And lead us not into temptation

right-click to save, or push Play

Sermon for Invocavit – Lent 1

2 Corinthians 6:1-10  +  Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer: And lead us not into temptation. And yet, what does the first verse of our Gospel say? Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Doesn’t that mean He was “led into temptation”? In a sense, He was. And it had to be that way, for our salvation.

You see, we don’t need the devil around in order to be tempted. We face temptation constantly, from without and from within, because we’re born infected, diseased, spiritually deformed. The flesh that we have inherited from Adam, after he fell into sin, is always marching away from God and from what is right, always setting up false gods to worship, including the god of “self.” That’s all we know as sinful human beings, a life where sin is our constant companion, where false beliefs comes naturally, where despair is just a heartbeat away, and where great shame and vice call out to us from within, “Go ahead and do it. You know you want to. Nothing bad will happen.” As Jesus once said, From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man. That’s all we know, by nature.

But that’s not all Adam knew. Before he fell into sin, he was pure. He was holy. His thoughts lined up perfectly with the Holy Spirit’s thoughts. In order for Adam to be tempted, some evil from the outside had to sneak in and lead him astray. That’s just what the devil did. And even then, Adam had the power to resist the devil. But instead, Adam followed him and plunged our race into darkness and spiritual corruption.

Jesus was like Adam in that He wasn’t born with a diseased, sinful flesh, as we are from birth. But Jesus, our Brother, was sent into our human flesh in order to fix what Adam broke, in order to succeed where Adam failed. That meant that He had to be tempted, and tempted from the outside, even as Adam and Eve were.

So, in that sense, God the Father led Jesus into temptation, or better, led Him, by the Spirit, out into the wilderness “to be tempted,” not by God, but by the devil.

The first temptation recorded in our Gospel grew out of the fact that Jesus spent 40 days out in the wilderness, all alone, fasting. And not fasting by His own choice, but fasting according to His Father’s choice. Now, people may choose to fast, to go without food for awhile, in order to focus on self-discipline and self-denial—hence the 40 days of Lent that began this past Wednesday, during which season some Christians have, in the past, chosen to fast, or a fast was imposed on them by a works-righteous Roman papacy. Still, it was nothing like Jesus fasted—without eating or drinking anything for 40 days. That’s what His good and gracious Father in heaven chose for His beloved Son, with whom He was “well-pleased.”

The devil tried to take advantage of that God-ordained hunger, tried to get Jesus to turn from the Father’s will, to turn from His Father’s providence and use His divine power to create food for Himself miraculously. He sowed the seeds of discontent. “What kind of Father do You have, anyway? You’re the Son of God, aren’t You? You shouldn’t have to suffer. You shouldn’t have to depend on Your Father for food. You have the divine right to eat! And you have the power to do something about it. So do it! Feed your empty stomach. You know you want to.”

Jesus could have zapped the devil away with His divine power. But instead He chose to confront the devil with the very same armor and weapon that we have at our disposal: the Word of God. He resisted the devil with the Word of God, every time, and every time the devil had to flee.

Jesus resisted the devil with a verse from Deuteronomy. Here’s the context of that verse, as Moses spoke to the Israelites out in the wilderness, after they had wandered around for forty years, eating nothing but manna every day:

And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.

God made Israel practice a sort of fast for those 40 years, and here Moses explains why. God chose to feed them with bread only for all that time, with bread from heaven that had to provided miraculously by God on a daily basis, just enough for each day, so that the only way they could survive was by means of the Word of God that promised manna every morning. God was training them to trust Him, training them to look beyond bread and beyond the needs of this life to a faithful God in heaven, who is the true Source of all good things. Israel often complained about God’s providence, even though He faithfully provided manna every day. But Jesus stood firm and kept trusting in His Father, even after 40 days of no food at all.

The devil, the world, and your flesh try to get you to curse God in times of want, when you don’t have all the things you think you should have. “If God loves you, why does He let you suffer? He must not love you. You shouldn’t have to suffer, right? You shouldn’t have to go without. If God isn’t providing what you think He should, or what you crave so badly, then, to hell with Him! You do what you have to for yourself.”

For all the times you’ve given in to such temptations, Christ Your Savior overcame the devil, for you. His victory earned for you the forgiveness of your sins. Let His example guide you in the face of similar temptations.

The second temptation recorded in Matthew’s Gospel has the devil whisking Jesus away to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem. “You want to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, Jesus? Well here’s one: He will command His angels concerning you. So let’s test His Word on that, shall we? Throw Yourself down! Is the Lord truly with You, Son of God, or not? Let Him prove it! Force Him to keep His Word by sending His angels.” It was an attack on God’s faithfulness and a temptation to doubt God’s Word, to focus on one passage of Scripture while ignoring all the rest. We see false teachers doing the same thing all the time today.

But Jesus wasn’t deceived. You shall not tempt the Lord your God. Another verse from Deuteronomy, where Moses describes how Israel did tempt the Lord their God at the waters of Massah, where they challenged God to prove that He was among them by giving them water. But where Israel failed to trust, Jesus again succeeded, for you.

The devil, the world, and your flesh try to get you to test the Lord God, too, to challenge Him to take care of you. You think, I can neglect my body, my work, my studies. I can watch porn, skip church, avoid reading and studying God’s Word. And so you use Baptism and God’s promises in order to tempt the Him, in order to force Him to keep you from harm and danger, even as you do the very things He has forbidden in His Word. And the devil will spur you on, trying to pit one passage from Scripture against another to make you doubt, to give you false security on the one hand, or false despair on the other; to convince you, on the one hand, that sin isn’t so bad, or on the other hand, that God isn’t so good.

For all the times you’ve given in to such temptations, Christ Your Savior overcame the devil, for you. His victory earned for you the forgiveness of your sins. Let His example guide you in the face of similar temptations.

The third temptation recorded in the Gospel has the devil offering Christ the world, with all its riches, with all its power and glory and fame. As God, Jesus owned the world, but as a Man, He had humbled Himself in order to be our Savior. He had put the rest of humanity’s interests ahead of His own needs. He was even going to the cross for mankind, sacrificing His own interests every step of the way.

Israel gave into this temptation of idolatry and friendship with the world over and over again in the wilderness, beginning with the golden calf at Mt. Sinai. But Jesus again returned to Scripture, You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.

The world is a powerful temptation for Christians, too. You want to get along with the world. You want to be liked by the world, to have the things the world has, to enjoy the things the world enjoys. And the devil tries to convince you that you can have all that you want, and your life will be better and brighter and so much more enjoyable if you just set aside the kingdom of God and go along with the world. And you don’t have to become a Satanist to do it. You just have to look in the mirror and serve the one you see there.

Again, for all the times you’ve given in to such temptations, Christ Your Savior overcame the devil, for you. His victory earned for you the forgiveness of your sins. Let His example guide you in the face of similar temptations.

And so we pray, at Jesus’ direction, Lead us not into temptation. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be tempted. What does this mean? We answer in the Small Catechism, Certainly God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and although we are troubled with these things, that we would nevertheless overcome and triumph in the end.

Just as God the Father guarded and kept Jesus against the temptations of the devil—and purchased our souls in the process!, so He will guard and keep you, too, not without means, but by means of His powerful Word. God has placed that weapon in your hands for you to use, and, as our Savior demonstrated in the wilderness, the devil cannot stand against it. Amen.

This entry was posted in Sermons and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.