Summary: Through our Lord’s Temptation, he reveals what it means to live our lives in faith.
1st Sunday in Lent - February 25, 2007 “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, give us the courage to walk with your Son in faithfulness. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, give us wisdom to recognize the temptations that would lead us astray from a life of faith, and grant us the power to resist them. And as we move through this season of Lent, help us to recognize that the way of the cross is the way to life eternal in your heavenly kingdom. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning is one of those stories in the life of Jesus that is packed full of interesting dynamics that can inspire us on our journey of faith. And the fact that this story occurs at the same point in the life of Christ in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, begs us to listen with interest.
Before Jesus begins his ministry, he goes to John the Baptist, where he is baptized in the Jordan River. And we are told that when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and a voice from heaven declared, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
Isn’t it interesting, that immediately after his baptism, and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him, the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness, where he encounters temptation for forty days. Wouldn’t you think that to receive the presence of God’s Spirit, to hear the voice from heaven confirm his identity as God’s beloved Son, would lead Jesus experience peace and joy, and immediately begin his ministry.
But that didn’t happen. His baptism led Jesus into a struggle with temptation. In his humanity, Jesus was confronted by the tempter who would like to have turned him away from the Spirit’s guidance to walk in harmony with God.
This suggests to me, that those of us who have received the gift of God’s Spirit through our baptism, and proclaimed to be sons and daughters of God’s kingdom, might expect to encounter temptation on our journey of faith as well. After all, if the Spirit is present to encourage us to take up our cross and walk with our Lord in submission to the will of God, we can’t help but be tempted, for the path Jesus walks is often at odds with the ways of our world.
So let’s take a look at the temptations that were put before Jesus. And the first temptation is so subtle, that it often goes unnoticed. The tempter says, “If you are the Son of God…” “If?”
Jesus has just come from his baptism, where he received the gift of God’s Spirit and heard the voice from heaven proclaim him to be the Son of God. “If you are?” Is this not a statement designed to lead Jesus to question the validity of what he experienced at his baptism?
How often this temptation comes to each of us who have received the gift of God’s Spirit in our baptism. I have friends, good friends, who have asked me, “Ron, how do you know that God forgives you? How do you know that there is life after death? Is baptism really important, of is it just a human ritual?”
In all of these questions, there is that subtle voice of the tempter, calling into question the validity of our identity as a baptized child of God. In all of these questions there is that subtle voice of the tempter, calling into question the validity of the voice of God, proclaimed through Scripture, that assures us of God’s forgiving grace, and life beyond the grave.
At the root of all temptation is the seed of doubt, which challenges our belief and trust in the Word of God. And unless I stand alone, [and yes, I know that I’m the only one standing at this moment] we have all wrestled with this temptation on our journey of faith. Yet, as Jesus demonstrates throughout this text, God’s Spirit led him to trust in the word of God as proclaimed in the Scriptures, which enabled him to avoid the tempter’s snare.
For example, consider the temptation for Jesus to use his status as the Son of God to meet his own personal needs. Our text tells us that Jesus fasted – ate nothing- for forty days. And when those days were over, Luke tells us that Jesus was famished. Now there is an understatement if I ever heard one. And just for the record, fasting for forty days is not a diet plan suggested by Scripture.
Nevertheless, the tempter says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Well, I believe that if Jesus could multiply five loaves of bread to feed 5000 people, he could have turned that stone into bread to satisfy his own hunger – but he didn’t!