Lent 1, 2019
The Epistle – 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
The Gospel – St. Matthew 4:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Each year this Gospel lesson comes to us on the first Sunday in Lent.
Jesus tempted in the wilderness by the devil.
He fasted for 40 days without any sort of break. And the words of our prayer call us to follow His example today.
We are called to follow the example of Jesus in resisting temptation and one of the primary ways is to enter into times of fasting.
The wording in our prayer was this, “that we might use the same sort of abstinence that He did, to subdue the flesh and bring it into alignment with the righteousness of God… that our flesh, our bodies might be conformed to and in obedience to the guiding and leading Spirit of God.
However, every 7th day, we enjoy a break. We enjoy a feast day.
Sunday is always a feast day commemorating the Resurrection of Christ from the dead.
The Sundays in Lent are not days of Lent, even though they do still fall within the season and they are still lived out or conducted with the “appropriate solemnity”…the same disciplinary character of the season.
In other words, though Sundays give us somewhat of a break or a rest from the Lenten disciplines, we do not forget what season we are in…… and we look forward even to getting back to those disciplines that we have committed to.
We get to enjoy a time of rest before setting off on the journey again tomorrow and on through the week.
The Collect, each week, that is assigned, is a clear guide that tells us precisely what we are to be thinking about, doing, praying for, …and in what way God is working in us to His ends throughout this season.
So, again, we are to call to mind this week the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
We are to then ask God for His grace to sustain us as we, in like manner, refrain from the high quantity of food we consume…to minimize consumption, and by doing so, we are to look to see how we might see God working in us to help us subdue the flesh.
Further, this is in order that our lives will be ordered and oriented in the ways God desires of us.
“Godly motions in righteousness.”
And of course, this is all to the honor of God, not to ourselves
Lent is to honor God, and we honor God with our heart, soul, mind and strength…and our bodies.
The deprivation of food or even of some other thing at this time, will have the effect that the prayer states.
So, we have this Gospel lesson today to show us what Jesus experienced….to see what Jesus went through and how He endured it.
We should first consider when Jesus was tempted.
Jesus was tempted at His lowest and most desperate moment.
Remember Jesus has just been baptized in the previous chapter. He entered the water, was baptized by John and what happens??
The heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove and the Father speaks… “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
And immediately after this, Jesus is driven out into the wilderness to be tempted and tested.
Scott – This happened “After a season of highest spiritual elevation, and when, therefore, He might have been least upon His guard”
Jesus is led into the wilderness after this blessed occasion of His baptism. His ministry is about to begin…and the first thing He must do is face trials.
(Jesus never saw much rest in His time on earth).
And at the same time, the devil approaches Jesus at the point of great weakness. After fasting for 40 days, the devil appeared to Him to tempt him.
There is something directly related to an empty stomach or a hungry stomach and the openness of man’s spiritual side. It certainly drives us to understand that we rely on things outside of ourselves.
Food is necessary. God provides all food for us. Our depriving ourselves of it from time to time can, as the prayer again says, help us to follow godly motions in righteousness.
It can open us up to look toward God and it also can reveal much to us. Our minds are turned to contemplation.
Jesus as the second Adam did not have all of the abundance around Him that the first Adam did.
Jesus was in a barren wilderness. Adam was in a lush garden where all of the plants were there for him for food.
Adam was tempted and look how quickly he and Eve failed the temptation.
Jesus, on the other hand, not surrounded by bodies of water, and lush greens to eat, has the devil appear to Him and say, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”
But Jesus, resisting him says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”
This was a direct reference to the wandering Israelites in the wilderness.
Moses said to them, “And [God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (ESV)
Jesus will not abandon His trust in God to provide for Himself.
So, we must do the same. We are taking on a time of fasting, nowhere near the intensity that Jesus did, yet in our hunger, we too can grow not only weak, but vulnerable and susceptible.
We too must resist the temptations satan whispers in our ears to give up, to abandon the discipline. The subtle whisper… “Don’t waste your time on things like this.”
But we are saying back to that, that our hunger only amplifies what we already desire. We are to desire God and His Word above all things. His Word is life.
Fasting is designed to increase our hunger for God. It is an extra way to say what we already say by looking to God alone for all things.
So, we must be careful at all times to resist temptation, especially when we are at our weakest. Not only physically hungry, but even at other times of weakness…sickness. Loss…mourning.
Second, we should think about why Jesus was tempted.
The easy answer is that satan wanted to have this as the grand prize. Get the Son of God to fail.
Get the Son of God to capitulate to temptation.
Get the Son of God to turn away from His Father.
But more than that, we must always keep in mind the substitutionary nature of Christ and His work as an answer to the “why”.
He is our substitute. Not only in death, but in life and temptation as well.
“It was for us men and our salvation” that Jesus was tempted.
It was so that we might not, when we are tempted, feel guilty and doubt God’s assistance…especially in our times of greatest need.
Jesus was tempted so that that we would always have an example to look to. So that we would have assurance that He went through temptation as we do, and He can sympathize with us.
This then brings us encouragement.
We cannot then say to God, you have no idea what I’m going through. That is an insulting comment to make to the God whose Son was tempted, as the Bible says, in every way as we are, and yet He remained sinless in His response so temptation.
In fact, we can even say that there is the sovereignty of God at play here and the temptations were not a surprise to God or to Christ.
There is a difference between temptations and trials….and testing.
We just saw today that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness “to be tempted.” But it is “to be tempted by the devil.”
Nevertheless, Jesus was led there for that purpose.
God does not do the tempting. He does not plant evil desires in us and then call us to not be tempted by them.
Rather, He does bring us into the presence or the place of temptation, but that is always to try us, to refine us, to prove us and to cause us to be conformed to His Son each time.
“Consider [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (ESV)
So we can even add the word “train” to that list. We are trained by God through trials and temptations how to be more Christlike.
So Jesus endured temptations, and trials, so that He could overcome them in our place as our substitute.
We should think about that. He did this for us. He willingly went out into the wilderness… and passed the test of temptations, fought back and countered the devil with scripture and scriptural responses…and finally He sent the devil away in defeat…prefiguring what will happen finally on the last day.
Satan will finally be beat down under our feet as our Litany says…and it is prefigured in this account today of what happened with Jesus.
Third and finally, we need to know how Jesus was tempted. When, why, and now “how”.
Scott - “Every temptation, both of Christ and ours, is directed against sonship, and its object to interfere between the sons of God and their Heavenly Father, and to separate man from the favour and grace of God.”
Satan’s desire was to pull Christ away from His Father. Though Jesus was the one who came to destroy the works of the devil and to make us sons of God….and He did…
Satan’s desire is to undo what happens at baptism. He wants to undo our new birth and rob us of our birthright.
Satan put desires in the path of Jesus as he does to us. Riches, fame, stature, possessions, lust.
These come to us on a daily and even minute by minute basis.
There is always something here to allure us away from God and our trust in Him to provide all we need.
We are reminded by St. Paul of this, and many smile when they read or hear this because they think they are the exception.
1 Corinthians 10:13
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (ESV)
The way to endure it and escape it is to keep our eyes on Christ. Our substitute.
Our victor over trials and temptations….
and our King, who has defeated satan once and for all on the cross and is seated at the right hand of the Father, right now, knowing what we are going through and making intercession for us…even through our darkest and deepest temptations and trials.
Let us keep the Lenten fast, knowing that He is faithful even when our faith fails.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.