First Sunday in Lent

March 10, 2019

Summary

After his baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, alone.  He did this in preparation for his coming ministry.  This wasn’t unheard of, both Moses and Elijah had done the same sort of thing to prepare themselves for their coming ministries on behalf of the Lord.

Moses spent forty days and nights on the mountain with the Lord at the time he received the law.  Elijah had spent forty days traveling into the wilderness when he fled from Ahab and Jezebel, before the Lord spoke to him in the quiet upon the mountain.

Like these two most respected prophets of Israel, Jesus spent the forty days and nights fasting from any food.  Fasting was a common means of focusing oneself upon God and one’s love of and service to the Lord.  But of course, it was a time that as the spirit was refreshed and strengthened, the body and mind were weakened.  And of course, most fasting was short-term amongst the Jewish people, for a day or a few days.

Jesus was a special cases, fasting for so long.

It was at the end of Jesus’ forty days that the devil came, with lies in one hand and temptation in the other.

I’ve always thought that the temptations that the devil used to tempt Jesus in the desert, maybe weren’t that tempting for Jesus.  Make bread from a stone, proclaim rule over the world, or have angels rescue him from a fall, I mean Jesus is God; how difficult could resisting any of those things have been for him? Thus I ask, how were these really temptations?

Jesus knew why he was here, to die in our place.  He wasn’t simply man, but God come to earth to give us life’s greatest gift, salvation.  So, why would any of these things have really tempted him?  That has always been my question.

But I have to admit my thoughts on this matter have changed.  I’ve had a revelation. Temptation, effective temptation, stays away from the big stuff and pushes the little stuff.

Most every diabetic whom I talk to or observe, doesn’t struggle with the decision of whether they should eat a whole cake, rather they are tempted by the small candy bar and the lie that, “This little bit won’t hurt.”

The common person isn’t tempted so much by the cash register till sitting open before them with the clerk’s back turned, but the Two Hundred Kroner bill that fell out of the strangers’ purse as they walked away from the counter.  Do you alert them to their loss, or let them go and pocket it?

My revelation is that these temptations and lies by Satan, in today’s text were actually the little stuff for Jesus.

At the end of forty days of fasting, Jesus was more than ravenous, his body at that point would have started devouring itself.  He needed food.

So simply what the devil did, was to question Jesus divine power and encourage him to prove he was God by feeding himself using that power.  Really, what was so wrong with that?  Later on, Jesus would use that same power to feed the thousands, why not himself, just this once in the desert?

For one, Jesus didn’t need to prove his divinity to the devil, but more importantly he didn’t come as the Christ to use his divine power for himself, but rather for the world.  The devil was tempting Jesus to step out onto a slippery slope.  If Jesus used his power here to feed himself, it would be much easier the next time to overcome an earthly problem or dilemma he found himself in, by the use of his divine abilities.  This would only result in his estrangement from the human condition, and would break the reality of his shared humanity with us.

We would never be able to say, “Jesus walked and suffered in the same manner that we do, he understands us.”

The second temptation was again an offer to side-step the human suffering that was in store for Jesus.  By his agonizing death upon the cross Jesus broke the domination of sin in our lives, he conquered the power of the devil, and established his authority over the world.  Yet it was a hard and difficult road that he walked to do so.  In this temptation, Satan is offering Jesus authority to do as he would like in the world and for the world’s people.  And yet by worshiping the devil, in reality the only thing that would be achieved would be the subservience of God, the most good to Satan, the most evil.

Rather than being freed from our sins, we would be enslaved to sin forever.

And lastly, the devil is tempting Christ to question God the Father’s faithfulness to him.  The same old question each of us have probably pleadingly asked our parents, and have been asked by our children, the devil is tempting Jesus to ask.   “Why are you asking me to do this?  This is too hard.  I don’t want to be here.”

Jesus would only need to simply step off a height and fall towards his death, to challenge God the Father’s love and faithfulness.

In each of these temptations, what the devil is getting at, is, “Wouldn’t it be easier Jesus, to simply exert your authority as God over these people, and make them behave and force them to live life as he had planned it?”

In essence he was getting at the question of why Jesus was willing to go through the hardships of human life and the agony of human death to achieve his aim of saving us from death, and not just institute that change?

Why?  It’s a good question.  Why?

Well, I guess the only answer that I can come up with, is love.  God loves us.  God loves us so much that he’s not willing to take away our free will, our human life just to make everything work, to make creation work.  Think about it.

God created life, not automation, not a computer program, and he won’t take life away.

God has given us the ability to think, to act, to speak and to be.  Of course, inherent in the gift of humanity, is the ability to lie, to hurt, to tempt and to die, but there is also the opportunity to create, to sing, to help and to love.  None of this would be possible if we were controlled programs rather than fallible human beings.

And so…that’s why.  God created us, because God loves us and wants us to be able to experience life and most of all, love.

The reality though is that God did not create us and then set us adrift, but rather that we, God’s creation have always been cradled in the arms of God’s love.

We don’t go through life alone, Jesus walks with us.  And we can trust in him, because we also know that he lived life as a human, struggling with the same things that we struggle with.  Jesus was tempted too.

I am sure that he had the opportunity to cut corners, literally, with his carpentry trade.  He debated internally over how to respond to dumb comments and crass questions from people, should he ridicule them or answer with grace.  Jesus had headaches and sore feet and questioned if it was worth it to go out and preach to the people certain days.  Jesus lived and so he knows what life, human life, is all about.

And even as we struggle in our lives, with sin, with lies and temptations Jesus is right by our side, giving us the strength to stand up to those temptations and difficulties.  And when we fail, Jesus is there offering us his forgiveness and love.  Letting us know that we can still do it, that we can overcome, letting us know that life is worth it.

Jesus is faithful and calls us to lives of faith.  As it is written in Psalm 91, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

Life is worth it, because love is worth it.  From God’s love flows all love and we don’t have to wonder if that love is for us.  God loves all of his creation, and that means you too.  God has been, is and always will be there for us, for you.  You are God’s beloved child!

Amen.

Bible References

  • Romans 10:8b - 13
  • Luke 4:1 - 13

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