word man. As the eternal Son of God, He had power to do anything; but as the humble Son of man, He had authority to do only that which the Father willed.
As the Servant, Jesus did not use His divine attributes for selfish purposes (Phil. 2:5-8). Because He was man, He hungered; but He trusted the Father to meet His needs in His own time and His own way.
You and I need bread for the body, but we must not live by physical bread alone. We also need food for the inner person to satisfy our spiritual needs. This food is the Word of God. What digestion is to the body, meditation is to the soul. As we read the Word and meditate on it, we receive spiritual health and strength for the inner person, and this enables us to obey the will of God.
The next temptation was when Satan took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and told Jesus that they would all be His, if only He would worship him. And Jesus answered, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”
The Father had already promised to give the Son all the kingdoms of the world (Ps. 2:7-8), but first the Son had to suffer and die (John 12:23-33). The suffering must come first, then the glory. The adversary offered Jesus these same kingdoms if He would once worship him, and this would eliminate the necessity of His going to the cross. Satan has always wanted to take God’s place and receive worship (Isa. 14:13-14).
As the prince of this world, Satan has a certain amount of delegated authority from God (John 12:31). One day he will share this authority with the Antichrist, the man of sin, who will rule the world for a brief time (Rev. 13). Satan’s offer to Christ was valid, but his terms were unacceptable; and the Saviour refused.
Satan had said nothing about service, but Jesus knew that whatever we worship, we will serve. Service to the Lord is true freedom, but service to Satan is terrible bondage. God’s pattern is to start with suffering and end with glory, while Satan’s pattern is to start with glory and end with suffering. Satan wants us to sacrifice the eternal for the temporary and take the “easy way.”
There are no “shortcuts” in the Christian life, and there is no easy way to spiritual victory and maturity. If the perfect Son of God had to hang on a tree before He could sit on the throne, then His disciples should not expect an easier way of life either.
The last temptation was when Satan took Jesus up to the pinnacle and suggested He jump to prove that nothing would happen to Him. The pinnacle was probably a high point at the southeast corner of the temple, far above the Kidron Valley. Satan can tempt us even in the Holy City at the highest part of the holy temple! But Jesus responded, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
When a child of God is in the will of God, he can claim the Father’s protection and care. But if he willfully gets into trouble and expects God to rescue him, then he is tempting God. We tempt God when we “force” Him or dare Him to act contrary to His Word. It is a dangerous thing to try God’s patience, even though He is indeed long-suffering and gracious.
Satan questioned the Father’s love when he tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. He questioned His hope when he offered Jesus the world’s kingdoms this side of the Cross.
Satan questioned the Father’s faithfulness when he asked Jesus to jump from the temple and prove that the Father would keep His promise. Thus, the enemy attacked the three basic virtues of the Christian life – faith, hope, and love.
St. Paul has told us that God’s way of salvation was not difficult and complicated. We do not have to go to heaven to find Christ, or into the world of the dead. He is near to us. In other words, the Gospel of Christ – the Word of faith – is available and accessible. The sinner need not perform difficult works in order to be saved. All he has to do is trust Christ. The very Word on the lips of the religious Jews was the Word of faith. The very Law that the Jews read and recited pointed to Christ.
Everything about the Jewish religion pointed to the coming Messiah – their sacrifices, priesthood, temple services, religious festivals, and covenants. Their Law told them they were sinners in need of a Saviour. But instead of letting the Law bring them to Christ, they worshiped their Law and rejected their Saviour.
Christ is “the end of the Law” in the sense that through His death and resurrection, He has terminated the ministry of the Law for those who believe. The Law is ended as far as Christians are concerned. The righteousness of the Law is being fulfilled in the life of the believer through the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:4); but the reign of the Law has ended: “For ye are not under the Law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
Paul made it clear, that salvation is by faith – we believe in the heart, receive God’s righteousness, and then confess Christ openly and without shame.
Paul quoted from the Prophet Joel to prove that God’s salvation is open to everyone: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Instead of the Jew having a special righteousness of his own through the Law, he was declared to be as much a sinner as the Gentile he condemned.
Jesus came out of the wilderness a victor, but Satan did not give up. He watched for other opportunities to tempt the Saviour away from the Father. And Satan does this on a daily basis with us. Let me remind you, that we have at our disposal the same spiritual resources that Jesus used when He faced and defeated Satan: prayer, the Father’s love, the power of the Spirit, and the Word of God. May we use this Lent season to develop these resources, so that we too may defeat Satan and claim the victory in Christ.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.