Lent 1 – Matthew 4:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Contrary to what some might believe, the devil exists and he affects mankind. Those who confess there is a devil might be called superstitious in this post-enlightenment world. Why anyone would not believe the devil exists boggles the mind. It wouldn’t be surprising if the same people who say there is no devil would also say there are angels. The real reason why some people do not believe the devil exists is because those same people are hostile to God’s Word. Only in Scripture do you find the devil and his minions. So denying the devil is denying Holy Scripture. When a wily, seductive spirit seeks to persuade mankind he does not exist, he does so in order that he could have more uninterrupted work in them.

Those who confess Jesus Christ is Lord also confess there is such a thing as the devil. They also confess the devil is overcome by Christ. This is one of many delightful testimonies today’s Holy Gospel proclaims. Jesus Christ battles the devil in Matthew chapter four as our High Priest as well as our forerunner and example, but more than an example, our Victor, our Champion.

Jesus was not tempted by the devil until He assumed His office in His Baptism by John in the Jordan River. There He was declared by God the Father as the Savior of the world. Our Lord’s feet were barely dry from going out of the Jordan when He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. This does not mean that God our Father tempted His Son. It means that the Holy Spirit guided Jesus into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil. It’s a fine point, but an important one. If God is also a tempter, then He is the creator of evil. God does not tempt. God does help us when we are tempted by providing an escape.

The only escape for Jesus was fighting the devil with the Word of God. Jesus could have used His omnipotence and routed the devil quite easily. That would be a gross misuse of His divine nature. Jesus is tempted in His state of humiliation. He fasts forty days and forty nights. He is tired. He is hungry. He is at the weakest point a man could be without dying of dehydration or starvation. This is an unfair fight, but instead of Jesus having the advantage, Satan seems to hold all the trump cards.

Using the Word as a double-edged sword against the temptations of Satan shows Jesus as our great High Priest. The battle in the wilderness between good and evil is part of the work of redemption. When the target of a battle is the redemption of mankind for life or for death, the victory must belong to life. Though the world sees life as living how they please with no need for God and Satan, many will be surprised come Judgment Day when the life they live will be shown to them to be a farce. Not a few of them will be those who thought they were Christians, but were actually hypocrites who would not see Jesus as neither a High Priest nor a Champion.

Don’t think for a moment that you haven’t fallen into that category. Think of the times you have succumbed to temptation. Think of the many times you’ve been tested to turn your back on God and His Word and go your own way. It’s easy to walk with Satan because there aren’t as many “rules” with him as there are with God. You get to make your own rules. You get to be the boss. You get to mock and ridicule the “weak” and “mild” ones who walk with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Consider Goliath. He was over eight feet tall. He had never lost a battle. He was the immovable object of the Philistine army. Everyone feared Goliath. Everyone, that is, except little David. What are five smooth stones from a brook against eight feet of chain mail and armor? Goliath probably had swords and spears bigger than David did!

Goliath lacked one thing that David had. You come to me with a sword and a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.

The biggest warrior, the greatest fighter the world had ever seen will lay dead on the battleground, mortally wounded by a stone from a sling in the hand of David, soon to be King of Israel.

David’s son, David’s Lord, fights a battle for us as our high priest against the Goliath of evil. Three times the devil strikes. Three times he is rebuffed with “It is written.” Christ’s victory is for you by faith. Because Jesus defeats the devil with something seemingly insignificant as the Word of God, you too are able to defeat the devil with the Word. The Word sets you free from sin and death. The Word withers Satan’s tempters. The Word conquers all.

Also contrary to popular belief by those who won’t believe in the existence of the devil is the fact that Satan attacks strong and weak alike. The devil prowls like a lion seeking someone to devour. Satan doesn’t make an appointment to tempt you. He is relentless. He will do anything to get you to doubt the Word of Christ. He knows God’s Word. Perhaps Satan knows God’s Word better than you know the Word. He knows how to twist the Word around to make Jesus your enemy.

Do not be afraid. Jesus fought back with the Word. So do you. Use the Word given to you as a Christian under grace. The Lord Christ fights with you as He fought then. He is your Champion and your Forerunner. He knows Satan’s weaknesses. Trusting in Christ, His Word, and His victory in the wilderness, you will win the victory over Satan with the mere weapon of God’s Word.

Nothing more is demanded of you and all men than that you play the part of a believing spectator. This might sound strange amid all this talk of being a warrior against the devil. It is important that you practice swordsmanship and know how to use your weapon. But these weapons are primarily defensive weapons. The offensive weapon in your arsenal is Jesus Christ. Jesus battled in your place for your freedom and salvation. You know you serve the devil through unbelief, contempt of the Word, pride, vanity, lust, and love of the world. When you believe that you have served the devil, repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, then this Champion from the stem of David has held the field for you. The Lion of Judah has roared and conquered your foes (Walther).

Christ divides the spoils of war with you, giving you forgiveness of sins, righteousness, life, and salvation. What refreshment you receive after a victorious battle when you come to the Lord’s house for Divine Service! Sins are washed clean. Christ’s Body and Blood nourishes you. Satan must flee from the field and from you. Christ has conquered sin and death for you. Because He fights for you and with you, you receive the triumph as His precious child. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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