1 Lent, Proper B1
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 1:9-15 Sermon
February 22, 2015

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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & With One Voice):
TLH 276 "Come Unto Me, Ye Weary"
TLH 446 "Rise, My Soul, To Watch & Pray"
WOV 657 "The Glory Of These Forty Days"
TLH 356 "Jesus Saviour Come To Me"  


TEXT: (vs. 12-13) ďAt once the Spirit sent [Jesus] out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him

            I was listening to a program on the radio a week or so ago, where a man was explaining temptation in his life.  I didn't hear the whole program so I'm not sure exactly what his particular temptations were; maybe he didn't elaborate on them at all.  But I found it interesting that he was equating his life's temptations with doughnuts.  That's right, doughnuts, those lovely circles of fried dough with a hole in the middle and covered with glaze.  Just by my sheer consumption of them over my lifetime, I'm probably an expert about doughnuts, especially consuming them.

            From what this man was saying however, doughnuts were a huge temptation in his life and had caused him some problems.  I believe that he was diabetic, which should be enough of a deterrent in itself.  And I think there was an allergy problem too.  So indulging in doughnuts presented some rather serious health risks for him.

            For the most part, he has been able to eliminate them from his diet; but doing so was no easy task.  A box of doughnuts sitting on the table was the type of temptation he found almost impossible to resist.

            He explained that the various temptations to sin in his life were like that box of doughnuts.  They looked inviting, and they smelled good.  They were fresh and hot, and dripping with glaze; and when he took a bite, they just literally dissolved in his mouth.  But afterward, the results were anything but pleasant.  Those doughnuts were no longer the sweet treat they had been.  Just like temptation and sin, when it infects our souls, it isn't sweet at all; in fact, sin is a soul-destroying thing.

            While I'm on the subject of doughnuts, I'm going to share a short story with you about how a young girl learned her lesson.  Lita Hix, a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, shared this anecdote from her life: 

            "In 1973, when I was 10 years old, I lived in Carlisle, Pa.  One morning at Sunday School,  my friend and I were dispatched to the supply room for paper.  On our way, we passed the [pastor's office], and there on a table sat an inviting box of doughnuts.

            Should we do it?  No, better not. They sure did look good, though. We looked up and down the hall, made sure no one was coming, then tiptoed into the [office] and each grabbed a doughnut.  I took a chocolate-covered glazed one.

            Later that morning, I was in church; and as I sat in the pew listening to the service, I suddenly felt queasy.  That queasiness began to well up in my throat; and the next minute I was running out the door of the church.  You can guess what happened next.

            After that experience, I not only forever remembered stealing was wrong, but I never again questioned the existence of God."

            As we look at our Gospel reading for today, I'm going to begin by quoting another Bible passage, one that helps us make sense out of all this.  In Hebrews chapter 4, verses 14-16 we read:   "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

            Jesus was tempted in every way like we are, and his temptations were strong too, probably a lot stronger than we would ever experience.  And because of his temptations, he knows and fully understands what we go through.  We might think to ourselves, "Oh Jesus, you have no idea what it's like to be me.  I'm sinful, I'm lured by temptations, I'm overcome by the world, and I'm in a big mess."

            But the truth of the matter is that he DOES have an idea.  He does know!  He has experienced it, and he has felt it.  The verses from Hebrews that I just read says very clearly that Jesus was "...one who in every respect has been tempted as we are."  That's every respect, and not just the odd temptation here and there.

            Our text for today is the account of exactly how that happened.  Our Gospel reading from Mark doesn't go into detail as to how Jesus was tempted; for those details we have to go to Matthew's or Luke's Gospel.  Mark gives us the broader outline beginning with Jesus' Baptism by John in the Jordan River.  He receives the Holy Spirit at his Baptism, which in his case happens visually for the benefit of all to see.  And now he is well-equipped to tackle Satan with every weapon at his disposal.  Jesus heads out into the wilderness for forty days, and the devil is ready to attack.

            Hunger is a very real human thing.  We need to eat, and we know when it is time to do it.  It's like that fuel gauge on the dashboard of our car.  When we are running on empty, the needle points to the "E" on the gauge, and we might even have a warning light. 

            Our bodies tell us when we need to eat; and the longer it goes, the stronger those pangs are.  We might also get headaches, or start to get shaky, or show other effects of hunger.  It's a very real thing.

            As Jesus is experiencing this, Satan begins to work.  How do you think you'd feel if you were starving hungry, and somebody waved a box of fresh, hot doughnuts in front of your nose?  If it were me and I was starving, I'd probably scarf down all those doughnuts, and chase it with the box.

            Jesus replies to this temptation in the same way he explains it in John chapter 6, which is what we know as the "Bread of Life" chapter.  Verse 27 reads, "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you."  There are certainly more important things in life than the food on your plate, even doughnuts.

            If we go down the list of the temptations being thrown at Jesus, Satan tries to convince him that he can throw all common sense out the window because he is invincible.  God will protect him, won't he?  Even if he jumps from the pinnacle of the temple into the valley below?  That's a jump that would be fatal to anybody.

            I think that everybody at one time or another in their life also have feelings of invincibility.  We think that the warnings are there for everybody but us.  Granted that our age has some bearing on the type of risks we take.  But if we think about, it we all have taken our share of unnecessary risks thinking that God will make everything turn out okay regardless of how foolish we are.  And that is tempting God.

            One example of this that comes to mind is a dear lady by the name of Esther, a very intelligent and practical person.  One day we were sitting at the kitchen table having a visit.  I was surprised when she informed me that she decided to cancel all of her insurance except what the law required her to have on her car and just trust the Lord.  That was everything; her homeowners, her collision and comprehensive, and she even cashed in all her life insurance.  I guess she would have still had her Medicare, but that was it.

            I told her that there is a huge difference between trusting God and tempting him.  God wants us to be good stewards of our money, to take care of our families, and to make wise financial decisions.  I talked about Satan tempting Jesus.  I also quoted Luke 14:28 where Jesus says, "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?"

            As far as I was concerned, she had crossed the line from trusting to tempting, but she disagreed.  She passed away about five years ago at the age of 91; and as far as I know, she never changed her insurance situation.  I just hope that her decision didn't create a big financial burden for her children and their families.

            The final temptation was one that snares so many people in our world.  Satan tempted Jesus with power and wealth.  It was a rather inane idea of Satan to tempt Jesus this way.  In Haggai chapter 2 verse 8, we read some very simple and straight-forward words:  "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts."   And Psalm chapter 24 verse 1 says, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein..."

            How could Satan give Jesus what was already his in the first place?  But he tried anyway.

            In Luke chapter 17 verse 1, Jesus tells his disciples:  "Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!"  It's a fact of life.  Temptations will come to us all, and there's just no getting around it.  Jesus says that this is sure, that it is certain.  Therefore, we have to deal with it.

            We pray in the Lord's prayer "Lead us not into temptation."  We know that God doesn't tempt us to sin; rather, we want God to protect us during those times of trial when temptations are the strongest.  James chapter 1 verses 13-14 explain temptation this way:  "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."  

            We know that temptation begets sin, and that's a big problem for us.  So as we move on to the last two verses of our Gospel lesson for today, verses 14 and 15, we read:  "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,  and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'"

            That word "Gospel" is so important, because it is the word of God's good news to us.  When we are tempted to sin, and when we give into that temptation, the last thing we need to hear are words of condemnation.  Jesus endured temptations far beyond what we will ever know; the comfort we get is that Jesus knows exactly what is happening.  And the best part is that when we believe the Gospel, we are forgiven.  All of that past rubbish is gone, and we are given a clean slate.  Jesus endured what he did because he loves us.  He did it on our behalf, and he paid the price it took to secure our salvation. 

            This past week, a fellow pastor Emailed me a study he was doing.  I'm going to quote some excerpts about what he said with regard to forgiveness and the Church's role. 

            "How does the Church live together day in and day out?  It isnít programs, musicians, leadership, [or] spiritual giftedness.  Rather, the Church lives and breathes in the environment of forgiveness.  There is no short-cut, not a handy bypass to avoid dealing with sin.  Ignoring sin will foster an atmosphere of approval of sin.  Refusing to forgive leads to arrogance, on the one hand, and the desire to cover sins, on the other. No, dealing with sin can be done in no other way than through forgiveness.... It means forgiving, even in the midst of a crisis. It means letting God have the first word and the last word.

            Forgiveness is not the same as saying, 'Oh thatís okay.'  No, the reality of sin is that it is destructive of people, relationships, and especially [their] relationship with God.   When we as Christians face sin, it can be unpleasant.  But, forgiving sin is restorative, it is the mending of broken relationships, and it is foremost the bringing together [of] the forgiven sinner and the God who forgives."

            The devil tries to destroy relationships, and he does it through temptation that leads to sin.  When Jesus went into the wilderness for those forty days, he knew what was ahead of him.  He knew the devil would make every attempt to derail Jesus and keep him from the purpose he came to fulfill.  And since Jesus was fully human as well as fully God, Satan knew that he could be tempted. 

            Remember those words from Hebrews chapter 4 I quoted earlier?  Here are verses 15-16 once again:  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

            Do you hear that?  Jesus knows about all of our weaknesses when it comes to temptation and sin.  But there is that invitation, the assurance of mercy and grace, the promise of help in our time of need.  As many times as we have been tempted and we have sinned, God tells us to come to him, not cowering out of fear, but with confidence.  And when we do that, we won't find words of condemnation and rejection and damnation.  No, instead we find God's grace; we receive mercy, and we receive help.  But most importantly, we have a restored relationship with God through our faith in Jesus.

            In the beginning, I talked about doughnuts and how one man used that as an illustration for temptations in life.  It may sound a bit simplistic, but I think it's something we can all understand.  I know I can.

            When I drive down the street and I come to Dunkin Doughnuts, do I drive by or do I head for the drive through window?  If I go to the drive through, do I order just a cup of black coffee, or do I order a couple of "cronuts" to go with it?  And am I happy with just coffee and a couple cronuts, or do I order an extra dozen to take home with me?  It's a simple illustration, but you can see how the whole thing can snowball into something much bigger.  And it's all because I am like a lot of people, I find doughnuts very tempting.  It was even worse when I lived in Atlanta and I would pass a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop when they had their "hot doughnuts now" sign lit up in the window.  That was temptation that was almost too strong to resist!

            Temptations will always be with us; and with temptation comes sin.  But the church is in the business of forgiveness and restoration, assuring repentant sinners everywhere that the Gospel is for them and that they are loved and accepted by Jesus.   But most importantly, that message is for you and for me, and our relationship with God is now restored.