Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent by Rev. Joshua Hayes

Matthew 4:1-11

University Lutheran Chapel, Boulder, CO

In the Name of the Father, and of the X Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1]When God made Adam he did not put him in a cloud but in a garden. What I mean is, God did not put Adam nowhere but somewhere. God gave Adam a place and station in life. He was a creature of God. This was Adam’s first vocation, to be a Christian. Then, when God built Eve from Adam’s side, he also put her somewhere—next to Adam. A new vocation was established. Husband and wife, and then the vocations that naturally follow: father, mother, son, daughter.

God called them to these things—these vocations. You see, vocations from God are not careers, though careers may be involved in one’s vocation. Vocations arise from our God-given relationships—our relation to God, our relations to one another.

God called our first parents to worship him by trusting and believing the Word He had entrusted to Adam, the first preacher: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” That was their worship—to believe that Word; to eat of this fruit and not of that. For a time they did. And it was pure joy and life. God also called them to love him by loving each other. To care for the garden, enjoy its dainties, to explore creation, and, yes, make lots of babies without sin or pain but only pure delight.  This was their way. Their spot. And it was very good.

What the serpent offered Eve was another way. A different spot. The promise of more—yes so much more that she would be like God. Tempted by this, she was no longer content to with her way in life. She went her own way, and Adam with her. Now we too, their children, must go the way of all fallen flesh.

But Jesus came to walk the ways of God. To be content with his calling as Messiah, Suffering Servant, Son of God and Son of Man; to fulfill his Father’s will. And so the Devil tempts him as he did our first parents: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

What is remarkable about the temptation of Christ is that, contrary to how many read the Bible, the Devil actually knows that the Bible is all about Jesus. He knows that Psalm 91 is about Jesus, and its promises only apply to us if we are in Jesus. What the Devil also knows, is how to twist Scripture and take it out of its proper context. He says to Jesus: “He will command his angels concerning you.” Isn’t the Devil right? Isn’t that just what it says? But he doesn’t finish the verse. He skips a line between “concerning you” and “on their hands they will bear you up.” Look at today’s gradual and you’ll see the missing line. The full line reads: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

The promise in the Psalm is that the angels guard us when we stay in our ways, in the way, place, and station in life to which God has called us. Man, including the God-man Jesus, was not meant to fly through the air but walk on the ground.

In so many ways we have sought our own way.  Again, the promise in the Psalm is that the angels guard us when we stay in our ways, in the way, place, and station in life to which God has called us. Contrast that to the Devil’s promise that you could avoid all suffering, heartbreak and inconvenience by abandoning your post—by just turning off the switch labeled “friend,” “son,” “daughter,” “Christian.” – just to have a moment for yourself.

Repent. That is not your way. It’s not living. That is putting God to the test; when we go beyond or away from our vocation.

History shows we can gain nothing from this. For example, things were well with king Saul so long as he stayed on the way that God gave him. So long as he was content to be king under God and do his duty for the people. But as soon as he grew concerned for himself, sought not the works God commanded of him but the works he chose for himself, he put God to the test and was rejected.

Or consider Jonah. In 2 Kings 14 we learn that Jonah was a faithful prophet under the wicked king Jeroboam II. God was pleased with him. But you know the rest of the story. You know that as soon as Jonah sought his own way, any way but the way to Nineveh to which God had sent him, things went south. Nothing good comes from abandoning one’s duty.

It’s a good thing history didn’t stop with Adam, or Saul, or Jonah. A second Adam came: Jesus. And when the Son of God became man he did not appear in a cloud but was born in a stable. He was not a Savior who was nowhere but one who was somewhere.

Christ came to walk in the way that our first parents did not. The way you have not and could not. Christ came to walk the way of the suffering Servant, the way of righteousness; to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. He was baptized to be put into a specific way and spot. Your spot. There in the desert he overcame for where you rebelled. He was content with his way for all the times you have gone your own. For all the times you have wanted another way, a better way. For all the times you have sought to avoid suffering by abandoning your post, your way and duty that you owe to your God, your church, your family, and community. For all this, Christ remained faithful and gives this faithfulness to you.

Rejoice. On the cross Jesus opened the way for you back to God. He is the way and the truth and life. Stay in the Way. Stay in Christ. Know that the angles guard you there. Do your duty to God and your neighbor. And for all times you have failed and sinned and gone astray, rejoice. There is one who did not and gives you his righteousness. He opened the way to heaven, and it is still open for you. Though Christ is ascended far above the clouds, this does not mean that he is nowhere, but he is somewhere. He dwells in your hearts through faith, he is with you always, and he feeds you his risen body and blood.

And when the Tempter comes with promises of easy living if only you go your own way and be true to your sinful self; flee to Jesus who conquered him. For greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. Fear not. Dare to be faithful. For God has commanded his angels guard to you in all your ways, all your vocations. And you are baptized into Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish. Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.  I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

Come soon, Lord Jesus.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

[1] The main idea for this sermon comes from Luther’s Genesis commentary.

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