Invocavit (Lent 1) Sermon, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
We don’t get the fullness of the temptation of Christ.
If the choice is either the devil or a full stomach, that’s an easy choice.
If the choice is either the devil or an eventual death, that’s an easy choice.
And if the choice is either the devil as our god or the lack of worldly riches, even that, for us, is an easy choice.
If that’s how satan tempts us, we should never sin, because those choices are easy.
But there’s more to temptation than simply asking “God or…”
The devil wants you to say, “God and…”
Think of the temptation in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:16-17, God says, “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.”
This is an Either/Or scenario. Either Adam will heed God’s Word or he’ll surely die. And how does the devil, [הַשָּׂטָן] in Hebrew, the deceiver, how does he approach the matter?
“Did God actually say…?”
First, he casts doubt on the word of God.
Second, he contradicts the Word of God, “You will not surely die…
And third, here’s where the devil insinuates “God and…”
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
This is how the devil works.
He doesn’t correct Eve when she adds to God’s command by saying “neither shall you touch it.”
The devil rejoices in such additions.
He wants you to think that God can be your God and you can depart from His Word. God and.
If it’s put to us as a clear Either/Or, it’s an easy choice. When it’s “God and…” temptation is at its worst.
And that’s how Jesus is tempted.
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’
There’s more going on here than the temptation of a hungry Jesus.
That’s the easy Either/Or part.
Not only does the devil tempt a hungry man with earthly food, he’s also tempting a loving God with being an apparently loving God.
It’s as if the devil says, “If you are the Son of God, command these and all stones to become loaves of bread and feed and care for all people everywhere.
“If you’re a loving God, you don’t want people to starve, so that’s what you’ll do: care for and feed your people.”
The devil tempts Jesus with being God, essentially saying, “Be the Son of God—feed all people everywhere.”
But: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
There’s more to God’s plan for you than a full stomach.
And thanks be to God for that, because even if you always had a full stomach, bread without sweat, as it were, even then, the rest of you would one day give out.
God, knowing this, feeds you bread from heaven, he strengthens your body and your soul to life everlasting.
Out of His mouth, He gives you His Word, and on that, we can live forever.
Then the devil took [Jesus] to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘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.”
There’s more going on here than the temptation of the mortal God-man.
That’s the Either/Or part.
The devil here tempts God with being God a second time, because if Jesus jumped from the Washington Monument, and the angels swooped in and picked Him up, lest he strike his foot against a stone, the people would see it and believe.
That’s what the devil wants you to think—that all it would take is a miraculous sign and the world would believe.
Here again, Jesus is being tempted with being God.
It’s as if the devil says, “If you want people to believe—if you are a loving God—be their God and give them a sign!”
But the world has been given a sign, the sign of the prophet Jonah. But since they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead (Luke 16:31) or be saved by swooping angels.
Again it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” There’s more to God’s plan for you than glorious, marvelous, spectacular signs and wonders.
Even when those things happen—or are claimed to have happened—they don’t endure.
Maybe you read Heaven is for Real or The Shack. Maybe you watched the movie. But how much did it actually change your life? Do you read or watch it every day? Do you organize your week around its reading? Do you memorize it? Or chant it? Or sing it? Do you buy multiple copies of it to better understand all the depth and nuance to it?
We treat God’s Word that way and really nothing else.
Seemingly miraculous things are popular only for a time—the truly miraculous—the Word of God that endures forever—we hear the Word of God and the Holy Spirit works to convert us from unbelief to faith.
God applies His name to us, He marks us as ones redeemed by Christ, He feeds and nourishes us as a Father His dear children.
And we rejoice. The Word of God—not signs and wonders—is a certainty. It creates and sustains our certain faith in the Lord Jesus.
So we do not put the Lord our God to the test.
Then, Again the devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me.”
There’s more going on here than an attempt to get Jesus to worship a different god. That’s the easy Either/Or.
It’s as if the devil says, “If you’re the Son of God, be the Son of God. That won’t change. Be the Son of God and worship me. And I’ll give you all the world, its riches, and power. If you’re a loving God, rule the earth benevolently. Wouldn’t you do better than me?”
And for a third time, the devil tempts Jesus with being God.
But Jesus said to him: Be gone, satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”
There’s more to God’s plan for you than earthly, temporal glory, riches, wealth, power, and food.
Why store up treasure where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal?
Why trust things that do not endure?
The devil rejoices when you love God—so long as it’s “God and…”
But thus says the Lord, our God: “You shall worship the Lord your God, period. Him only shall you serve.
It’s Either/Or. Not “God and…” And this is God’s plan for you:
In the midst of a culture of insatiable hunger and thirst, the One Who refused to live by dead and dusty bread gives of His own flesh: Living Bread that never dies but strengthens and preserves your body and soul unto life everlasting.
Christ was tempted with food that could have fed you. He resisted, that you would be fed by the Word, that you would hear and believe and live forever.
In the midst of a culture of death, the One Who refused earthly, satanic power lay down His life, crushing the serpent’s head with His own pierced and bruised hands and feet. He gave up earthly glory to raise you to eternal glory.
Christ was tempted with life that you would have benefited from. He resisted, so that all who believe in Him, in Jesus, by faith, you will never die.
In a culture of pluralism, unionism, and syncretism the One Who refused to bow the knee to false gods and false doctrine preached to you an eternal Gospel, the Words of the Eternal Way, Truth, and Life.
Christ was tempted with power that would have made our earthly lives a breeze. He resisted that, by the Grace of God, though you pick up your cross and follow Jesus here on earth, you will one day set down your cross, pick up a crown, and serve and reign with Christ the King forever.
This is God’s plan for you: These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the only Son of God. And that by believing you have life in His Name.
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.
Behold—the devil has left you.
And we go to the Lord’s Table where angels and archangels and all the company of heaven are present.
We go to receive for our body and soul’s good God’s plan for our salvation.
Come, Lord Jesus.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!