March 5, 2017 — Lent 1
Sermon Text — Matthew 4:1-11
Felling the Dragon
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s account the 4th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
In the Wilderness after Baptism
The Father has spoken. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” We heard these words at Jesus’ baptism and we heard these words on the Mount of Transfiguration. Having heard these words for Himself, Jesus today is driven by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted 40 days and 40 nights by the Devil. He goes not as an example to follow, but one who goes for you, in your place, to break the serpent’s hold over you. You who are baptized are not given to do as He does. Those who go off into the wilderness hoping to find God abiding in some Shack are more likely to find the Devil than the Lord. Avoid the Shack at all costs. To do as Jesus does in our text is to wrestle with a foe far stronger than any strong man among us, much more crafty than any creature created, who is deceptively beautiful and enchantingly versed. Our text is not a “what would Jesus do” moment implying that we should do as Jesus does. This isn’t about what you should do to resist temptation. This is about who Jesus is for you, in your place, on your behalf.
Being baptized into Christ does set you at odds with the tempter. Like Neo set free from bondage to the matrix, you are new creation grasping by faith a new reality, God’s reality, namely that you have been adopted as sons and therefore are heirs according to the promise. You needn’t abandon your post in your vocation to chase after some super spiritual battle against the old evil foe. You are baptized. That alone is sufficient for the tempter to approach you daily and do what he can to lead you away from Christ, to tempt you to deny who you are in Christ.
Tempting Your Identity
Note well the Savior’s battle for you this morning. Let God’s Word enlighten your eyes to the war waged for you. For these same demonic tactics used against Jesus are thrust upon you every day of your baptized life. “If you are the son of God turn these stones into bread.” “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down.” “All of the glory of the world I will give you if you fall down and worship me.” The devil attacks Jesus like he once did Israel in the wilderness and the same way he attacks you and me every day. He appeals to our fallen desire for the pleasures of this world; food, possessions, our sexual appetite.
If you are the Son of God, why hasn’t God provided for you? Go ahead provide for yourself. What heart isn’t filled with anxiety concerning these things and surrendered before such empty promises? Who has not chased after such thing at the expense of the Word of God? Why are you tired? You should rest on Sunday. Why are you lacking? You should work on the Sabbath? Why is your family missing you? You should spend more quality time with them. Why are you lacking what your neighbor already has? You should go and get it for yourself.
Or, he goes after our piety. “If you are the son of God, your know God’s promise in scripture. Throw yourself down from here.” You trust God. You know His promises. Go on, prove your sonship. Thus the temptation appeals to our desire to show our love for God. Do this for God. Give up that for God. Show the world your trust, your super spirituality, your great faith, prove God great again. But, should you put the Lord your God to the test? Do you have God’s command to be innovative with your spirituality, to shine the light on yourself? Dust you are and to dust you shall return.
And lastly the devil goes after our lust for glory and power. The lure of the world’s appreciation, lust for social status strikes a most deadly blow. He offers the world in exchange for your devotion. “All these I will give you if you fall down and worship me.” But what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul. Happiness? Comfort? Leisure? Wealth? Status? The envy of others? These are all as fleeting as a warm day in February. They do not last and much to our surprise it’s still winter. The world is still cold and we are surrounded by dead things, a dead creation walked by spiritually dead people.
The Son’s Victory
These temptations are nothing new. They assault us every day and make every attempt to keep us from the One who has won the victory for us. Behold the Savior for you. See how He repels the serpent’s tongue with the shield of God’s Word! Listen as our great Captain wins the battle for us. He is baptized, not for Himself but for you. God’s Word falls like rain upon Him, thundering the Father’s good pleasure. The Heavens open before Him and the Spirit descends like a dove to rest on Him. Rather than feed Himself and prove His sonship Jesus feeds thousand from a few loaves and fish. Rather than cast Himself from the Temple’s pinnacle, Jesus offers Himself to the pangs of the cross. Rather than bow before the old evil foe, Jesus remains steadfastly bound to the Father’s will. “Not my will but thine be done.” What Jesus does, where Jesus goes, the words His speaks the miracles He works, He does so for you. Jesus is the stronger man come to bind the strong man with words and to set the captives free.
Jesus is the little Word of God which undoes the works of the devil. One little word can fell him.
Jesus is that One little Word wrapped in swaddling clothes for all the little ones descended from Adam.
Jesus is that One little Word baptized in the Jordan for every sinner caught in Satan’s trap.
Jesus is that One little Word transfigured in glory.
He’s the One little Word entering Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna.
He’s the One little Word hidden beneath the bread and the Wine.
He’ the One little Word betrayed in the garden, arrested under the cover of darkness, tried before the courts of men.
He’s the One little Word mocked as foolishness.
He’s the One little Word spit upon.
He’s the One little Word crowned with shame and hung on the tree.
He’s the One little Word silenced by death for all destined to die.
He’s the One little Word crucified, dead and buried because Satan and His legions of demons and men despise Him.
And He’s the One little Word uttered by the angels to the women, “you seek Jesus the crucified, He’s not here. He’s risen!”
Forgiven Sinners and Redeemed Sons
Israel could not defeat Pharaoh nor can you and I bind the strong man. Our text this morning is not a check list of passages for us to use against the devil in spiritual warfare! Certainly not! It is however, that One little Word winning the battle for us, in our place, on our behalf. This One little Word is given to you under the waters of your baptism. There you are made sons of God. The Father’s voice rains upon you and thunders from the heavens. The trail is blazed, the path is clear. Heaven is for you. The Spirit’s descent rest upon you and though you be tempted in your vocations, have no fear, let no anxiety fill your heart. You are God’s sons by adoption, heirs according to the promise. Because the Lord has proved His love for you in your baptism and given you His Word there is no cause for doubt, no reason to go it alone, prove your devotion, seek after the world’s glory. You have been gifted with a far greater treasure. You have Jesus, God’s Son, your Savior. You have the victory because Jesus won the victory. And just as He defeated the serpent with words, so also does He defeat sin, death, devil and hell in you and your life with Words. God’s Word washes you and regenerates you. God’s Word absolves you and sets your free. God’s Word sustains and nourishes you with manna from above. He who has God’s Word by faith has God’s Son. And whoever has God’s Son, has God’s Spirit, God’s blessing, God’s favor, and all the benefits of God’s kingdom. For all who are baptized into Christ are members of the royal priesthood. You are a holy nation, a chosen generation!
In the World after Baptism
And as such, beloved, the devil will do all he can to tempt you away from God’s Word, to introduce doubt into your heart. He knows that God’s Word removes doubt and gives peace to weary souls. He knows he cannot win the battle. He can only inflict wounds. Therefore he doesn’t really offer you anything. His promises are idle, even idols. He tempts you with your works that you doubt your identity in Christ. Our text this morning isn’t a temptation about what to do or not to do. It’s about who Jesus is and who you are in Christ. Therefore beloved, let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith. Let us lend our ears to His Word, read, learn, mark and inwardly digest His Word. The Savior gives His Word for certainty, certainty of who you are as His baptized children and certainty of your destiny in heaven. Cling to the Word and put it good use. Let the Word of Christ dwell within you richly. Hear the Word! Pray the Word! Sing the Word! Read and recite the Word! Memorize the Word! Think on the Word! Meditate on the Word! Feast on the Word! And wield the Word as a trusty shield against the serpent’s lies. Practice the Word in your vocations, enfleshing the Word to your neighbors. Be doers of the Word and not just hearers and the devil will flee for he cannot bear that One little Word. Truly . . . that One little Word can fell Him. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!