1st Sunday in Lent – C LSB #’s 656, 424, 419
Text – Luke 4:1-2b
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan & was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days.
THE 40 DAY DIET
The year 2022 is still fairly new, yet history shows that by March the New Year’s resolutions of most people have already been long forgotten. Going on a diet is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, with over 40% of people making that choice. You’ve heard some of the names – Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, and Atkins & Low Carb.
The 1st diet to become popular appeared in England in 1863. It was called the Banting Diet & was named after the undertaker who came up with it. Doesn’t that make you wonder if anyone looked for a conflict of interest in the design of his plan?
However, thousands of years before that God’s Holy Spirit came up with a diet plan for Jesus – 40 days of nothing. That plan became necessary because of the very 1st diet plan of a certain fruit that Satan urged upon Adam & Eve. Because God’s 1st son ate forbidden fruit, Jesus would eat nothing at all. Then Luke comments, “And when they were ended, He was hungry.”
The weak point of many diets is that they leave you feeling constantly hungry. It is difficult to be content in this sinful world, & our own sinful nature constantly wants more. No matter how many blessings are given to us by the heavenly Father all of it quickly becomes what we expect & then take for granted. By tomorrow it’s, “God, what have you done for me lately?”
Satan knows that better than we do & he certainly uses that to his advantage. Knowing that Jesus is literally starving, the 1st temptation he throws at the Son of Man is to satisfy His hunger, “…command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:3-4 ESV) It’s difficult to imagine that our answer would be the same. Our daily lives prove otherwise. We’d be zapping those stones to bread in a heartbeat & asking Satan to pass the butter & the strawberry jam. That’s just one reason why the eternal Son of God took on human flesh & was born into this world. You & I need someone to take our place & live the life that God called us to live. We simply cannot do it.
The only way for us to truly live is to stay constantly connected to the source of our life. The devil is not actually trying to feed Jesus in the wilderness & he’s not trying to feed us in our lives. The devil is trying to bleed us dry, to starve us to death, by deceiving us into disconnecting from the source of all life – from Jesus Christ.
Any healthy diet always has the goal of limiting the number of calories we consume. In spiritual terms, what if we followed Jesus & gave up telling lies? In the wilderness, Jesus refused to accept the lies of the devil. And confessing the truth also means to renounce whatever is false. In the rite of baptism, we highlight that with these words:
“Do you renounce the devil, & all his works, & all his ways?” The temptation of Jesus gives us a glimpse of how Satan works in our daily lives. It gives us a glimpse of how he works in hearts & the minds of everyone here this morning. St. Luke gives us a glimpse of how Satan works in the hearts & minds of anyone who is out there watching our livestream.
The devil takes what appears to be the truth & turns it into something that is false. Most of all, the devil tries to deceive us into thinking that we have to do something, to play some part, in gaining our way to heaven. He suggests that we would need to do this, or that we have to avoid doing that if we expect to join God in heaven.
Instead of telling us to eat more kale, the devil tells us we have to do more good works. Instead of telling us to avoid eating sugar, the devil tells us to avoid associating with people who don’t think or vote like we do. Then, on the other side, he tells us that we can never do enough good to earn God’s favor so don’t even bother. He tells us that God made us the way we are so eat, drink & be merry while enjoying whatever it is that makes you feel good. Sin, guilt & shame are the only items on Satan’s diet menu, & Jesus swallowed all of that, He devoured every last bit of Satan’s cooking, as He hung on the cross & took His last breath.
By His death & resurrection, Jesus set us free from the demands of the devil. Jesus released us from Satan’s prison. Yes, sin is still with us. Bad diets & unhealthy food still abounds in this world, but we no longer belong to this world. We truly are aliens living in a foreign land. We are simply sojourners passing through this life on our way to the next.
Baptism is our passport to eternal life. The Body & Blood of Christ are now the diet given to us by our Savior. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus tells us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (ESV) It’s true, our lives don’t often feel that way, but God’s children live by faith, not by sight, & not by our feelings either.
That’s how Jesus conquered Satan, by focusing on faith in the heavenly Father instead of focusing on His hunger of the moment or focusing on any anxiety about the cross in His future. Then, Jesus used the Word of God to fend off Satan’s attacks. In our struggles against sin, & against our emotions, & our desires, a diet of God’s Word will sustain us & protect us as well.
Here are some of those words:
“‘And he brought us into this place & gave us this land, a land flowing with milk & honey. And behold; now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God & worship before the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you & to your house, you, & the Levite, & the sojourner who is among you.” (Deuteronomy 26:9-11 ESV)
Moses wrote those words as the people were about to enter the Promised Land. Yet, we can apply them to Christians wherever they may be. As we are members of God’s family, we already have eternal life. We already live in the Promised Land of heaven by faith, no matter what our circumstances are. Yes, it takes faith to see that. The believers in Ukraine, in spite of all that’s going on there, are in the Promised Land just as much as we are. That’s how radical God’s teaching is. That’s why a steady diet of God’s Word & Christ’s body & blood are so important for sustaining the true life that we have already now.
Apart from Jesus Christ we have no life. So He came to live in our place, not just on the cross, but in all the ordinary daily things that we do as well. Jesus came to make all of our lives holy & to make them a blessing to others. We find rest in that Good News & it then empowers us to be the children that God has called us to be, repentant & forgiven. Amen.
O Christ, You walked the road our wandering feet must go. You faced with us temptation’s power & fought our ancient foe. No bread of earth alone can fill our hungering hearts. Lord, help us seek Your living Word, the food Your grace imparts. When lures of easy gain with promise brightly shine, Lord, help us seek Your kingdom first; our wills with Yours align. O Christ, You walked the road our wandering feet must go. Stay with us through temptation’s hour to fight our ancient foe. Amen. LSB 424:1-2, 4-5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet