Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Tempter Overthrown

First Sunday in Lent, Invocavit Sunday, Year of Our + Lord 2013
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Trinity and Fairview, MT
For Us Temptations Sharp He Knew, For Us the Tempter Overthrew
 Vicar Jason Toombs

For us baptized, for us He bore
His holy fast, and hungered sore;
For us temptation sharp He knew,
For us the tempter overthrew.

Jesus, the newly baptized, was led by the Spirit, the same Spirit who descended upon Him in the form of a dove at His baptism, led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  He left the water and went into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted by the devil.

The devil, that crafty serpent from the Garden of Eden, who tempted Adam and Eve, now come to tempt Jesus, the Son of God.  This was after forty days and forty nights of fasting, he was hungry. 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves if we start here.  We need to go back to the beginning of the story, back to the Garden to see where temptation prevailed victorious and to hear once again the God issued promise, the promise of the coming Son of Man.

Day five of creation comes to a close with light and darkness, heaven, earth, and seas, vegetation, sun and moon, sea creatures, and birds.  Day six comes and God fills the earth with livestock of the field.  And God knows that He needs a caretaker for His creation. So God Made a Farmer, Adam the Farmer, the caretaker of all of God’s creation, and his wife Eve the helper.  And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. 

God put Farmer Adam in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  Farmer Adam was commanded by God, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 

In strove the serpent, craftier than any other beast, and spoke with the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  Did you notice the change that Eve added to God’s Word, “neither shall you touch it”?  God never commanded Adam and Eve not to touch the tree.  Adam and Eve the first Pharisees, the first ones to add to God’s Word things that God never commanded.

At this point the devil knows he has Eve, she has added to God’s Word something He didn’t command.  And the serpent strikes on this, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  The devil, the one who tried to usurp God’s power, now has a partner who gives in to temptation.  Adam the Farmer, seeing that Eve didn’t die on the spot, also gave in to temptation, the temptation to be like God. 

Then the eyes of both were opened, opened to see all the evil things in this world that the little bite brought in.  Before the fall there was only good: good soil, crops, and weather, man was ruler of every beast, lion and lamb laid down together, every good thing was given for man and woman.  Before the fall the marriage was perfect, any children would have perfectly done whatever their parents asked, and flowerbeds would grow without tending.  But since the fall, evil is constantly around us: murder, rape, suicide, death and decay, wars, earthquakes, tornados, blizzards.  Now marriage is difficult, kids disobey, and weeds have to be picked.  Before, God was dwelling peaceably with His people; now we have the prince of this world, Satan, trying to keep people from hearing God’s promise of peace, forgiveness, and love for His people.  Satan found a willing partner in Adam and Eve, and he continues to find willing partners in their offspring. 

He finds willing partners in all of us.  We have heard the commands of God and have turned away from them.  We put our wants, our desires, before God.  We have taken His name in vain, lied when we have been put into a corner at school or work.  We have murder one another, maybe not physically but we have thought evil of them, thought they should die.  We have given into our lusts, our desires of the heart, and not led a sexually pure and decent life.  We are no less culpable than Adam and Eve.  The old saying goes, “When you point one finger, there are three others pointing back at you.”

God calls the man and woman to Himself, calling them away from the serpent and back to Himself.  God, cutting to the heart of the matter, asked, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  The man points his finger to his wife, the wife points her finger at the snake.  No one takes the blame for their action.  Like children blaming someone else for breaking a toy, husband and wife blame each other constantly for any sin: forgotten birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day.  When husband and wife fight, it’s always the other person’s fault.  When you lose the game at the last second, someone else was out of place.  The devil says to you, “It’s never your fault.”

And God spoke curses because of the fall.  To the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 

God’s promise of forgiveness is found in the curse spoken to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his foot.”  The first time the Gospel is heard, it is from the mouth of God.  Law to the serpent, Gospel to the man and the woman and to their offspring.

Enter the offspring of the woman.  Born of the Virgin Mary and having no earthly father, save His guardian Joseph, Jesus Christ: the Son of the woman, the Son of God.  The second Adam, the second man, led into the wilderness to be tempted just as the first man was tempted.  The forty days of Lent aren’t about our fasting; it is a time when the church looks to Jesus Christ as He fasted in the wilderness.  The forty days of Lent aren’t about what we give up, eating no meat on Fridays, or anything else, a beard.  Rather, they are a time were we focus more intently on what God has done for us.  His temptation and His overthrow of the tempter.  It isn’t a time of becoming more like Jesus.  It’s a time of hearing, a time of reading, a time of repenting.  Repenting of our not keeping God’s command, repenting of giving into temptation, repenting of thinking that we’ll do better next time.  We constantly fail and fall every time we say, “Last one ever.” 

We can never fully give our heart to Jesus, no matter what we say.  The heart is an idol factory because sin still resides there.  We can never purge our heart of sinful thoughts.  Instead, Jesus gives His heart to you.  You receive a new heart, a clean heart, from Jesus.  This heart perfectly does the things that God commands.

For forty days and forty nights Jesus fasted in the wilderness.  At the end of these forty days Jesus was hungry.  And in strove the tempter, the crafty serpent, to tempt the Son of God.  He knows that Jesus is hungry and said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  He says to the Son of God, “If you are the Son of God.”  Jesus doesn’t respond to the devil’s temptation of questioning His identity.  Instead He responds to what we should hunger for, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  We are to hunger for God’s Word, rejoicing every time that we receive it.  The devil has lost the battle but he doesn’t give up easily.

The devil takes Jesus to the holy city and sets Him on the pinnacle of the temple.  Again tempting Jesus, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”  The devil tries to tempt Jesus to put God to the test, test if God will really send the angels to guard Jesus.  Jesus answers, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  He will not deviate from the path that He is walking, the path that leads to the cross.  Yet another battle lost by the devil.

But the devil still has one last temptation and he tries to usurp God in His control over all things.  The devil takes Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  He tempts Jesus with a lie, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Jesus looks past the temptation, He sees the heart of Satan, the chief liar, and says, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”  Satan has not only lost the battle, he has lost the war.  Game, Set, Match.  Jesus alone is victorious.  The second Adam, the True Man, stands alone having not given into temptation.

The devil tries his hardest to tempt Jesus into taking the easy way out, “You’re hungry, command the stones to become bread.  You’re the Son of God, nothing will happen to you if you fall from the temple.  All the kingdoms of the world will be yours if you simply fall down and worship me.”  Soon he will tempt Jesus with denying the cross and coming down from it, but Jesus will not fall into temptation no matter the stakes.  He has come to do His Father’s will.

We fall every time we try to do better.  We can give something up for only so long.  If you’re on a diet, you look forward to the end of it when sweets are once again allowed; if you give up caffeine, cigarettes, or anything else for Lent you look forward to Easter when you can once again have these lustful cravings.  Lent has become a season of outward piety while we still lust in our heart.  We have to die to this, die with Jesus, drown the satanic foe and his temptation, and be raised to a new life, a life where we reside with Jesus.  The strong arms of the Savior are ever inviting, ever calling, you to come to Him.  Come to the place where Satan has been cast out and where Jesus proclaims, “Be gone, Satan!” and “It is finished.”

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