1st Sunday in Lent – A LSB #947
Text – Matthew 4:3
And the tempter came & said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD
The challenge before us this morning is not so much the identity of Christ Jesus, but what will the Son of God do with His identity. It’s a challenge that every one of us faces in some way or another. If you enlist in the navy you take on the identity of a sailor. What will do with that identity? Will you obey your commanding officer, or not?
If you get married, you take on the identity of husband or wife. Will you remain united to your spouse as long as you both shall live, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness & in health? When you become a parent you take on the identity of father or mother. What you do with that identity has a tremendous impact on the eternal future of your child.
Immediately after Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit leads Him into the wilderness to 40 days & 40 nights of fasting. Knowing that Jesus will be hungry & weaker than usual, Lucifer ramps up his attack, as he presents Jesus with the opportunity to be His own man. What will this Son of God do with His identity? Will He trust & obey His heavenly Father, or not?
As we heard in the lesson from Genesis, the very 1st son of God chose not to obey his heavenly Father. So Adam’s entire world came crashing down upon him. Jesus was sent to lift that world up again, to restore all of creation to its original holiness. To do so, this Son of God must endure every temptation we do in order to fully take the place of the entire human race.
Jesus was sent to do right what you & I can only do wrong. To say Jesus was hungry, after fasting in the wilderness for 40 days & nights, does not even begin to touch on the misery any of us would feel. Yet, Jesus then faces the temptation to give up on trusting in His Father to provide all that He needs. Satan tempts Jesus to take matters into His own hands. Forget your Father’s plan. Create His own food. In effect, Lucifer is saying, “Since you are the Son of God, prove it. Do something about your hunger instead of suffering for who knows what reason.” Any of us would have turned those stones into loaves of bread in a heartbeat.
Yet our Savior simply states: “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 ESV) After 40 days & nights of fasting, while being tempted during that entire duration, Jesus is still able to obey, & wait patiently for, His Father in heaven to provide everything that He needs.
If we were in His place, not a one of us would have a problem rationalizing, “How can turning stones into bread be a sin?” And that way of thinking reveals how far the human race has fallen from the perfection of God. You & I are totally unreliable even when it comes to recognizing sin, so we’re absolutely incapable of being the children God designed us to be.
That is the context to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The reason God’s children celebrate Christmas is that the Child born in Bethlehem is the answer to our inability to trust our Lord under all circumstances. Jesus doesn’t fast in the wilderness for 40 days & nights to set an example for us. He does so in order to fulfill the covenant we cannot begin to keep.
Our Lord created Adam perfect & holy. Adam failed. Then, Abraham was called to follow God. His descendants were given the mission to be the people through whom everyone in the world would come to know their heavenly Father’s love. An entire generation of Israelites chose not to obey their heavenly Father. Their bodies were left in the wilderness.
After King Solomon died the people of Israel fragmented into two kingdoms. Eventually both of them disappeared as nations, all because they refused to obey their Creator. History is littered with congregations & nations who have forgotten the almighty God, & failed to be the light of the world as Yahweh created them to be. They no longer exist as a testament to mankind’s inability to save itself. People who live in wealthy cultures always end up blinded to their desperate need for a Savior. The material blessings we have in the United States cover up our need for Jesus. That’s why the story of the shepherds at Christmas rings so true.
They were the bottom rung in their society. They had nothing of the material blessings we know to disguise their helpless & desperate situation. So when they hear the announcement of the Savior’s birth, do you remember how they responded?
“When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ They hurried to the village & found Mary & Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16 NLT) After they told everyone about the angels & what was said of the Child:
“The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying & praising God for all they had heard & seen.” (Luke 2:20a NLT) In that day, the occupation of shepherd was filled by such reprobate characters, they weren’t even allowed to testify in court. Yet, God chose them to hear the announcement of the Savior’s birth by the angel chorus.
The shepherds, due to their poverty & lowly status, recognized that they had no such thing as equal opportunity. They weren’t going anywhere in life of their own accord. There was only one way they were going to move up in the world. Someone with extraordinary power would have to come & take their place & move up for them.
Adam was a failure. The nation of Israel was a failure. The shepherds were failures. All of us in this room are failures, because the Word of God commands us, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 ESV) God would have zero integrity if He cut anyone slack when it comes to living up to His perfect holiness. Yet, our Father in heaven also loves us so much that He found another way to satisfy His justice. His only begotten Son was sent to take our place & to live the perfect life we could not live. He had to fulfill every aspect of what it is to be human, so He took on human flesh & was born into this world as a peasant child. Jesus then fulfilled every single commandment perfectly on our behalf.
That perfection & righteousness has been given to us as a gift. Josephine Kirkpatrick received that gift here today. It is the gift of total freedom, from fear, from anxiety, from doubt. It’s not an easy gift to use. She’ll need a lot of training in how to use it, yet, with that gift of righteousness she can impact other people’s live for all of eternity.
Josephine was given a new identity this morning. She is now the child of the Creator of the universe. What will she do with that identity? Shawn & Darcy, God has given you the privilege & responsibility to teach & train your daughter so that she knows what to do with her identity. It will not be easy, yet it can be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do in life.
Both of you now have a new identity as well. You are the parents of one of God’s children. What will you do with that particular identity? Josephine will be tempted to take advantage of your love for her. You will need wisdom beyond imagination to raise your daughter well. There’ll be many temptations to put your trust in your own wisdom & strength.
Christ Jesus calls you away from that trap. He’s defeated every temptation that Satan can muster, so you never have reason to be afraid. Because Jesus lived a life without sin, when God the Father looks at you, He sees the robe of Jesus’ righteousness draped over your shoulders. You will be tempted to pride & you’ll be tempted to despair.
When the devil attacks you with either attitude, remember the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. It was not for the purpose of setting you an example. Jesus endured it so that you would have credit, before the Heavenly Father, of having lived the perfect life that God’s justice demands. If you trust in Him, then, when the temptation is over, the God who created you will certainly send His angels to care for you & to provide for you. He will do this for you Shawn, & for you Darcy, & for your daughter Josephine as well.
It’s all the rave today, to suggest that we can each create & craft our very own identity. The world wants us to believe that we can choose which gender we want to be. And more dangerous than that, Lucifer wants us to believe that we can choose to live independently of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit.
Jesus taught that we should put our treasure in heaven rather than in the fleeting things of this world. Knowing that our identity is in Christ provides shelter from Satan’s temptations. It helps us to avoid chasing after the devil’s lies, & when we fall for them, as we so often do, Jesus provides healing as well as the peace that surpasses all human understanding. Amen.
All glory be to God on high & thanks for all His favor; no harm can touch or terrify a child of God forever. God shows His good & gracious will & grants His peace, the world to fill – all strife at last has ended. O Jesus Christ, the only Son begotten of the Father, Your saving death has made us one with God & with each other. O Lamb of God, to You on high in our distress we sinners cry, have mercy on us, amen! O Holy Spirit, our delight & source of consolation, protect us from the devil’s might through Jesus, our salvation, Who by His death upon a tree has rescued us from misery: to this we hold forever. Amen. LSB 947:1, 3-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet