1st Sunday in Lent
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 4:1-13 Sermon
February 25, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
561 “In The Hour Of Trial, Jesus Plead For Me”
537 “O Master Let Me Walk With Thee”
559 “My Soul Be On Thy Guard”
379 “Rock Of Ages, Cleft For Me”
JESUS KNEW HE WAS ALIVE
TEXT (vs. 1-2a): “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”
If you were to go to Australia, you would encounter various terms and expressions which would be unfamiliar to you. This morning, I’m going to share one of those expressions with you. “He doesn’t know that he’s alive.” Or it could be “She doesn’t know she’s alive.” Do you have any idea what that could mean?
Okay, I’ll explain it to you. If somebody’s situation in life is better than normal, or if someone just doesn’t realize how good they have it, then the Australians will infer that particular person doesn’t know that they’re alive. I’ll give you an example.
One gentleman I knew by the name of Charlie used to be a mechanic who worked on busses. He worked on them outdoors, in whatever the weather. I know that wasn’t the greatest working environment.
Charlie retired; and after some time had passed, the business grew. The bus company moved to better headquarters, where they had an enclosed workshop and all of the proper tools and equipment. When Charlie saw all of this, he made the comment: “These men don’t know they’re alive!” “They should have worked under the same conditions I did, so they would appreciate how nice they have it now!”
As I studied our text for today, this expression immediately came to mind. Our Gospel lesson for today is the account of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness for forty days. Jesus experienced the best (or perhaps more accurately, the worst) that Satan could throw at him. In the Australian sense of the phrase, Jesus definitely knew he was alive. Let’s keep this in mind as we do a little background exploration.
The first Sunday in Lent has some historical significance. Way back in the days of the early Christian Church when the Church calendar was being formulated, this was the topic appointed for this Sunday. The forty days of Lent corresponded directly with the forty days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. The church fathers thought that the forty days of Jesus’ temptation should be marked with forty days of repentance and preparation for Good Friday and Easter. Since the focus of the Christian’s Sunday worship has always been like a “little Easter” so-to-speak, they were not counted in the forty days of Lent. That’s why it takes us forty-six calendar days to get through those forty days. That’s also why we call them “Sundays IN Lent,” and not “Sundays OF Lent.”
This focus has remained the same throughout the history of the Christian Church, right down to the present day. Even with the advent of the three year cycle of Scripture lessons, this account has always been the same. In cycle A, we read Matthew’s account. In cycle B, we read Mark’s account. And this year in cycle C, we are reading Luke’s account. But it’s the same story, nevertheless.
Jesus’ time alone in the wilderness is also the reason people give things up for Lent. Some people think they should make themselves suffer a bit because Jesus did. And so you have people giving up all sorts of things for Lent—things like certain foods, or watching TV, or any of a variety of things that we might like to call “life’s little pleasures.”
I was visiting with another Lutheran pastor awhile back, and he told me that he was friends with the local Catholic Priest in the small town where he lived. The Priest was a real choclo-holic. He really loved his chocolate. So every Lent, this Priest would give up eating chocolate until after Easter. And I guess he was pretty tenacious about it too.
So every Ash Wednesday, this Lutheran Pastor would go out and buy a huge box of chocolates, and go and visit the Priest at the rectory. He would open the box, and show it to the Priest. “Boy these chocolates sure look delicious,” he’d say. “Mmmm….can’t you just smell them? Can’t you imagine how good one would taste right now?” Of course he’d eat one, just to torment the Priest a little bit more.
Now these guys were friends, and it was all done in fun. I know the Priest got his jabs in at the Lutheran Pastor when he had the chance. But I also know that this was a temptation for the Priest. So in a small way at least, in the Australian sense, this Priest (Father Mike was his name), knew he was alive.
Now if somebody wants to give up something for Lent as a type of devotional aid, I don’t really have a problem with that. But to do so with the attitude that you are pleasing God by “suffering a little,” or that you are somehow equating depriving yourself of something with Jesus’ time in the wilderness, then it smacks of self-righteousness.
No place in the Bible does God tell us that we have to give up something for Lent. And for people to somehow infer that it would be a sin to eat meat on Friday for example, is binding a conscience in an area where it cannot be bound. Father Mike probably thought he would be sinning if he ate chocolate during Lent.
Thankfully we live under the freedom of the Gospel, and not the bondage of the Law. There are no special laws that go into effect during Lent. We are free to eat whatever we would normally eat, and have a clear conscience. We aren’t going to hell because we ate a few pieces out of a Whitman’s Sampler box, or because we had a T-bone steak on Friday during Lent. Man-made rules and regulations are of no consequence as far as God is concerned.
So let’s get back to Jesus in the wilderness. Our text tells us that while he was there for the forty days, he had nothing to eat—not one scrap or morsel of anything. Our text also tells us that he was hungry. Well, who wouldn’t be?
God wouldn’t be hungry, that’s for sure. God doesn’t need to eat. He doesn’t feel hunger or pain or any of that kind of stuff. Jesus was certainly true God.
But the fact that Jesus felt hunger points up the fact that Jesus was also true man. He was fully human, with human feelings and emotions. That also meant that he felt human temptation, like any other human would feel.
Jesus became Satan’s number one target. If he could get Jesus to succumb to just one of his temptations, then he would win. The world would be forever his. Jesus would have failed his mission. Mankind would be eternally doomed.
So Satan hits him where he knew Jesus would be at his weakest. The actual consumption of food wasn’t necessarily the big issue here; rather it was listening to and obeying the command of Satan. In the Old Testament, Jacob was able to get Esau to trade his birthright for a bowl of lentil beans. It’s amazing what people will do or what they will surrender for food on account of hunger. Jesus knew hunger, but he wasn’t about to throw it all away just for some food. He could basically eat anytime he wanted to, but not at the behest of Satan.
The second temptation must have been just as hard for Jesus to deal with. Satan showed him all the kingdoms of the world and promised to give them to Jesus if he would only bow down and worship him, even just for an instant.
Jesus knew what all those kingdoms looked like. He could see the sin, the vice, the hurt, the suffering, and all of the problems going on. It would be like a father watching his family being tortured. And Satan promised Jesus that he could have them all to himself, for just one brief compromise, just one second of homage, just one word of worship.
That temptation is still with us today, and in a very big way. Satan readily tells us that we can be at peace with all people. All we need do is surrender our faithfulness to God's Word. So what if not everyone agrees with the Bible one hundred per cent. As long as they agree on the really important articles of doctrine, what difference does it make if there are some minor discrepancies with the Bible? The important thing is that we all get along, right? So what if we don't agree with a few minor points of God's Word?
Do you want to be the one who determines which part of the Bible is minor? I don't. Some people today seem to believe that God's commandments concerning sexual purity are minor. Some people seem to think that murdering infants before they are born is minor. Where does it end? At what point will we decide that the entire Bible is minor and not worth studying?
When we take it upon ourselves to determine that something in the Bible is minor, we are committing the most flagrant kind of idolatry. When we trivialize a part of God's Word, we are making ourselves equal with God. In fact, we are trying to place ourselves above God by arrogantly judging His Word. We are falling into Satan's trap. Satan would have us place peace and unity with the children of this world above our peace and unity with God.
When we make God's Word a minor detail, we disarm ourselves in the presence of Satan. Paul writes to the Ephesians in chapter 6 verse 17, "Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." The Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, is the one and only offensive weapon we have against Satan which is at our disposal.
Notice how Jesus used God’s Word in today's gospel: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'" "It is said, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" God's Word is the weapon Jesus used to stop Satan. It is the weapon God has given us. How dare we throw it in a corner and let it get dusty and rusty?
God's Word is the means that the Holy Spirit uses to produce and sustain faith in us. The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 1 verses 16-17: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”
Jesus knew he was alive. He felt every temptation we could ever imagine. He came to this earth and walked the proverbial mile in our shoes, so-to-speak. Hebrews 4,15 puts it well: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin.”
Jesus withstood all of Satan’s temptations. For everything Satan threw at him, Jesus used the same Word we have at our disposal today to fend off his attacks.
When we see our Saviour in the wilderness, we see just how far he was willing to go on our behalf. He stood up to Satan on our behalf, so when we are attacked, and even those times when we stumble and fall, we will find forgiveness. When we come to Jesus in faith, we will find the open arms of acceptance and not condemnation.
In a sense, Adam and Eve handed the world over to Satan when they listened to his voice and did his bidding. Sin entered into the world through that one act of disobedience.
But Jesus came to buy back all of the souls in Satan’s worldly domain. He didn’t accomplish this by succumbing to Satan’s temptations. Rather, he took the sins of the world upon himself and carried them all the way to Calvary. He did this, so that through nothing but faith alone, we would be freed of our sins and restored into God’s family forever.
What are you giving up for Lent this year? Don’t worry about giving up chocolate, or other trivial things. Give your sins over to your Saviour, for he has already borne the punishment for them. Give them to him who knows your humanity, so through faith in him, you will receive the new life he has earned for you.