Summary: This sermon is for the text Luke 4, the Temptation of Jesus, Lent I Jesus is tempted constantly to deny his mission. ((Matt. 1:21) The key is Luke's phrase: "until an opportune time" the same remains for us. some illustrations are from Leonard Sweet and
In Jesus Holy Name February 17, 2013
Luke 4:1-13 Lent I
“Your Adversary the Devil, Again?”
When I was a boy, I was told, "Baptists don't do Lent." No one knew why. I suspect that it was an anti-Catholic thing which I pray we are over. It was the old argument, "whatever they do, we don't!" - a curiously convoluted, twisted and unhealthy way to decide on religious practices. And what did we do on Ash Wednesday? We put ashes on our foreheads.
Whatever the reason for "not doing Lent," I think it is a great loss for any Christian not to prepare for Good Friday and Easter. Every spring the baseball players prepare for the season with spring training; every spring ordinary people prepare for summer by doing "spring cleaning." So why shouldn't Christians prepare for the most important events in Jesus' ministry - what he did for us on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, what he did for us on Golgotha's cross and at the empty tomb?
After his baptism, Luke tells us, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
Note that Jesus along with John the Baptist had just heard God’s voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him”. These are the same words the Disciples, Peter, James and John heard in the gospel reading last Sunday on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. And that’s when the Tempter came. That is so true to life. You go off to a church retreat. You have a spiritual mountaintop experience. You’re feeling closer to God and closer to others than you have ever felt before. Beware! That is the time when you may be the most vulnerable to temptation.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. He was vulnerable. A physical need needed to be met. And so the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Friends, Satan knew very well who Jesus was. He had already tried to kill Jesus when he was an infant using the political power of an evil king.
The temptation was a reasonable response to Jesus’ hunger. He had power over nature. And stones were abundant there in the wilderness. He could use his extraordinary gifts to meet his physical needs. But Jesus knew that was not what he was sent to do. His gifts were to be used to do the work of his Father. He was to complete the promise of the angel to Mary and Joseph and the world. Do you remember: “you shall give him the name Jesus because he will save His people from their sins….. He will be “Emmanuel….” God with us. So Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
And that’s true. Many people today have their physical needs met but they are shriveling and dying on the inside. Physical needs have an urgency, but spiritual needs are every bit as critical. So many people are suffering from spiritual hunger… drifting here and there, trying other cleverly crafted by the human teachings that never satisfy. (Eph. 4:14)
Having failed to tempt Jesus with his stones to bread routine, the devil takes a different tact. He leads Christ up to a high place and shows him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he says to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Few people can resist being handed the power of committee chairmanships in the US Capitol, in corporations. Will they weigh the cost to their integrity or will the desire for power shade their ethical and moral core. It is every politician’s dream. And you have to wonder how many politicians have been willing to bow down to Satan in order to achieve such dreams. Now imagine, Satan comes and offers Jesus the power to rule all the nations of the world. Imagine the status, the adulation, that would come with ruling over all the kingdoms of this world?
All he would have to do is “bow down to the devil”. But it was too high a price for him to pay. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil then leads him to Jerusalem and has him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he says, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”