Summary: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Our King is a Shepherd King—a Physician King— a Presence!
February 25, 1996
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Six weeks from today is Easter Sunday. I would like to give you a verse to use during these weeks and days before Easter as we join together in seeking to draw nearer to God. (Let me read the first few words in Hebrews 12:)
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." (Hebrews 12: 1 -3)
I especially underscore those three words: "looking unto Jesus..." All through Lent let's make that the key to our Bible reading and prayer. I ask you to look to Jesus "in all his offices," as John Wesley would urge us. By that I mean remember that Jesus is always our Prophet, our Priest, and our King.
Jesus is our Prophet, who calls us to turn from any selfish ways and be right with God. Jesus is our Priest, who by the sacrifice of his life on Calvary forgives our sins, and brings us with Himself to God by his blood. Jesus is our King, who leads us in the way we should go— our Shepherd who loves us and cares for us— our Physician who heals us, makes us whole.
Will you try to do this? to remember all through the time between now and Easter to be "looking unto Jesus— our Prophet, our Priest, our King!"?? (With that introduction to Lent (as a six week journey) we look at today's lessons:)
I. AT THE BEGINNING OF LENT WE LOOK AT TWO BEGINNINGS
We look back to the Garden where it all started— and to the Desert where Christ's battle with evil began in earnest. The two "beginnings" are very much connected.
You remember the story of what happened in the Garden.
One writer called it "the Big Mistake made by the father and mother of us all before they had really gotten the hang of being human." In a Reader's Digest version:
God said, "Don't eat the fruit!"
They ate the fruit anyway. And the rest is history.
And so we have our first parents to thank, or to blame, for what we call "original sin," however it is that we have been tainted with it. We are all sons and daughters of an Adam and Eve who were tempted, and who gave in to their temptation. Every son and daughter ever since has had some version or other of a repeat of that loss of innocence. We know that story pretty well:
God said it.
We heard it.
We thought about it.
And we went ahead and did it anyway. Every son and daughter has sinned— except One.
But we also remember another story. This story took place in the desert.
The first Adam, and Eve, came into a Garden. When they failed in their test of obedience they were expelled, and the earth was cursed. The Second Adam, Jesus Christ, was tempted in a Wilderness.
Fresh from the baptism, from the glory of God the Father's wonderful words: "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!," Jesus is brought into confrontation with raw evil. The ordeal in the desert lasted forty days.
That is one big reason why Christians have taken the forty days before Easter to unite in spirit with our Lord.
The temptations of both Adam and Eve, and Jesus were across the whole spectrum of human needs and desires. There was the level of physical hunger, which could be understood as the drives or appetites of our bodies. There was the level of emotional need and the desire for acceptance, the cravings of our souls. There was the highest level, of choosing, of deciding who will say what is right and wrong, the statement of what it ultimately means to be human.
Jesus was asked to prove he is God's Son by making stones into bread. He was asked to prove he trusted God's Word by throwing himself off the temple so angels will catch him. He was asked to compromise "just once" and avoid all the agony of the cross.
In every case, of course, Jesus refused to argue or reason with Satan. He had taken the role of Servant of his Father— and he uses the written Word as his guide.