Lent 1 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 1, 2020
Genesis 3:1-21, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11

 

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Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [1]

God the Father and the Holy Spirit confirm Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and then the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  I wonder if the Spirit is still in the form of a dove, flying ahead; leading Jesus into the desert.  Jesus goes into the wilderness as “Israel reduced to one” to finish what the Israelites failed to do when they were led by Moses into the wilderness to be tested for 40 years.  The Israelites fail, Jesus succeeds and defeats the devil and easily resists the devil’s threefold temptation.

It is attractive for us to look at this account of Jesus and the devil in the wilderness and think that it is a lesson for us as to how we can resist temptations from the devil, but that is not what this account is about.  Jesus versus the devil is a whole different fight card than you versus the devil.

Jesus is the sinless Son of God; He is God in flesh. He is not infected by original sin which infects all the children of Adam.  Romans 5:12 (ESV) 12 … sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin…[2]  Jesus does not have an earthly father and did not inherit original sin.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd come to lay down His life for the sheep and then be raised from the dead to defeat Satan.  Jesus comes to defeat the devil for all eternity.

The devil is a fallen angel.  Likely an archangel who, jealous of God’ authority, rebelled against God and brought a third of the angels with him as his evil angels or demons.  The devil is an angel and has the power of an angel.  He has many names.  The devil, which means slanderer; false accuser.  Satan, which means adversary.  Beelzebub, which is from the Hebrew and literally means lord of the flies.  He is a tempter. He is a liar.  He is an accuser.  The devil is powerful.  There is power to be found in the devil’s darkness, but it is a muted power; a limited power.  The devil can work false signs and wonders to distract and deceive people.  He tries to impress people with his parlor tricks.

Now, the devil is more powerful than you or I, but the devil’s power is no match for Jesus.  Despite great hunger after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness Jesus easily overcomes the devil.  Jesus is faithful Israel.  Jesus is victor over Satan on behalf of Israel and ultimately on behalf of all people.  Jesus is the faithful Son of God and He is victorious over the devil in the wilderness.  The devil then has to be more subtle and try to derail Jesus’ way to the cross.  We see this when Peter tells Jesus that He will not let Jesus go to the cross and Jesus tells Peter, “Get behind me Satan.”  At Jesus’ resurrection from the dead the devil’s defeat is profound.  He is angry that he could not stop Jesus and now he is going after the followers of Jesus. He is going after you.

While Jesus’ temptation is not a how-to for you to resist temptation, you can learn something, for indeed you are also tempted by the devil. Matthew 10:24 (ESV) 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.[3]

One of the devil’s deceptions is to get you to doubt that the devil even exists.  In our ever-so-smart, so sophisticated modern times it is not cool to believe in the devil and demons.  The so-called “smart people” know that the devil and demons are just silly superstitions from medieval times.  But we see the devil’s handiwork all over.  The devil’s influence is tremendous.  Evil is called good.  Unrestrained lust and debauchery are encouraged, and babies are sacrificed on the altar of sexual freedom.  Marriages are being destroyed by selfishness and anger.  God’s design for marriage is being redefined to a contract between any two or more individuals.  There is a culture of addiction fueled and encouraged by those who seek to profit regardless of the human cost.  Hatred is fomented and used as a political tool.  Families and churches and communities are torn up through conflict. Folks believe their value is based on how much they own and what labels are on their clothing.  People believe they are good enough.  They don’t need forgiveness of sins, they don’t need Jesus, they don’t need His church.  The devil’s work can be seen all around us and yet we are told that we are fools to believe in the devil.

There are many people whose houses are inhabited by evil spirits after someone invited the demons in by tapping into the power of darkness.  Folks do this by using Ouija Boards, Tarot Cards, holding séances and opening other doorways to evil.  The devil is very active in the world and yet he wants you to believe he doesn’t even exist.  Because if the devil does not exist, then there really isn’t temptation.  There is really isn’t evil.  There really isn’t sin.  There really is no need for Jesus.

If getting you to doubt his existence doesn’t work, the devil will try to get you to doubt that Jesus really is the Son of God; God in flesh.  This is in the wording the devil uses with Jesus and it is found in just one little word, “if”.  “If you are the son of God…”  Just as in the wilderness temptation Jesus is tempted by the words, “If you are the son of God,” we see this again at the cross with those passing by, taunting Jesus saying, Matthew 27:40 (ESV) 40 … If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”[4]

We too are tempted to reject Jesus’ identity as the son of God because if Jesus is not the son of God then His death doesn’t mean anything and His resurrection is just a myth.  If Jesus is not the son of God He is just another crazy teacher making things up and you can ignore Him and be Lord of your own life.

Now, if the devil cannot get you to doubt his own existence or doubt that Jesus is the son of God, the devil will use his original temptation that worked with Eve and Adam.  He will try to get you to doubt the Word of God.  “Did God actually say?”  We have God’s Word but we are under constant pressure to mold it and shape it to our own desires rather than molding and shaping our desires to God’s Word.  The devil tempts Eve to be like God and it is the same temptation for you.  You want to have the authority to determine what is right and wrong rather than God having that authority.

And so you need to stay on guard against the devil and his lies, but you stay on guard knowing that you are not battling the devil on your own.  Just as the devil was outmatched going head to head with Jesus you are outmatched if you go head to head with the devil.  As a baptized child of God you are not left alone to battle Satan and that is good because the devil has had a lot of practice and he knows your weak spots.  You need Jesus, and you have Jesus.

Jesus has already defeated the devil; in the wilderness; at the cross, and at the empty tomb.  Victorious Jesus is on your side.  So you don’t battle the devil alone.  You put on the full armor God provides and take your stand against the devil. You are protected by Jesus.

The devil and his demons are very real and very active. Peter warns about the enemy.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[5]

So beware of the devil’s temptations, be honest about your own weak spots, and keep up your guard.  Know that the devil and his demons are active in the world, be watchful, but do not fear.  For you have the victorious son of God on your side, and Jesus has already won the war. In Christ you are safe from the devil and his lies and accusations.  Stay connected to Christ and you are safe from the devil.

Amen

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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