Lent. We follow Christ to the Cross in this season. It is 40 days long (not counting Sundays or Passion days), just like the time Jesus spent in the wilderness where the devil tempted Him. We hear little about the devil these days, Satan, that old wicked foe. But he is real, and working his evil in this world. He tempted Jesus, the God man, thinking, quite possibly, that he could get the Son of God to choose as he did and reject His place, and seek the throne of the Father. Jesus, however, as he demonstrates and models for us time and time again, holds fast to the Word of God, and rebuffs Satan at every turn.
Matthew 4:1-11 is the text for our lesson today. Jesus’ temptation shows how He, the new Adam, did what Adam and we cannot — overcome the temptation of the devil bringing with Him life and forgiveness for those who believe. Listen to the Issues, etc. interview with Deaconess Pam Nielson of Concordia Publishing House discussing this week’s Sunday School lesson.
This past Sunday we remembered the Reformation, triggered by Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. At certain times in history, God has intervened in tremendous ways to accomplish His purposes on earth. In no way is this more clearly demonstrated to us than in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For in Him, God became man. He lived with us, walked with us, talked with us. In some ways God became our friend in and through Christ. But from what we have seen He was much more than a friend. Christ is the LEADER — there was none other like Him before, and none have been like Him since. He is COMPASSIONATE. Always taking time to speak with those around Him; healing the sick, the lame, and the blind. He is SELFLESS SERVANT. Always concerned with the well-being of His flock, our Lord takes the time to prepare a meal. He feeds His children with the bread of life. None go away hungry. All are satisfied. And the baskets that are collected are overflowing with the abundant blessings He bestows on His people. Christ is the TEACHER of TRUTH. Never missing a moment to teach, Jesus enters the synagogues to read and expound upon Scripture. Each moment with His disciples is a moment in which He is constantly molding and shaping their faith. Time and time again, people walk away from Jesus, marveling at His teaching. No matter how hard they tried, His enemies could not argue with His doctrine. He taught what was unpopular, and challenged his people’s notions of love, mercy, compassion, and ethics. No one was spared, not even His family or His closest disciples. Jesus is COURAGE. In the face of fierce opposition from the ruling priests, the scribes, the pharisees, and the supporters of Herod, Christ took His Gospel, the Gospel of God, directly to all people — to Jews, pharisees, tax collectors, Samaritans, and to Gentiles. He took the Gospel into the heart of Israel, the Temple, to cleanse us and to make us holy. We sought ways to kill Him, to put out the fire of the Gospel. Jesus did not stop preaching, teaching, and healing. The devil sought to tempt him. He sent demons to confront Christ. Yet our Savior did not stop preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus continued to do that which He had been sent to do by the Father. He forgave sins. He became angry and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. He ate in the homes of tax collectors. He spoke with women. In public. He touched lepers, and was touched by unclean women. All of these things Jesus did until the very end. Until He was arrested. Betrayed. Beaten. Tried and convicted. Beaten again. And then nailed to a tree, to die the death of a common criminal. And while all these things happened, Jesus continued to serve us. Taking the time to arrange for a room to meet with His disciples one last time. A meal was prepared and He fed His disciples in a way that would change our lives forever. For it was their that Christ gifted to us forgiveness and life which He sealed with His death.
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” (Luther’s Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f.). This statement speaks of COURAGE. And yet, as Dr. Luther points out, we flinch, we blink, we fold, and like the disciples we turn tail and run. Yet, at the appointed time, Christ remained obedient to the Will of the Father which meant His own death. I imagine that Lucifer stood in the courts of Heaven at the time of Christ’s trial, and conviction, accusing Him of not being worthy to sit at the right hand of God. See Jesus was just like us — those sinful creatures. Despicable. So much so that he was betrayed for the price of a slave. The Son of God convicted as a common criminal. Unable to make His own defense. He shows His weakness, does the Savior, by speaking the truth to the end. He cannot even convince the chosen people of God that He is the Son of God! Seeking all the while, Lucifer does, to unseat Christ, and usurp the throne of God. In the face of such audacity, Jesus did not flinch. He did not blink. He did not back down. His weakness, is our strength. His death, our life. His faith He gives to us. And in His death, are we made right before God. Satan is cast down from Heaven and bound in chains. This is a cosmic story, of which we get a glimpse as Chapter 14 of Mark unfolds for us.
It is the Courage of Christ that we need now in this world.