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Sermon for Invocabit

by chaz_lehmann ~ February 28th, 2009

Rev. Charles Lehmann + Invocabit + Matthew 4:1-11

In the Name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The joy of service is a common theme in the Scriptures.  Eliezer of Damascus faithfully served Abraham without ever seeking anything for himself.  Jonathan was the son of King Saul, but instead of seeking the throne for himself, he found joy as he served his friend David instead.  Even an Israelite slave girl who was taken from her family delighted in telling her master’s wife how Naaman could be healed.

But the greatest service of all is seen in Christ.  We see it in Jesus dying to forgive our sins.  He is God from God, Light from Light, and Very God from Very God.  He is the eternal Savior.  Though He by right is Lord of all, He is humble.  He subjects Himself to His Father’s will in all things and is obedient even to death on a cross.

When Satan found Jesus in the wilderness, He had been sent there by the Spirit.  He had fasted for forty days and forty nights.  This was all a result of His baptism.  Because He was baptized, Jesus was attacked by the devil.  This is also the way for every Christian.  The cross on your forehead and on your heart marks you not just as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.  It also marks you as one whom Satan wants to destroy.

When Matthew wrote that Jesus was “hungry,” it was probably one of the greatest understatements of the Scriptures.  In Eden, Satan had been able to convince man to serve him instead of obeying God.  And here in the Judean wilderness, Satan hoped to do it again. The evil one saw a man weakened by forty days without food.  He thought that he’d be able to tempt Jesus into sin.  But things were different this time.  Just as Adam and Eve were, Jesus is Satan’s master.  But unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus did not yield to the devil’s lies.

It may sound strange to say that Adam and Eve were Satan’s masters, but we know this even from the Word of God that Satan quotes.  The Psalm says that angels are given the duty of guarding the faithful from every danger.  This doesn’t only apply to the angels in heaven, but also to Satan and all his demon horde.  All angels were created to be your servants.   And so, the Psalm reads,  “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. ‘Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.’”

Satan, however, was never satisfied with his place in the Lord’s creation.  When God gave Adam dominion over all He had made, Satan could not bear to be the servant of a mere man.  He was one of God’s holy soldiers.  He was a being far more powerful than the flesh and blood human beings that God had created in His image.

Satan resented his place in creation.  He could have, like all the holy angels, been content with the role God had given him.  But He wasn’t.  He chafed at man’s authority over him.  Satan thought that he was far more worthy of power and authority than they were.

In the Garden Satan began his attack in a very subtle way.  He asked, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”  Though Satan was already trying to talk Eve into doubting God, he did it in a way that can seem innocent.  He asked a question.  But behind the question was a serious accusation against God.  Satan was really saying that God had put Adam and Eve in the Garden only to starve them to death.  But this was a lie.  God had actually given Adam and Eve the fruit of every tree in the Garden except for one.

In the midst of the Garden where God was providing for Adam and Eve with rich abundance, Satan pointed to the one tree that God had not given them.  He suggested that God really didn’t care.  If He did, says Satan, He wouldn’t hold anything back.

After Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights, Satan tried the same approach.  He said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”  If you’ve ever been hungry and had no way to take care of the problem, you know how hard that can be.  But I suspect none of us have fasted for forty days.  Satan suggested that the Holy Spirit who had driven Jesus into the wilderness didn’t care about His human needs.  It’s the same argument Satan made in the Garden.  God is holding out on you.

Jesus answered that He was well nourished by the Word of God.  We listen to this part of the story and are tempted to say, “Well, that’s Jesus.  It’s easy for him to say.”  But is it?  How easy would it be for a man who had not eaten for 40 days to refuse food if all He had to do was speak a few words?  The Lord’s commands are often difficult.

Though the Spirit hasn’t driven us out into the wilderness to fast, there are times that we want to wiggle our way out of the commands He has given.  If a teaching of Scripture is hard, instead of believing it, we sometimes try to get out of it.  If a doctrine is too hard to believe, we say that it isn’t important.  But every word that proceeds from the mouth of God is important.  Every Word of God is true food that nourishes us.

But whereas Adam and Eve and you and I tend to play games with God’s Word, Jesus answers Satan’s temptation definitively.  “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

The Word of God is exactly what Satan loves to attack.  After Satan had suggested that God was holding out on Adam and Eve, He became more bold in his deception.  He said, “You will not surely die.”  No more questions.  Now Satan is being up front about his agenda.  “God isn’t just holding out on you,” Satan says.  “He’s lying to you.”  Satan planted seeds of doubt with his question, and then he watered them with outright blasphemy.

In the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus in a similar way.  Instead of saying, “You will not surely die,” he said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.”  Quoting Psalm 91, Satan said that if Jesus jumped off the temple, the angels would save Him.  “Test God,” says the evil foe. “See if He will really keep His promise to you.

We test God daily.  Though He has taught us in His Word how sin hurts and destroys us, we test Him anyway.  We say to ourselves, “This time will be different.  This time I’ll get away with it.  No one will get hurt.”  After this comes the sin, and then comes the pain.  Sometimes everything seems fine for awhile, but sin is never harmless.  It sears our soul.  So called little sins become bigger ones.  Shame and guilt follow.  Testing God never bears good fruit.

Once again, where Adam and Eve and you and I have failed, Jesus has remained faithful.  He gave the answer that Adam and Eve should have given.  “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  Adam and Eve tested God by eating the fruit.  They deserved the death that God said would come to them.  They did not die physically that day, but they did enter a spiritual death that still clings to us today.  God showed His mercy instead of His wrath.  He shed the blood of an animal in Adam and Eve’s place and clothed them with its skin.

The last lie that Satan told Adam and Eve was probably the most enticing of them all.  “You will be like God knowing good and evil.”  You will be like God?  Who wouldn’t want that!  Here Satan tempted Adam and Eve with something they already had.  They were already holy and perfect.  They were already without sin.  They already had a perfect relationship with God.  They were already like God in every way a human being can be.

With Jesus, Satan approached it in the same way.  He shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all their glory and said, “All these I will give you if you fall down and worship me.”  It was the same sort of lie that he told Adam and Eve.  Jesus is the king of kings and the lord of lords.  All of the kingdoms of the world belong to Him.  There is nothing that Satan offered that Jesus didn’t have already.  But Satan wasn’t interested in giving anything to Jesus.  He was interested in taking.  He wanted to destroy the perfect relationship that Jesus had with His Father just like he destroyed the perfect relationship that Adam and Eve had had with Jesus.

Satan wanted to reverse roles one final time.  If the man who is the Son of God serves him, then Satan will have won the final victory.  But here Jesus did again what Adam and Eve should have done.  He said, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  Jesus, as a man, has the authority to command Satan to leave Him, and Adam and Eve had this same authority.

But Jesus would only endure Satan’s lies for so long.  Satan can even try God’s patience.  There came a point when Jesus had to restore the proper order in His creation.  Satan was created to serve man, and though the evil foe was once able to reverse that order in the Garden of Eden, he failed with Jesus, and because of this, angels ministered to Christ after the temptation.

Because Jesus was obedient to His Father, Satan’s power has been destroyed.  And because Jesus has suffered the punishment for your sin, Satan cannot accuse you.  What Adam and Eve failed to do in the Garden, Jesus did in the wilderness.  Satan’s power is broken forever.  You are baptized into Christ.  Our Lord’s victory over Satan in the wilderness belongs to us.

When Satan tempts you, you may boldly say, “Satan, you have no power over me.  I am baptized into Christ.  When you tempted Him, He endured all things without sin.  I am His.  You have no power over me.”

At the sound of these words, Satan must flee.  He is a mere servant, after all.  And because the man who is God did not serve Satan, Satan’s false mastery over man is now only an illusion.

You have received every good gift that Christ won by His suffering, death, and resurrection.  You have received it in your baptism.  Satan’s rule is ended.  His accusations have been borne by your Savior.

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

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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