1st Sunday in Lent
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, We got out the legos the other week, you know, the bucket of legos that I had when I was a child growing up and still have because I thought my children could play with them someday. I just decided that they were probably old enough now to start playing with them. So we dumped them on the floor and we got busy building little houses and cars and spaceships and airplanes and we’re flying them around or driving them and then, maybe, just maybe, for a little bit, I found myself back in my childhood again playing with the same legos that I had played with. And then it struck me, I’m not a kid anymore and I’m not going to be a kid anymore and a 29 year old pastor doesn’t normally fly little lego planes or lego cars around going vroooom. But then I decided for the sake of my children I would keep playing J
For a short little bit, I forgot who I was. I was a kid again playing with legos. Have you ever forgotten who you were? Maybe done something that afterward you thought, “Hmm…that wasn’t really me” or “I can’t believe that I just did that!” And there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun and being a kid again for a little bit (as long as it’s only for a little bit). But there’s another way that we can forget who we are, but it’s deadly serious. In fact, in our text for this morning, we see the devil trying to get Jesus to forget who He is.
This account happened right at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, right after God had publicly identified Jesus at His baptism when He said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I well pleased.” And then we’re told that God the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil. It was God’s perfect plan that Jesus would be tempted by the devil just as every human being has been, not only that He can relate in every way to His creatures but overcome every one of the devil’s temptations perfectly. So, unlike our first parents, Adam and Eve, who had everything in their favor when they were tempted by Satan, here, Jesus as to His human nature has just about everything against him: He’s in the wilderness, He’s alone, He’s been fasting forty days and nights, He’s hungry, He’s facing a life of rejection that will end in agonizing death on a cross, this is when Satan comes to tempt.
We learn something here: Remember what happened time and again with the Israelites, God’s special, chosen OT people, after God had miraculously delivered them out of slavery in Egypt? They’re standing before the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army coming after them and said, “Great! We’re all just going to die here, why didn’t you just leave us alone, it would have been better to serve the Egyptians.” Later on they’re at Mt. Sinai where God gave them His commands and Moses was taking too long so what did they do? Made a golden calf to worship. Later on when they were wandering in the wilderness time and again they complained: we have no water, we have no food, we detest this miserable manna. Weren’t they God’s people? Hadn’t God rescued them? Hadn’t God made them His very own possession? Shown them wonderful things? But are we that different? At our weakest moments, when we fear the devil’s temptations the least, when we let down our guard, that’s when the devil’s temptations come. Same with Jesus.
When hungry and alone the devil comes to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Now, the devil’s not really trying to get Jesus to doubt that He is the Son of God – God had just said that at His baptism. But what the devil is attacking is what kind of Son He is. He’s trying to lead Him to be the wrong kind of Son, a self-serving Son. Jesus has power, but the question is, how is He going to use that power? In service to God and people or in service to Himself? “Are you really sure your Heavenly Father will take care of you? Who are you going to trust to provide for you?” And so, Satan comes to you and me, too. “Are you really a child of God? If you are, why do you go through so many trials and troubles? What’s the point of all your dedication to God? Is it getting you anywhere? Don’t you think it’s about time to rely on yourself? God’s obviously not coming through for you, it must be time to forget God, His Word, and prayer, time to rely upon yourself, don’t you think?” Who are you going to rely on? God or yourself? God or money? God or things? God or your own ingenuity?” And so Satan tries to get us to forget who we are, to forget being God’s children who trust in and rely on only God for all our needs and to carry us through every situation. He tried to get Jesus to forget and become a distrustful Son, but Jesus responded: “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Life doesn’t depend on food, but trust in God and His Word.
Then the devil took Him to the highest point on the temple and told him to throw Himself down, “For, isn’t it written? God will send his angels to protect you?” Conveniently the devil leaves an important part of that verse from Psalm 91 out. He left out “to guard you in all your ways,” in other words, God promises to protect His people as they live according to God’s ways, which He has taught them. Essentially Satan says, “If you’re so trustful in God’s providing care, throw yourself down, prove it to me and to yourself.” Will Jesus put God to the test to see if God will really do what He’s promised or not? Will Jesus forget even for a moment that He is God’s Son who has perfect trust in God’s power and protection? Will He become a testing Son instead of a trustful Son?
And Satan tries to get us to forget who we are and become presumptuous children, to test God to “see” if He will come through for us, instead of being His trusting children. How do we do that? We know that God sends His angels to protect us, but that doesn’t mean we purposefully put ourselves into needless danger in order to find out. Are there times when we forget that we are God’s children? We say, “God will provide for me.” But then ignore the two hands and abilities He’s given us to work. We say, “God will keep me in the faith.” But then ignore His Word, the very tool God uses to keep us in that faith? Has Satan led us to be tempting children of God? But Jesus didn’t forget that He was God’s perfect Son and said, “It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Finally, Satan brought Jesus to a high mountain and in some way showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor and, as if he owns it all, and says, “All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.” What kind of Son of God will Jesus be? Will He be a disloyal Son? Give His allegiance to another? Supposedly He could have all the world’s splendor, all He had to do was bow down and worship Satan- no rejection, no whips, no thorns, no cross. All He had to do was give his allegiance to Satan for a little bit. Of course it’s all a lie. Satan also tries to get us to forget who we really are and be disloyal children of God. He tempts us by making us to think that we can get ahead by sinning or doing something we know to be wrong. Tell a little lie to save some face. Be greedy for once so you can get ahead.
Has Satan led us to be disloyal children? Jesus didn’t forget that He was God’s perfect Son and said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
Clearly it is not a sin to be tempted, Jesus Himself was tempted, but it becomes a sin if we give in to it. Satan knows that he can’t rob you and me of our faith, He can’t take away our salvation, however, WE can turn away from God. And so his temptations time and again will try to make us forget who we really are and get us to do things that God’s children don’t do. He wants nothing more than to un-make us children of God. He succeeded with Adam and Eve and he’s succeeded with you and me time and again.
But that’s exactly why the second Adam is here, that’s exactly why THE Son of God is here, Jesus came to be the perfect child of God that you and I so often have failed to be. Jesus withstood every temptation the devil lodged at Him to forget who He was and He used God’s Word. Jesus went into battle with Satan our arch-enemy and He overcame Him. The devil would try again and again to tempt Jesus but every time fail. The devil would then prompt Judas to betray Jesus, he would incite the Jewish leaders with the help of the Romans to crucify Him and kill Him. But through it all Jesus never once sinned and through it all, Jesus’ whole righteous life and righteous death, the devil was defeated and sins- all of them- every time you and I have given in to the devil’s temptations – all those sins were paid and washed away!
Because Jesus defeated the devil God has given you and me a new status: You are God’s child, you’ve been washed clean from all your sins in the waters of baptism, you are clothed with Jesus’ perfect robe of righteousness, you are God’s own child, part of God’s own family, you are an heir of eternal life. That’s who you are! So remember it! Don’t forget it! Don’t let the devil think you are anything less! And as God’s child, His own son or daughter, Jesus’ invincible power over the devil and temptation is yours! In every battle Christ is at your side and with Him at your side you can conquer each and every one of Satan’s temptations.
So this week: Remember who you are! Remember your identity! Remember who you are as you live with your family, as you go to work, as you drive in your car, as you shop in the store. Remember who you are as Satan tries to get you to sin, as he lodges temptations at you to be or act as someone different. And with God’s power and strength may you and I live as God’s forgiven child because that’s exactly who we are! Amen.