Summary: Let us always be thankful for God's grace in Jesus Christ.

Not by Bread Alone

Matthew 4:1-11

We have now come to the Christian season of Lent, which is a forty-day reflection upon one’s life and its relation to Jesus Christ. It is to be observed as a time of fasting and prayer. The 40 days reflects the 40 days that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and serves to call us there to see Him. People often give up something they like at Lent to remember what Jesus gave up when He came to earth as well as the things He suffered. The reading of the Temptation happens the first Sunday in Lent. In this year, this reading comes from the 4th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this event, although Mark’s account is very short. This occurs immediately after His baptism by John the Baptist. It reads that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the Judaean wilderness. It is interesting that Mark said that Jesus was forcible thrust into the wilderness using a vivid present tense verb which invites us to see the event in person. There means that Jesus’s going into the wilderness was a must for Him. We must remember that Jesus was tie divine Son of God. But we also hold that Jesus was as fully human as we are. The Judaean wilderness might as well have been the surface of the moon. It was hostile desert in which temperatures would soar in the daytime and plummet at night. Matthew brings this out by saying “40 days and 40 nights” when he simply could have said “forty days” or “forty days and nights.” The repeating of the number 40 gives emphasis of the severity of the temptation. The heat of the day in the dry desert would drive desperation for what little shade could be found. The nights were cold, and it was the time that wild beasts like jackals, lions and bears would hunt. Matthew does not mention these wild beasts, but Mark in his account does.

The text says that Jesus are nothing during the 40 days. This is similar to the 40 days that Moses ate nothing for 40 days on Mt. Sinai. This is at the extreme of human endurance. Many people would have died from hunger in less than 40 days, and those who have gone on hunger strikes and lived have suffered many serious consequences as one’s own organs and muscles for food. Considering that Jesus was in the hostile and dry wilderness, the effects upon his body would have been extreme. It does not say that he drank water, but if He did not have water, it would have been impossible for Him to have survived unless the Father miraculously sustained His human body. When we think of the Temptation, it corresponds to the 40 years that Israel spent in the Sinai wilderness. They would not have been able to survive that experience apart from the intervention of the LORD who provided manna to eat and revealed sources of water. But Jesus did not even have this physical food. After 40 days and 40 nights, he was more than just hungry. He was exhausted and at the point of physical death.

It is at this point of extreme physical weakness and vulnerability that Satan appears to tempt Him. There is a similarity to the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But there are differences. Adam and Eve were well-cared for and were in a garden. Jesus was at the other extreme of existence which made His temptation far more difficult to resist, humanly speaking. Bur Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way we were, yet without sin. This does not mean that He suffered every temptation, but rather that He was tempted to the extreme, more than any person has ever been tempted. This is an example of the statement in Hebrews that Jesus, the author of our salvation was made perfect through the things He suffered. How Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation determined the fate of humanity as a whole. The “second Adam” had to undo the damage done by Adam and Eve’s failure in the Garden. Romans 5 seems to indicate that He succeeded in this and more. Because of Jesus’s obedience, our disobedience in Adam is cancelled if we believe in Him. We shall also be in a higher position than Adam had in the Garden. (For more on this, see “The Superabundance of Grace” in this sermon archive.)

Jesus also relives the Exodus experience of Israel. Israel was disobedient to Yahweh on many occasions. As a result, all but Joshua and Caleb died, and only the children could enter earthly Canaan. They were tempted in the wilderness and failed. Christ was tempted and successfully resisted. As a result, his obedience and righteousness becomes our obedience and righteousness when we believe on Jesus. By extension, Jesus also relives our lives, as we too were disobedient and rebellious. This is the basis of our hope. The fancy theological term for this is recapitulation. God sees us in Christ and not we in ourselves. There is an emphatic statement in Jeremiah which talks about the new covenant. It says that as a result of this covenant that our sins will absolutely never be remembered any more by God. This troubles us a bit as we affirm that God is all knowing. How could an all-knowing God ever forget anything? We must affirm that nothing is impossible with God, even that which we intellectually and morally state that God can not or would not do. We read that God cannot change. Yet God becomes flesh. This is indeed a great mystery. We like to say that God acts as if we never sinned even though He still knows we have. But what if God actually forgets our sin? It would be because in Christ they never happened. Christ revises the history of our trespasses and sins. His obedience has cancelled them. They are not just forgiven, but forgotten.

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