Lent 1, 2020
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.
Since we have gone through Ash Wednesday and have now entered into Lent, it might be good to remind ourselves just what Lent is, why it is done and what is its origin.
Lent lasts 40 days.
In making Lent last for 40 days, it was the intention of the Church, for one thing…. to bring us into a greater time of contemplation of another aspect of the life of Christ.
We find the origin of it in today’s Gospel lesson. We heard the account of Jesus as He begins His ministry.
He has just completed His baptism. It is now time for the Holy Spirit to drive Him out into the wilderness for His time of testing.
This is where our Gospel begins today.
“Then 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.” (Matthew 4:1–2, ESV)
Lent really lasts longer than 40 days because there are more than 40 days between Ash Wed. and but Sundays are always of higher importance since they are the Lord’s Day, they are therefore subtracted from the equation.
So, between Ash Wed. and Easter, there are 40 days of Lent.
During Lent we tend to make it more about something that we involve ourselves in than we do with most of the other feast days on the Church Calendar.
At Christmas we think about Jesus’ birth. We give thanks for God’s Son coming into the world.
At Easter we think on the resurrection of Christ.
We celebrate the fact that He died and rose from the dead…to bring that gift of resurrection to us.
At Pentecost we think about the Holy Spirit coming and divinely inspiring the Disciples of Jesus to speak in other tongues.
But none of these have us making such a commitment as does Lent.
First, we should acknowledge that Jesus has completed His 40 days of fasting. He has survived the wilderness. He did it for us…. and that event will never be repeated.
This is a finished event.
Christ’s temptations were faced head on, and He was victorious.
We prayed for this in our Collect this morning. “O LORD, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights.”
He did this for our sake. This is a key line in this prayer. The work of Christ includes even this time of temptation in the wilderness…as a work done for our sake.
So it has become a time of opportunity for us to think about this thing that Jesus did in defeating the devils’ schemes, trying to get Him to forsake His Father….
…. and succumb to empty and shallow and even idolatrous promises.
But He did this for us.
He went out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil in order to prove Himself to the Father as a worthy Savior for all mankind.
But there is also a very important Old Testament parallel here.
As we listen to Jesus’ replies to the devil in each case, we should know that they are echoes of the words of what “…Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness…” (ESV)
Listen to these words of Moses and see how similar they are to Jesus words to the devil.
Embedded in each of these quotes are what Jesus brings to reply to the devil.
Moses - “And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, etc…. take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.” (ESV)
“…for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.” (ESV)
AND…. “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
 And he 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)
The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ final words to the Israelites. Almost every single person who escaped from Egypt with Moses had died in the Exodus, over that 40-year period.
Another 40….40 years had passed of the people wandering in the wilderness…and now they are at the banks of the Jordan.
They are about to cross over.
Because Moses had struck the rock twice… outside of God’s command to do so, he was denied access.
He would not be allowed to cross over and help take possession of the Promised Land of Canaan.
So, when Jesus comes along as we hear about today, He goes out into the wilderness …recalling the wilderness wandering of Moses and the Israelites.
But as Moses failed to accomplish the final step of bringing the people out of wandering…out of the wilderness…and into the Promised Land… Jesus DOES accomplish this task.
His 40 days in the wilderness [as opposed to 40 years] are a success. He enters the wilderness alone but emerges faithful and true.
He is confronted with temptation…food to satisfy hunger…power, wealth, and even a temptation to test God’s faithfulness. And in each case, Jesus passes these tests.
So, we should see ourselves as like the Israelites, as in a state of wandering of sorts…until the Lord Christ makes us His own…and we fall under the headship and leadership of Christ.
And so the quoting of texts from Deuteronomy is not just Jesus’ good ability to pull quotes from Scripture and use them in His defense.
He is taking on His lips the very words of the first Moses…. and pronouncing by their use…. that He is the New Moses ….the perfect Moses who will not fail His people by failing God’s wilderness test.
The devil tells him first, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Break the fast Jesus.
Just take a little bread.
Though you have committed to rely on God to supply you with all you need, just a little bit of bread…you have the power to make stones into bread, do it!
But Jesus replies, with those words from Deuteronomy… “It is written,
‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (ESV)
Moses said to the Israelites, “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)
In the original context, recall there, Moses not only reminded them that God was faithful. He fed them with the manna in the wilderness to satisfy their hunger.
But he also said that to the Israelites to tell them that the land they were to cross over into would be a place of milk and honey…of all of the pleasures and necessities of life…already there waiting for them.
The Canaanites would be driven out by them and they would take their houses and all that remained in them.
They would take their vineyards, livestock.
He said you will take possession of…. “cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant…” (ESV)
It is quite remarkable that God was going to allow them to run these wicked people out of their land and give all of their stuff to His people the Israelites.
Just as Jesus, as we know will finally take possession of all creation (though it is His from the start).
But it is under the limited power and influence of satan at the moment.
But the day is coming when the devil will be destroyed and the creation will be returned to its proper and rightful condition, with Christ as its ruler once again and no sinful interference.
The second challenge: The devil takes Jesus to the “…holy city [Jerusalem] 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.’”
This is an attempt by the devil to take scripture passages out of context to make a false point.
Psalm 91, where the devil pulls this quote uses it incorrectly.
What it means is that God’s angelic protection is for events that happen to his people, not for those who seek out dangerous situations.
So, Jesus, seeing this deception for what it is, says, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (ESV)
This reply of Jesus, again from Moses originally, was, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.” (ESV)
Where and what is Massah? Massah means ‘test’.
So where the people tested Moses (and God)… “Give us water to drink. You led us out here to die. Moses in turn gets angry with God and asks why He has made Moses suffer these people for so long.
So, God has Moses strike the rock for water and they drink.
Jesus is now recalling us to this time and the testing of God and reminding the devil that He is not going to fail as Moses and the Israelites did.
He will be trusting in God at all times and trusting that God will supply what He needs for His survival.
Finally, the devil takes 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 will fall down and worship me.”
Satan is asking that Jesus do something similar to what Adam and Eve did. “You will be like a god.”
Just worship me and I will grant these things to you.
The serpent in the Garden did not ask there to be worshiped but he did appeal to them by telling them they could have so much more if they just disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the tree.
Jesus replies to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.”
At this point, the tempter leaves Jesus.
But Jesus’ final reply also echoing Moses….who said, “It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. (ESV)
In Moses’ context he said this to the Israelites because of the threat of idolatry.
The surrounding peoples loved their idols and false gods.
Moses and God both knew the propensity of the people to stray after seemingly more attractive things than the true God…as we are prone to do as well.
So this account today that we hear of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by the devil and tested by God, is a fulfilment of what Moses and the Israelites failed to do.
They failed to trust God.
They failed at worshiping Him only.
They failed at gaining access to the promised land without great struggle.
But God got them there eventually.
So with one last quote from Deuteronomy we can see how our Lord Christ does all things well.
Moses wrote, “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers  by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised. (ESV)
This is prophetically Messianic as well. Christ did do what we right and good in the sight of the Lord at all times…even in the wilderness.
Despite the betrayal, the Cross and His death, all things ultimately went well, for the plan of salvation had unfolded as ordered by God.
And as we know at the end when the Day of the Lord comes, He will come again to judge the living and the dead….
He will take final possession of all things, judging the world, casting sin into the abyss and thrusting out all of His enemies before Him.
And on that day, He will give us the Kingdom and we will dwell with Him in glory everlasting.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.