Sunday, February 26, 2023

Matthew 4:1-11; First Sunday in Lent; February 26, 2023;

Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “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.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” (Matthew 4:1–11, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

Amid the lush vegetation of the Garden, a “son of God” was confronted with temptation. He stood casually by and watched… and listened… as his wife was spoke to the serpent. “If you eat of it, God knows you will be like Him.” Hissed out the Serpent. The words floated in the air with promise.

“Is it really possible,” thought the man. “That I could be like God, himself? Doesn’t that mean I would be God?” The serpent’s lips curled into a smile of victory as the woman’s hand reached for the temptation. “Well, it won’t hurt if she just looks at it… touch it…” her husband said to himself as she pulled it from the tree. “I wonder how it tastes?” as her teeth sunk into the soft pulp of the fruit, and soon the sweet liquid ran from his lips too. In that very instant this son of God, went form being His loving, obedient, trusting son, to being a suspicious, guilt-ridden, fearful stranger of God. He didn’t become God’s equal; he became God’s enemy. He was no longer even what God had created him to be. Adam had failed the challenge, and he failed it miserably. He had decided not to be God’s son. And he condemned all of his offspring from that moment on to the loss of son ship that accompanied that decision. All those born after him, that means you and me, share in that loss, we too, are born as suspicious, guilt-ridden, fearful strangers of God.

Another Son of God faced temptation, too. The people of Israel, the chosen Son of God, marched through the hot desert. Forty years God led them there. There were times when they were hungry. The question was this, would this son trust in the Father to give him the bread he needed? Would this Son trust in God’s word and promise? They, too, failed. “Did you bring us here to die in the desert, of starvation?” he cried out. And later again he failed to trust the provision of God, by demanding water. And still again when he entered the land God had promised him. He worshipped the false gods of the people he was to conquer. Over and over again we read of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Over and over again we read of his failure when he was tempted. This son also chose not to be God’s son.

Unfortunately, that failure is not limited to God’s ancient sons. God’s son today, the new Israel, his church, fails, too. When we look at the failures of Adam, when we look at the failures of the Children of Israel, we know that we often have the same responses. Even though God has specially chosen us, even though he has richly provided all that we need, even though he has over and over again demonstrated his great-undeserved love for us, we re-enact the failures of our ancestors. We repeat the choice not to be God’s sons. We want proof that God will provide for us as the economy begins to turn sour. We wonder how we will survive among the rumors of bankrupt businesses and lose of income. We want proof of God’s love for us when we are ill. We doubt his love when our loved ones suffer and die as we watch helpless; and when trouble comes into our family relationships. And when things are going well; when life is good and doubts are far away, we push our Father to a small place on Sunday, in reserve for when we need Him. We set ourselves up as the god of our lives. When we do these things, just like Adam, just like Israel, we chose death and permanent separation from our Father. We choose not to be the Son of God.

But, fortunately for us, fortunately for Adam and Israel, there is another Son of God. This one is the Son of God. He was faced with temptations, the very same temptations we are faced with. Whenever he was faced with the choice to be God’s son, he always willed to love, trust, and serve His Father. But, Satan, the very same serpent who had success in the Garden, did his best to tempt Jesus into repeating the failures of God’s other sons. He set before Him the temptations that lured Adam and Eve, the Children of Israel, and the temptations he sets before you and me. But Jesus Christ didn’t fall to them. Even though he was
“… tempted in every way, just as we are—yet [He] was without sin.” (Heb 4:15)
The Father, Himself, spoke about Him and said, “This is my son, whom I love, in Him I am well pleased.” Because of Jesus, because he was the perfect Son of God, His Father once again declares us to be His Sons.

This Son of God endured the temptations of Satan. The Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness, and He was there without food for forty days. Satan pounced on the opportunity to have Jesus doubt that His Father counted Him as His Son. Satan asked if God would really supply all that was needed. “Turn these stones into bread. Take matters into your own hands. Satisfy your hunger.” But unlike Israel in the desert, this Son had absolute confidence in His Father. Instead of turning stones into bread he turns to the Bread of God’s word and relies on the Father. “Man shall not live by bread alone!” Jesus said, choosing to be God’s Son.

Satan gave no rest for the Son of God. Next, he tempted Jesus to ask His Father to prove that He was present with him. It had worked with God’s other son in the desert. Israel demanded water as proof of God’s presence. “Cast yourself down, God will prove that He is with you.” But this Son refuses to test God. Instead of demanding a sign of water, the true Son, the true Israel puts His trust in the words spoke at His baptism: “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!” And again, Jesus chooses to be God’s Son.

Finally, Satan offers what is not his to give. “These kingdoms I will give you! All the glory, all the honor, all the authority. Be like the first son of God, make yourself God’s equal, be like God. Worship me! Be like Israel and give obedience and worship to one who is not God! But Jesus again chooses to be the Son of God, not a worshiper of Satan. He yields to God’s will. He will accept glory, but His glory will come through suffering and death. His glory will come when He stretches out his hands on the cross to die. He cannot be turned from the course His Father has set before Him. Satan’s temptations have failed. Jesus, God’s Son, is stronger than the tempter. His power and reign are on earth is coming to an end.

Jesus Christ chose to be a son of God (a trusting, obedient, and loving man). He is the second Adam. He is the true Israel. He does what they had failed to do. He doesn’t fall to the temptations that caused them to turn from their Father. He consistently chooses to be the Son of God, He does it for them, He does it for us!

Because of Jesus the words that God spoke over Jesus at His baptism are spoken over us at ours. “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” God accepted the perfect love and obedience of His Son, Jesus, and that obedience and love is accepted as ours. Looking to God’s word spoken to us we can know the power of it in our lives. We have the assurance of the Father’s spoke word. We can resist the Serpent when he speaks to us and tempts us not to be God’s sons.

Jesus also chose to be the Son of God, even when it meant that the Father punished Him instead of us. When Jesus hung on the cross, the Father disowned him and rejected Him. He did it so that we wouldn’t be disowned for eternity. We celebrate this Son’s victory over sin and death every Sunday, and especially at Easter. God the Father raised Him from death as proof that the punishment of this only begotten Son sets all the other sons free from punishment forever. There is nothing better than being God’s sons. Armed with that knowledge, Satan’s voice has no sway over us.

Jesus “sympathizes with our weaknesses” when we are tempted. The Son of God invites us to approach the throne of God with confidence, where He speaks for us. “These are your Son’s. These are those for whom I died.” There we receive grace and mercy. There we receive strength to overcome whenever we are challenged to be or not to be God’s sons. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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