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Worship Theme: Our Temptation is Crushed By Christ's Obedience
- Remember Your Love
- CW 864: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
- CW 819: If God Himself Be for Me
- CW 721: What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Watch the livestream beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.
Pastor Jake Schram
There used to be a custom known as “battle by champion.” Two opposing armies would send their best warrior to fight each other. That is what we see in our text today. The demons send their champion: Satan. Humanity’s best warrior, Christ, steps forward to fight without the use of his divine powers. He bravely steps forward to crush our temptation.
This follows immediately after Jesus’ baptism. At his baptism, Jesus was shown to be the Messiah, the one who would save the world from their sins. At this point he was anointed into his public ministry which he would begin in a place called Galilee. But before any of this can happen, Christ must meet his greatest enemy face to face. This is the enemy he came to destroy. He goes one on one with the devil. Their faceoff is not the result of an accident or Jesus mistakenly leaving himself open to attack. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness for this showdown. It was God’s will that this battle should take place.
As soon as Jesus enters the wilderness, he is attacked relentlessly. He is there for 40 days. The entire 40 days the devil tries to get Jesus to sin. Jesus has to endure temptation after temptation after temptation. Most of the temptations aren’t recorded for us. Instead, we are given three examples of what Jesus must go through. Now before we go into the three examples, I want you to think about two things. The first is how tired Jesus must be. He doesn’t eat the entire 40 days he is in the wilderness.
In the first youth group I was a part of we did something called the 30 hour famine. We asked people to give donations to the church if we could deprive ourselves of food for 30 hours. And the money only had to be given to the church, if we made the full 30 hours. For those who accepted the challenge, the complaining started within 30 minutes. Because as soon as we were told we couldn’t have food, we wanted food. After missing the first meal, most people quit. At about the 8-hour mark people were having small headaches. 15 hours in, people couldn’t sleep because they were uncomfortable. 20 hours in we were moving a bit slower, and our large group had dwindled to a measly group. One person even quit at 29 hours 52 minutes in. They didn’t make the final 8 minutes even, with the donations to the church on the line. Only a few ended up fasting the whole 30 hours. We were tired and easily tempted to give in during that time. And that was just 30 hours.
Jesus is fasting for 40 days and even though Jesus is God, he’s also a hundred percent human. He feels the gnawing hunger of his insides. He’s probably struggling to think straight. Maybe, he’s barely able to move. His body is weak and vulnerable. This is an opportune time for the devil to attack.
The second thing I want you to think about is what is at stake here. Jesus has lived a perfect life so far. He was not born with sin. He has not sinned or given into temptation even once. He is also the only one who could do this. No one else had ever done it. No one else since has ever come close. Jesus is living the perfect life that we couldn’t in our place. If he sins even once, the devil wins for all eternity. All of humankind would go to hell. The stakes are high!
Let’s look at some of Jesus’ temptations. In the first temptation “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” This seems like a familiar situation. Can you think of a time when the devil tried to get someone to eat something and sin? Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They failed this same temptation. This one is a little bit harder, but can you think of a time in the Bible when the devil got others to sin because they were hungry? The Israelites in the desert being led by Moses. Even though God fed them with bread called Manna from the sky, the people’s lack of faith and their fear of not having sufficient food caused them to murmur and rebel against God. Again, they sinned because their focus was on the food and not on God. Jesus is now in the same position as the first humans and the Israelites during Moses time. Those who had gone before had failed. And think of how hungry Jesus must be. He certainly has the power to selfishly turn that stone into bread, so why not give in? Because Jesus isn’t focused on the food like the others were. He’s focused on the one who provides food. He knows his Father in heaven and trusts Him. That’s why he says, “Man shall not live on bread alone.”
At the Salem School Faculty Bible Study we have recently been reading a book by Mike Novotny called God is Here. In one chapter he tells the story of how he and his wife love sushi and so they saved up their money to get food made by one of the top ten sushi chefs in the world. Every time they were tempted to blow their money on Burger King or McDonalds, they reminded themselves of the expertly prepared sushi that awaited them. They eventually saved enough, and the time finally came to eat this delicious sushi. Believe it or not, it was even better than they could have imagined. Everything was perfect. Each taste was delicious and savory. It was worth every penny. They gorged themselves until they were fit to burst. Unable to eat another bite, they left extremely satisfied. One hour later as they were walking a strange thought occurred to one of them almost too shameful to say out loud. “I’m hungry.” Here they had had this masterful meal and it didn’t satisfy them for even an hour.
Jesus understands this concept better than anyone. We may gorge ourselves on our temptations one after another, but in the long run, it does not satisfy. Food that is lasting is more important than food that is temporary. Only in the bread of life, Jesus Christ, are we satisfied forever. This is the true spiritual nourishment that can only be provided by God and his Word. Jesus knows this. And so he crushes our temptations, all the things we fail at, by his obedience. He succeeds here in resisting the devil and remains perfect to pay for our sins.
Our text shares another of the devil’s plots against Jesus. “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Think of the allure. The devil shows him all the kingdoms that the eye can see. He may have even used his powers to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the future, flashing by with wealth and wonders. It could all be Jesus’ in an instant. All he has to do is bow down to the devil. It’s quite the offer.
The thing about the devil though is he is the father of lies. In the garden he told Adam and Eve they would be like God if they ate the fruit they weren’t supposed to. Instead, they were left empty and broken, farther from God then they ever could have possibly imagined. Here, the devil doesn’t own any of this. Though he has some powers in this world (kept in check by our God) he is certainly not the one in charge over everything. The kingdoms and political power he is offering are not his to give. Even if they were, Jesus still would not be willing to give up the authority and glory that belongs to God. And so “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
At a time where people are tempted to put everything and anything before God, we so often give into this temptation. I like to call it the phone scenario. How many times have you talked to someone playing games or looking up videos on their phone and that person said, “just a minute.” Maybe you were calling that person to dinner, or you were on a date with them, or maybe you were trying to talk to your spouse right before bed. But as you waited for that ‘just a minute” it slowly turned into 5, 10, 15, 30, maybe even 60 minutes in which they stared into the screen blissfully unaware. We do that to God all the time. God tries to nourish us with his Word or bring us together as a community at church and we go, “Hold on. I’ll be right there.” We get distracted by the temporary things like sports, or entertainment, or sometimes nothing at all. We tell God we will be right there, but never bother to let him in. We give in to the temptations. But for all the times we weren’t perfect, Jesus once again faces the temptation in our place. And again, he crushes our temptation with his perfect obedience.
There is one more temptation given to us in our text. It reads, “The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
This temptation sounds ridiculously easy to resist. The devil says, “jump off a cliff.” “No thank you. I’d rather not.” Temptation done, right? In reality, it is a little trickier than that. You see. A couple of things could happen from this. If Jesus jumps, then he can prove God’s Word to be true by not only surviving, but by not being harmed by the 100-foot-high drop. Plus, if people gathering around the temple see Jesus floating safely to the ground, perhaps Jesus would gain followers for himself. Maybe, just maybe, they might even recognize him as the Son of God. Jesus could have glory right now.
But despite the devil’s prodding, Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” The devil had done his best to twist Scripture to his own argument. The devil misquoted Scripture from Psalm 91:11, 12. He conveniently left out the part about everything being according to God’s ways, not ours. However, Jesus would not be swayed. Jesus basically replies not to take a gracious promise from God and use it to tempt or to challenge God by doing something which is contrary to God’s will. That’s like sticking your hand in the fire and expecting not to get burned and then getting upset at God when it burns.>
We do that too. We often know what the right and wrong thing to do is, but we like to pick the wrong one. And then we expect God to bless us for choosing the very thing against his Word. But again, where we have failed, Jesus took up the mantle and succeeded. He also crushed this temptation with perfect obedience.
One of my favorite parts about this story is Jesus’ choice of weapon. It’s not an axe, or an uzi, or mad ninja skills, or an atomic bomb. Every time Jesus speaks to the devil, it’s with Scripture. We have God’s Word still today! Jesus loves you so much he didn’t just die for the times you’ve messed up. He gives you the weapons to fight your own temptations today. God’s Word is the sword of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Brothers and sisters, you are not unarmed. You have the most powerful spiritual weapon available to you. Jesus gave it to you.
Jesus asks us to fight against temptations, but it’s good to know the battle is already won by a Savior even when we falter in our fight. Jesus met the devil face to face and conquered him. The devil tried to get Jesus to fill his belly instantly, he offered him kingdoms of earth immediately, he advised Jesus to forget about his people and gain glory for himself in that moment. And even though Jesus was starving and not making use of his divine powers, the devil never had a chance. Jesus had a different plan in mind. All of Jesus’ glory was not to come at that moment, but later, on a cross for the good of his people. He crushed the temptations one after another with perfect obedience so that the price for our sins would be paid in full. In every way, Jesus battled and defeated the devil as one of us. As a result, we live victoriously through him. Amen