Summary: A sermon that focuses on temptation while dealing with the questions of "What is Lent all about?"
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘ Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give to whom I will. If you then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him 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 give his angels charge of 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 tempt the Lord your God.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
“What is Lent?”
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. It is quite similar to the season of Advent before Christmas; however it is much less understood. I think Advent is easy for us to understand because it is normal for us to look forward to something. Most children are taught very early on how to look forward to Christmas morning simply by withholding all those presents until that fateful morning. So when the pastor gets up and starts talking about looking forward to Christmas… we just get it.
However, the message of Lent is much different, and much harder to understand. It is a message of depriving ourselves, it is a message of looking into our own souls, it is a message of reflecting on our sinfulness, facing our temptations, finding strength in scripture, and ultimately looking to the cross of Christ and seeing your sin being nailed there, your punishment being taken away by Christ. Unless you are a monk or a nun, these practices are not a part of what you normally do. So when the pastor gets up and starts talking about depriving yourself, about reflecting on your sin, and about using Lent to fully realize your sin… it doesn’t come as easily for us.
Easter we understand, the joyous day of Christ’s resurrection, the great and final salvific miracle. Easter Day! Hallelujah, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! The joyous celebration that comes with being a Christian, oh we can get a hold of that just fine… but the pain… the suffering… the darkness that comes before Easter is something that not very many Christians actually practice.
Back at Christmas, I preached that we can never fully understand the miracle of Christmas without the cross… well that same sermon goes doubly for Easter. We can not know the true joy of Easter, without knowing the darkness, the pain, and the sacrifice of the Cross.
It is not a coincidence, that today’s text is about the Temptation of Jesus. In the lectionary calendar, the first Sunday of Lent is always kicked of with the reading of the temptation of Jesus. It is also not a coincidence that Lent is 40 days long, and Jesus’ time in the desert was 40 days. To really prepare for Easter, to really prepare for that “Hallelujah” on Easter morning, we must know what Christ did for us. We must walk these 40 days as Christ walked those 40 days, we must identify with Christ in his walk, so that when we look to the Cross during holy week we do not just see Christ upon the cross, but we see ourselves… and understand the price Jesus really paid for us.
As we begin this 40 day walk known as lent, there are three things that each one of us should reflect on: First - we should realize our own temptations - and know even through this Jesus is with us as even he was tempted, Second - we should turn to scripture - as Jesus showed us by his example turning to scripture, and finally - we should look to the cross - for it is there that Jesus takes all of our failings upon himself, and saves us from their burden.
Brothers and sisters, the First step along the way is realizing and dealing with temptation