Luke 4:1-13 (Lent 1C)

St. John, Galveston 3/6/2022

Rev. Alan Taylor

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The subject, or the theme, if you will, for the first Sunday in Lent is always the same. As you know, Lent is a penitential season. A season in which we reflect on the struggles we face in this world as people of faith. As is always the case, on this first Sunday of the season, we are reminded of our struggle with temptation and particularly with the various temptations that come to us from the prince of darkness, the devil himself.  

And so, once again we begin our Lenten journey by hearing about Jesus’ temptation at the hand of the devil. The devil threw various temptations at Jesus, sometimes even contorting and twisting the Word of God. In every case, Jesus stood firm against the wiles of the devil by standing with the true Word of God. “(The devil) took him (Luke says) to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘ He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

One of the things we are to learn from Jesus’ temptation is how to handle temptation ourselves. Again, in every case, He stood firmly with the Word of God. The words of His Father were to Him a shield and a defense. For us too, it is a good thing to stand with the Word of God when temptation comes. And yet, we know deep down that, try as we may, we are still going to fail from time to time in our battle against temptation. I don’t say that to set up some sort of a defeatist attitude. Rather, I tell you that because it’s the truth. I suppose what I’m really getting at is that, the Gospel writers account of Jesus’ temptation is not in the Scriptures simply to give us a model of how to behave. Remember, a model of behavior, while good in itself, is still rooted, or grounded in the Law. This is what Jesus did, so this is what you and I should do too.    

I think there are three things about Jesus’ temptation that go beyond Him establishing a model for us to follow. Again, the model is good, but there is more here than the model. These other aspects of Jesus’ temptation are the purest of Gospel. These are the things that will comfort you when you’ve given into temptation, when you’ve succumbed to it, when you find yourself relating to St. Paul, who said, “the good that I would do, I don’t do. The very evil that I hate, this is what I do.”

The first thing to take note of is the proximity of Jesus’ temptation to His baptism. Three of the four Gospel writers give us an account of Jesus’ temptation, and in all three cases, they move directly from the account of His baptism to His temptation. 

Baptism both marks you for assaults from the devil and gives you the strength to live as a newborn child of God. Whatever battles you face in life against the devil would be very brief were it not for the power given to you in your baptism. It is in and through your baptism that the words of that great reformation hymn that we sang just a few moments ago are absolutely certain and true. I’m thinking particularly of verse 3… 

“Though devils all the world should fill,

All eager to devour us, 

We tremble not, we fear no ill;

They shall not overpower us.

This world’s prince may still

Scowl fierce as he will, 

He can harm us none.

He’s judged the deed is done;

One little word can fell him.”

So, like Jesus, whatever temptation you face in life, you do so as the baptized of God. “He’s by your side, upon the plain, with His good gifts and Spirit and He holds the field forever.” 

There are two other things about Jesus’ temptation that are closely connected to the Old Testament and to God’s plan to save the world from sin and death. The first has to do with the comparison between Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness and Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Now, as I’m sure you know, Israel came to the end of their 40 years in the wilderness having failed miserably in the eyes of God. You may recall, with the exception of Joshua, they all died in the wilderness with this rather somber epithet of God. 

Jesus though is the New Israel. Where God’s people failed, He did not! Where they proved to be unfaithful, He proved to be perfectly faithful. Mind you, pointing out this perfect faithfulness of Jesus isn’t to make you feel guilty for your unfaithfulness. Rather, it is to remind you that His perfect faithfulness is credited TO YOU. Which is to say, He is your substitute in righteousness and purity. 

The place of your baptism in facing temptation is critically important, as is seeing Jesus as the New Israel, your substitute in righteousness and purity. 

There is one more thing to take note of in Jesus’ temptation at the hands of the devil. As you know, there was a man who faced temptation from the devil many, many years ago. As with Jesus, the devil contorted and twisted God’s word. And, for whatever reason, Adam came to doubt God’s Word. In doing so, he thrust the whole world into sin and death, such that each of us was born in the image and likeness of Adam. Indeed,

“All mankind fell in Adam’s fall; 

One common sin infects us all.

From one to all the curse descends,

And over all God’s wrath impends.”

The contrast between the temptation of the first Adam and Jesus is evident. Jesus’ too faced temptation at the hands of the devil, but, unlike Adam, He emerged victorious. The point is, precisely where Adam yielded and Israel failed, Jesus, Son of God, stood firm. If the the lingering effect of the failure of the first Adam brings you sorrow and struggle, how much more the victory of the second Adam brings you joy and victory! 

Comparing Jesus to Adam, St. Paul says elsewhere, “as one trespass led to condemnation for all men (that is, Adam’s trespass), so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men (that is, of course, Jesus’ act of righteousness). For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

Aside from giving you a model for how to handle temptation in your life, this account of Jesus’ temptation at the hand of the devil, draws your attention to three Gospel promises. First, you are the baptized of God! You are a new creation and for you fights the Valiant One who God Himself elected. At the same time, Jesus is your substitute, both as the New Israel and as the second Adam. Where they both failed He emerged victorious. And, even now, His righteous victory over the devil is credited to you. Indeed, “as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +