In the name of the Father, and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
From the Jordan
In the first verse of the gospel, we read that Jesus “returned from the Jordan.” To help us understand the event that followed his return, let’s go back to the Jordan River. Jesus had gone to the Jordan River to be baptized by John.
The Lamb of God stepped into the river to take upon himself the sins of the whole world. The one who knew no sin became sin for us. From there he would preach good news to those who were drowning in their sin.
His journey would take him to the cross where the shedding of his blood would be the result of becoming sin for us. As Jesus came out of the water, the voice of the heavenly Father’s said, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
The heavenly Father saw each step in the life of Jesus as a step toward redeeming the world from sin and death. Each word spoken by the Son revealed God’s love for the lost and condemned. Each miracle of healing pointed to restoring the body and soul of believers to a new and eternal creation.
To The Wilderness
After returning from the Jordan River, Luke tells us that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for forty days. There he was tempted by the devil. Luke adds that Jesus “ate nothing during those days.”
We read that at the end of those forty days, the devil tempted Jesus three more times. Perhaps the devil thought that Jesus would be so weak after those forty days, both spiritually as well as physically, that he would give in to one of his temptations.
As we hear the temptations, remember the words of the heavenly Father, “You are my beloved.” In the first temptation, the devil said to Jesus, “IF you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” This temptation was much more than tempting Jesus to satisfy his hunger for food. “IF,” that was the key word in Satan’s temptation.
Satan was trying to have Jesus doubt God’s word, doubt that he was God’s Son, doubt that God loved him, doubt that the heavenly Father was pleased with him. He was tempting Jesus into the sin of unbelief. Satan wanted Jesus to test God’s word rather than believe it.
You can almost hear the devil saying to Jesus, “Surely, IF you’re the Son of God he wouldn’t want you to be hungry.” “Surely, IF he loves you he wouldn’t mind letting you do one small miracle for yourself.”
The second temptation was to offer Jesus rule over all the kingdoms of the world. These kingdoms originally belonged to God. But when Adam and Eve fell to Satan’s temptation, Satan gained control over these kingdoms. As he said, “it has been delivered to me.” Adam and Eve and all their descendants became slaves to sin under Satan’s rule.
Satan showed these kingdoms to Jesus with all the cruelty, sin, and pain that comes along with Satan’s rule. It must have been like watching someone torture your family. Then Satan offered Jesus a deal: “You know, you could end all this pain and suffering. I would be willing to give this world back to you. Then you could run it any way you want.”
He was saying to Jesus, “you don’t have to go through all this suffering and death to win back the world.” All that Satan asked was that Jesus worship him – just one time. What a lie from the father of all lies! There was only one way to deliver the world from Satan and that was the way of the cross.
Finally in the third temptation, Satan went back to trying to make Jesus doubt God’s love for him. Again he used the word “IF.” “IF you are the Son of God, then jump off the temple, hasn’t God promised to protect you?”
To Say No
The Father sent the Son, through the Holy Spirit, to do what Adam was not able to do. Jesus was sent into the wilderness to obey the Father, to say NO! to the devil. Jesus had faith in God’s Word without a need to test God. He knew that there was only one way to deliver the world out the hands of Satan’s rule, the way of the cross. Jesus had faith in God’s love without making God prove it.
During the season of Lent we are reminded that, like Adam, we are not able to say no to the temptations of the devil. We are called not only to remember our failures to say no, but to confess those failures as our sins
You and I are also tempted. And it’s frustrating how often we keep giving in to the temptations that we face. When things are going tough in our lives or we are not quite as comfortable as we would like to be, we are tempted to think that God doesn’t really care about us or has forgotten us in this wilderness of life. We fail to trust his word that tells us that through Jesus Christ we are his beloved children.
We are tempted to think that we can make things right in the world by ourselves. We trust that if we just try harder we can make the world a better place. We worship our own efforts and the efforts of others.
We are tempted to put ourselves in dangerous situations. We over eat or under eat endangering our health, we avoid going to the doctor or over medicate, we hang around with the wrong crowd, we read the wrong magazines. We abuse God’s grace by refusing to give up our pet sins.
Because we do not always say, “No!” to temptations, we need to repent. Repentance involves reflecting on our lives, examining them under the microscope of God’s Law to see how we are doing. Repentance involves being sorry for our sins and wanting to live differently.
But if our repentance ends with saying, “we are sorry” and “trying to do better,” we will just find more frustration. We will become frustrated because we cannot overcome sin and despite our best efforts, ‘[We] do not do the good [we] want, but the evil [we] do not want is what [we] keep on doing.’ Rom. 7:19
Dear friends in Christ, let me give you some good news that will take away your frustration. Let me tell you more about repentance. Let me tell you that Jesus has taken away your sins.
Jesus was not just tempted in the wilderness, but he was tempted throughout his entire life. In the last verse of today’s gospel reading, we hear that “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”
On Good Friday we will hear the last temptation that Jesus faced. As Jesus was hanging on the cross, these words were spoken, “IF you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Mt. 27:41 Jesus said, “No!” to this temptation as well. He fulfilled God’s plan completely, including dying on the cross for our sins.
The second part of repentance is to turn to Jesus Christ as the one who said, “No!” to sin for you. Jesus did what you are unable to do. He obeyed the will of the Father. Jesus did what the heavenly Father did not want you to do. He suffered and died, alone. He suffered hell on the cross being forsaken because of your sins.
For Christians the word “repentance” means more than being sorry for their sin and trying to live a better life. For us, “repentance” also means having faith in the Word of God, the Good News that the perfect obedience of Jesus and the shedding of the innocent blood of Jesus is a gift to us from God’s grace, a gift that we receive through faith in Jesus as our Savior.
When you were baptized, the heavenly Father said, “You are my beloved child.” You were marked as one who was redeemed by Christ the crucified. The Holy Spirit was given to you.
You were give the promise that ever failure to say No to the devil, every sin you commit, has already been forgiven. The Father as provided for you. He gave his very son for you so that you might know that because of what his son did for you the Father is well pleased with you.
Do not fear the wilderness of this life. Do not question If God Loves You. Know that the Son of God endured the cross for you. Rejoice in the gift of faith for through faith in Jesus Christ you are saved.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria