St. Matthew 4:1-11 – Invocavit 2012
Zion Ev. Lutheran Church, McHenry, IL
February 25-26, 2012
Glory be to Jesus. In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Sin. It’s slavery. Worst than any sickness. Worst than any cancer. It effects everything that is you – your thoughts, your feelings, your everything. It twists everything that is you.
And it’s not someone else that does the evil you do, or that you aren’t like that – you are, you do, and you keep doing.
Sometimes you sin almost against your will, against the good you wanna do. It’s like chains that we can’t get free of. But, most times, you sin because you wanna sin, like an itch, the more you scratch it, the less you care that you are doing something bad for you. The more hardened you become to the simple fact that what you do to God, what you think about those around you, and what you feel is just plain evil.
And this sickness always leads to death. It started with Father Adam’s and Mother Eve’s disobedience. They took their ears off the preaching of the Lord and listened to serpent’s words and did what he said. They ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. And they got exactly what they were promised: they were like God and knew good and evil and they knew they were evil.
“And with their sin, they brought all their children into bondage into sin, which try as we may, we can never get free, and all our ways of trying only bring us deeper into the opposite of free, however many styles of fig leaves we may try.” (Nagel Matthew 4:1 Sermon)
Israel was God’s prized possession, His son. Out of Egypt I have called my Son. Yet, Israel sinned in the wilderness.
They rejected God as their god and instead made a calf of gold and said, “This is the god that brought us out Egypt.”
For everyone born a son and daughter of Adam has sinned. Everyone one of us was born with their sin, their sickness, their death. So that even if we did live perfectly, which we don’t, we still bear the judgment and sickness that they earned for their disobedience: all of us die.
And since then, no matter what the temptation, no matter what the itch, we can’t resist, we can’t stop – as if we can resist anything but temptation.
It’s not even that the Serpent has to offer us to be like God any more, we’ll itch for far cheaper of a prize, we’ll sell out for far less.
Then, comes another Son of Adam. Proclaimed Son of God at His Baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
He is driven from His baptism, from those words, into the wilderness. To be tempted, like Adam, like Israel, by the devil.
Every other son of Adam had failed. Israel wandered the wilderness forty years because of it’s sin. It’s not a coincidence that Jesus fasts forty days in the wilderness. He’s Israel reduced to one.
First temptation, despising God’s name – the name put on Him at His baptism. Second temptation, to selfishly use His power. Third temptation…when I used to read Satan’s third temptation, it seemed to me sort of lame, “Worship me!! Worship me!!!”
But.. think about this.. all this will be yours, if only you’d worship me.
If Christ does what Satan asks, He gets it all the authority and power that He’ll receive at the end of Matthew’s Gospel minus one simple thing: He won’t have to go through Lent for you – no suffering, no Cross, no death.
Father Adam and Eve were tossed from the Garden because if they ate from the Tree of Life, they would be forever separated from the God who made them. They’d be lost forever.
The whole purpose of everything that God the Father has done since Adam and Eve, all that He had promised to them, was to save His creation. If Jesus caves, if He eats the fruit that Satan is selling in His temptation, you and I are lost forever.
No Cross means no salvation for you and me. We’d be lost. Lost to God, lost to one another. Forever. The end.
But unlike Adam, unlike Israel, Jesus doesn’t sin. “At His temptation, when everything that is with us hangs upon Him, Jesus did not sin.” (Nagel). And by His faithfulness, He saves all the sons of Adam from all their unfaithfulness.
But, dear Saints of God, throughout Christianity today, and maybe even in some Lutheran churches, this Gospel lesson will be preached as a guide for how to overcome temptation. Sinners will be directed back to themselves. They’ll be told to use the Word as a means of fighting off the devil.
But, dear Saints of God, the devil quotes Scripture at Jesus. The devil can site Scripture for His purpose, Shakespeare reminds us.
So, this isn’t about you and me overcoming temptation with the Word. We’re not going to overcome the serpent by ourselves. We’re too wrapped up in our own sin and death.
But, this Son of Adam, this Jesus, who is God and Man in the one person, He resists. He does what Israel failed to do in the wilderness: He overcomes the devil. He does what He does not for Himself – like all sons of Adam before Him. No, Jesus lives and dies for you and me.
Not even as He hangs on the Cross, when Satan attacks Him again, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross and we’ll believe in you.” No, He holds His way all the way to dying and so saves the sons of Adam, saves you, and even saves me too.
For on the Cross, He crushes the serpent’s head, not by overcoming that ancient snake with force of arms, but by dying.
So, I appeal to you, not to receive this Jesus, this grace of God in vain. For today is the day of salvation for you. Today is once again we see how free Jesus is – for only God can be so free that He doesn’t have prove He’s God.
And in Him, you are free too. Freed from yours sin. Freed to Fast from your sins this Lenten season and never to return to them.
You are raised from the dead today in the Words of the Lord, in the waters of your Baptism, in the Lord’s Supper. Risen in loving service of others. Loving them. Caring for them.
Adam’s seed has crushed the head of the serpent and is Himself struck. And by His death, He has destroyed your death. For death’s sting stings Jesus and is itself undone. The serpent is undone in his own poison. His hold over you, sin’s hold over you is over in Jesus.
There is no reason to live in your sins, in your death, any more. You are free in Christ. Freed to love others. Freed to live. Freed by Jesus. Glory be to Jesus. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.