Lent 1: “The Temptation”
March 1, 2020 – Matthew 4:1-11
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Have you ever wondered about the Devil? Who he is, what kinds of things he says, how he works? Our Gospel reading for this morning gives us some insight into this being – insight into the Devil. The Devil goes by numerous names in Scripture,
The Devil, Satan, Lucifer, The Accuser, and even the left-handed one (as opposed to all which is right and correct) to name a few. In this reading, the name that is used is The Devil or in the Greek, Diabolos. ‘Diabolos’ comes from the same root as the word ‘Diabolical’. The name Devil literally means ‘slanderer.’ This slanderer, the Devil, works by speaking in half-truths or lies. He twists the truth to make it fit his own purposes. Can you think of people who twist the truth to fit their own purposes? Maybe you have done it too… To find out more about the Devil and how he works to accuse us and bring us down, the book by C.S. Lewis called The Screwtape Letters gives great insight.
The Devil works by pointing out our wrongs and failures and trying to drive us to despair by lying to us and telling us we are never good enough and God will never forgive us. The Devil also temps us. The Devil drives on our desires to go against God and tries to get us to think we know better than God. This is the same temptation the Devil used in the Garden of Eden to get our ancestors to disobey God. He has been tempting us all ever since and watching as he gets us to, over and over again, go against God.
The Devil had been doing this with great success until he tempted one particular man, Jesus. It was through one man, Adam, that all humanity disobeys God and so it is through one man and His perfect obedience to God in temptation that all can be made right with God (Rom. 5:18).
How are we tempted by the Devil and fail? We are tempted to stay alive by only eating earthly food. We are tempted to keep our bodies alive by eating bread, and water, fruits, veggies, meat and the like. We are tempted to believe that it is by eating that are bodies are sustained and nourished. In reality, we can eat all the earthly food we want and will still die eternally. In order to live forever, we need to eat heavenly food. We need to be fed by God’s eternal Word which keeps us alive, not just now, but forever. The Devil wants us to die so he tries to convince us all we need is earthly food to live – nothing more.
We are also tempted by the Devil to test God in prayer. We are tempted to say to God “if you really care about me, you’ll get me out of this problem I’m in.” We are tempted to base our belief in God on whether He shows up and responds to us in the exact way we want at the exact right time. We are tempted to think that God does not really care about us when we do not ‘feel’ like he cares.
We are also tempted to get good things for ourselves through evil means. We are tempted by the Devil to hurt others in order to protect ourselves. We are tempted to save money for ourselves by stealing from others. The devil is tempting to give us all these good earthly things in exchange for disobeying God in order to get them. Satan makes us think we will get what we want but can never actually give us what we desire by listening to him.
The Devil tempts us to disobey God. However, God can test us through many things that arise in life. The Devil wants us to fail, God wants us to succeed. God uses many things in our life to offer us the opportunity to show our love to Him. How we respond to various things like pain, illness, disappointment, and poverty, God uses these bad things which are caused by our own sin to give us the opportunity to draw closer to Him. Even things which are seemingly good, such as success in life, health, intelligence, talents, and good-looks can be tests from God to give us the opportunity to show our love and thanks to Him – and to resist the Devil.
So how do we resist the Devil and his shady deals? Do we use an extra ounce of willpower to resist his temptations? Do we outsmart the devil by our own worldly wisdom? Do we work to be more cunning than the devil who has been at work tempting, and succeeding, for thousands of years?
Let us look to Jesus for how to resist. Jesus does not use His divine power to His own benefit such as turning stones into bread to eat after fasting 40 days. Jesus does not use His power to convince the world He is God by testing God and throwing Himself off the Temple to seeing if the Father sends angels to protect Him. Jesus does not use His power to stay on earth and to rule all the kingdoms of the world. All of these temptations were given by the Devil for one single purpose – to avoid Jesus going to the cross. Jesus was tempted to fix sin in the world by staying and not dying on the cross. Jesus was tempted by ruling the kingdoms of the world perfectly instead of dying on the cross.
Jesus resists the temptation to not suffer and He goes to the cross for you and me. Instead of thinking of Himself and His own desires He thinks of us. He resists by His selfless act of love – love to us and love to The Father’s Word, and the Father Himself, who sent Him as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.
We aught to resist the Devil by following Jesus in His denying of Himself for God and us. We aught to resist the devil by being like Jesus and not using our power for ourselves. We aught to resist the Devil’s temptations by hearing and trusting in God’s Word. The Devil will even twist God’s Word to make us go against God. Satan does this by twistedly quoting a Psalm to Jesus.
We aught to resist the Devil and His attempts to reject God by following Jesus who resisted the Devil and told him to “get lost!” (I’m paraphrasing of course).
Israel in the wilderness was tempted by the devil, and the devil won. Adam and Even were tempted also and failed. Your parents failed and you likely will fail too. How can we tell? Death. All who have been tempted by the devil and failed, die. Jesus was tempted by the Devil too and was crucified to death, but He could not be held by death and had to rise again. He was not deserving of the punishment of death like us all and so He rose from among the dead.
Now we are in the time of Lent. Lent is a time of practicing self-denial. There is no need to make up trials, temptations, and tests for yourself because they will come in abundance. You will have plenty of opportunities to resist.
This Lent, be like Jesus and deny yourself. Deny your own desires for the good of others and follow God’s Word.
Do not practice denying yourself because you will always succeed in focusing on God and others. Instead, practice denying yourself because it was by Jesus’ own resisting of the Devil, denying Himself, and dying on the cross that your sins are forgiven. Practice resisting the devil because Jesus resisted, and succeeded so that you are made right with God. Because Jesus resisted and self-denied you receive forgiveness in baptism, Lord’s Supper, and Absolution as Jesus established as ways for us to receive that forgiveness.
You receive His fruits and are delivered from the clutches of death and Hell. The devil? He has no real power over you. He only offers lies to be ignored. Truth is found in what God says to us. Truth is found in His words to us saying “You are forgiven.”
In Jesus Name,