Summary: A sermon for the 1st Sunday in Lent, series C

1st Sunday in Lent, February 21, 2010, “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, your Word became flesh and lived among us in the person of your Son Jesus the Christ, who was indeed truly human and truly divine. As a human, he, like the rest of us wrestled with temptation by the lures of this world, yet he remained true to his mission of redemption. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us in our temptations today. Keep us from being distracted from you through the lures of this world, and guide us in our walk of faith. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

Our Gospel lesson for this morning is one of those unique texts that give us a true glimpse into the humanity of Jesus. Luke tells us that after Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River, he is led by God’s Spirit into the wilderness, where he is tempted by the devil, or the personification of evil. During those forty days Jesus fasted, which sets up for us the first recorded temptation that Jesus encountered.

Luke begins by telling us a rather obvious fact. “At the end of those forty days of fasting, Jesus was famished.” The devil then slyly approaches Jesus and says to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Well, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. After all, Jesus is the Son of God and he certainly had the ability to turn that stone into bread. But that’s not what he does. Jesus resisted the temptation to use his divine abilities to serve his own human need. But even more important, is the means by which Jesus answered the tempter’s ploy. Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

The devil then led Jesus up to some high pinnacle, in which he showed Jesus all the earthly kingdoms, and suggested to Jesus that he could have the political authority over all of these nations, if he would just worship the devil. But even though Jesus was fully human, he wasn’t seeking earthly authority, or political power. But again, listen to how Jesus answered the devil’s ploy. “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

Finally, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple. Again, he asks Jesus to prove his divinity, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘[God] will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

But Jesus didn’t need to test his divinity. Rather, he simply responded to the devil in the same way that he had responded to him in the previous temptations. Jesus said, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And realizing the steadfast faith of Jesus, Luke tells us that the devil left him until an opportune time.

Did you catch the dynamic that is taking place in these temptation stories? The tempter comes to Jesus, seeking to call into question his divinity, or his loyalty to God. But Jesus doesn’t respond to the tempter from the point of view of his divine nature, as the incarnate Son of God. Rather, Jesus responds out of his humanity, as a person who has been raised a child of Israel.

As Thomas Long points out in his commentary on our text, “Luke tells us that ‘it was his custom’ to go to the synagogue. He did not go only to preach, to stir up the people, or to make a cameo appearance that could be reported in the New Testament. Jesus went to the synagogue Sabbath after Sabbath. He heard the lessons, he learned the teachings of the Torah, he prayed the prayers.

Somehow we have forgotten that even Jesus had to learn about his faith; even Jesus was a student. He was not only the incarnate Son of God, he was also fully human. And during his childhood years and visits to the synagogue, Luke twice tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom, grew in his understanding of the doctrines of his faith.

It should not surprise us to learn, then,” continues Long, “that when Jesus was tested by the devil, when Jesus was pushed against the wall and had his calling and loyalty to God pressed to the limits, he did not defend his faith from the point of view of his divinity, but from his humanity. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy. He quoted truths he had learned as a child, had recited in Sabbath school, and heard time and again in the synagogue. “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” “It is written, ‘Worship only the Lord your God…’” “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” End Quote.

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