Text: Luke 4:1-13
“And lead us not into temptation.” What does this mean? “God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”
Those are Luther’s words in explaining the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Temptation is going to happen; it’s inevitable. It happened to God’s perfect creation – Adam and Eve. Created perfect, holy, without sin, and yet, they succumbed to temptation. You have been tempted and most likely gave into said temptation. You will be tempted and mostly like will give into said temptation. Because of the effects of sin, temptation is very much a part of this creation. As we begin this Lenten season, we see that temptation befalls all of creation, even that of Jesus.
Luke says, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” Just after our Lord’s Baptism, Jesus is tempted. It would seem that that could not happen, not to Jesus. He is God, how can God be tempted? You are correct, Jesus is God. If Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit, how could He be tempted? Jesus, who had the Holy Spirit descend upon Him at His Baptism, could not be tempted. But lest you forget, Jesus is also man, born of woman’s seed as promised to Adam and Eve and to Mary. Jesus is 100% full man and that is what the devil uses to go after Jesus.
One thing that seems a bit off when we read the account of our Lord’s temptation is that in all three accounts of this, the Gospel writes only record three temptations. Does that mean that the devil tempted Jesus, failed to tempt Him, took a break to regroup, and tried to tempt Him again? Absolutely not. The temptations that Jesus faced those forty days were constant, just as the temptations that we face in our lives are constant, probably even more so with Jesus. Tempting Jesus was a big deal, bigger than what you might think. If Jesus could be tempted in the slightest way, then it would mean game over for creation. Giving into the smallest of temptations would negate our Lord’s purpose of entering creation; He no longer could be the sinless sacrifice. To say that this was important to the devil is an understatement.
Looking at these temptations, what is the common thread in them? One deals with hunger, one with worship, and the other testing. At first glance, they don’t seem to have any sort of connection. But look closer at each temptation. The first temptation, hunger, seeks to attack the divinity and the humanity of Christ simultaneously: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Here, the devil challenges the claim that Jesus is the Son of God with the word “if.” Of course Jesus is the Son of God. We see in later accounts in the Gospels of Jesus casting out demons and the demons knowing that Jesus is the Son of God and are fearful of that fact. Do you think that the devil didn’t know who he was dealing with here? Of course he did! But what he said was said with purpose, to do what he does best – instill doubt. It would be absurd that Jesus would doubt His own divinity, but the great temptation was that of His humanity – hunger.
After forty days, Jesus was certainly hungry. To quench His hunger, why not turn the stone to bread, IF Jesus really is the Son of God, because He certainly could do that. And while He could, He doesn’t. To defeat this temptation, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” God’s true Son, in whom He is ever well pleased, will not distrust His Father. He will rest in God’s word, and wait. He will not give into temptation because He knows what is at stake – creation.
The second of the recorded temptations involved authority and worship: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Showing someone all of creation and offering it to them in return for worship might sound tempting to you or me. But for Jesus, the author of creation, this temptation seems to fall flat, as did all the other temptations thrown at Him in the wilderness. How can the devil give to Jesus that which already belongs to Him? And in return, all He needs to do is bow down and worship one who desires worship but doesn’t deserve it. Truly Jesus had come to gain back creation from the Fall, but not in that way; at dreadful cost indeed, but cost of love and suffering, not of character.
For the final recorded temptation, it was all about putting God to the test. Again, it begins by question who Jesus is: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here….” This was about testing God, to see if God would follow thru with what He has said. But every time the devil quoted God’s Word, he didn’t, at least, not in its entirety. He wanted to get out of it what was not in it. In other words, make it say what he wants it to say. He misuses God’s Word as a proof of God’s promise that He will protect us against all danger by letting His angels guard us. Nowhere does God say that we can test his protecting care by exposing ourselves recklessly to danger. However, this is not the most important feature of this temptation. Here the devil challenges Christ to test whether the Word of God is as reliable as Jesus seems to think. He asks Jesus to put the promise of God in Psalm 91 to a test to see if it is true.
After forty days, the devil could not tempt Jesus in any way, despite his single trick – twisting the Word of God. What worked once on Adam and Eve, what worked great on creation and still works great today, could not work on Jesus, for the stakes were too high. The devil knew this was going to be a lost cause, but he had to try regardless. It had already been told him as much: “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
We often fall to the devil’s lies, but Jesus never did. Jesus withstood the devil’s temptation on our behalf. He is our champion. He never sinned. He stayed on the hard road to the cross. Jesus fulfilled every promise God made. Jesus withstood the devil himself in the wilderness of hunger. He endured temptation even to the cross. Jesus never wavered, and in the end, Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil. He rose from the dead. He bought us back with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, earning for us the forgiveness of all of our sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.