Summary: Year C. 1st Sunday of Lent March 4th, 2001

Year C. 1st Sunday of Lent

March 4th, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Heavenly Father empower each of us here at Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church to know our identity as your children through our baptism. Amen.

Title: “Identity Crisis” Luke 4: 1-13

Jesus went into the wilderness prompted by the Holy Spirit, fasted and prayed for forty days, was tempted by the devil three times, and overcame each temptation after consulting Scripture.

At his baptism Jesus was revealed as God’s Son and given God’s Spirit. He now goes off alone, presumably to figure out what that all means and how he will conduct his life in fulfillment of it. From the three Scriptural quotes, Deuteronomy, 8:3; 6: 13, 16, Jesus gives in response to the temptations or challenges to his identity as the Son of God, we can conclude that Jesus was reflecting on God’s revealed word. These quotes come from the section of Deuteronomy where Israel is in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land and deal with their temptations to put too much stock in food and material things, to worship other gods, and to test God. The same temptations Israel gave into, Jesus overcame. By this scene Jesus is teaching how his followers are to overcome temptation by imitating him, that is, by consulting Scripture and thereby letting the Holy Spirit overcome the evil spirits. The Spirit’s presence becomes powerful when that Spirit is united with the Word. The Word puts into human language the otherwise unutterable and inexpressible interpretation of the Spirit. In Luke’s telling the story the physical surroundings of the desert recede in importance and are superceded by their spiritual and metaphorical meaning. Luke points out that it is when Jesus was alone with God that he was most tempted to misinterpret God’s will and adjust it to fit his present and human preferences. The devil himself tried, by misinterpreting a quote from Psalm 91, to get Jesus to do something wrong, while at the same time claiming divine inspiration for it! The Word without the Spirit or the Spirit without the Word is fertile ground for the devil. Jesus knew that better than anybody. These temptations made perfect sense as means to achieve his God-given goals. However, in the light of Scripture, they were wrong. This story shows that Jesus refused to achieve his legitimate Godly goals through illegitimate ungodly means.

In verse one, “into the desert”: The physical terrain is intended as a metaphor for a person’s innermost experience, especially a “place” of horror, loneliness and danger. The “desert” is life’s proving grounds where a person faces life and its challenges without supports, except, of course, for the support of the Spirit, should a person accept it.

“For forty days”: God’s people wandered through the desert for forty years. The Exodus experience is in the background of Jesus’ experience, only condensed and more intense. Forty days does not stand for a chronological number but for an indeterminate, yet measurable amount of time. Like the terrain, the timeframe is metaphorical.

“To be tempted”: The word used here means both “trial” and “test.” While the devil is trying to make Jesus fall out of his relationship with his Father and others, God is, at the same time, using the devil to “test” and strengthen Jesus” and, by implication, anyone’s faith and obedience.

Devil: Even “devil” is meant as a metaphor for evil. Evil, the “devil,” is not a person, but a spiritual reality which takes many forms of disguise, even the “voice” of God. When wrongly understood as God’s “voice,” the devil is never stronger or more dangerous.

In verse three, “command this stone to become bread”: It would be the rare human who had this temptation. Humans cannot change stones into bread, but Jesus was apparently aware that he indeed had such extraordinary power as God’s Son. And he was, humanly speaking, hungry. He hears an inner “voice” and must discern whether it is from God or the devil. It seems perfectly logical that if he has the power to magically transform stones into bread, why not? Is not the goal a good one? Shouldn’t he by-pass his humanity and use his divinity for his personal satisfaction?

One does not live by bread alone: according to Scripture, Deuteronomy 8:3, gives him God’s perspective as well as his strength. Jesus lets that awareness, that perspective, compare with his awareness of physical hunger and that awareness wins, for it reveals that there is more to life than food and, in the subsequent verses, clothing and being able-bodied. He chooses hunger over satisfaction and comfort, precisely because he is God’s Son. Remember Jesus had just been told he was the Son of God from the voice of God from heaven-now the Devil is challenging his identity, “If you are the son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” The devil does the same thing to us by challenging us whether or not we have been saved because of our baptism or forgiven by God because of confession and absolution.

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