O Lord, who for our sakes didst fast forty days and forty nights,
Give us Grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit,
We may ever obey thy Godly Motions in Righteousness and True Holiness
To thy Honor and Glory, Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost,
One God, world without end. Amen.
One of the questions, which I hope we shall answer by the end of our forty days of Lent, is this: Who is Jesus Christ? The question is of utmost importance to our respective destinies. That the question has not been asked much in recent years is a sign that begs the question even more. Who is Jesus Christ? This is the question we shall ask throughout Lent. This is the Season in which, I pray, we shall find the answer. Lent reveals Who Jesus is by way of His having been tempted to be Who He is not. He was tempted not to be the Son of God as man. This means that He was tempted not to undertake the painful and necessary road to Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha. Put more simply, He was tempted to redeem us by not suffering anything at all for our redemption and salvation.
Now, remember, today’s Gospel temptation narrative follows on the heels of John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus when Jesus emerged from the river Jordan and
the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (St. Matthew iii. 16, 17)
Who is Jesus? This answer pleases our senses. The Father has anointed Jesus His Son and the Descent of the Dove confirms our expectations. Mystified mortals are mesmerized by the Divine Immanence. Messiah has come to save us all and will defeat the enemies of our Heavenly Father. So, we think. Thus, we hope. But what we read next confounds our expectations.
THEN was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an-hungered. when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an-hungered. (Ibid, 1,2)
Who is Jesus? We begin to find the answer to our question by being led up of the Spirit with Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. (St. Matthew iv. 1) The Dove who has descended from Heaven with the Father’s blessing leads Jesus not into Jerusalem for a triumphal coronation but into the desert for struggle, trial, and temptation by Satan. The Son of God begins the mission of our redemption with suffering! For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews iv. 15) Following the Baptism of John, who preached repentance, Jesus’ first order of business is to undergo the temptations that we all endure. Jesus was anointed to suffer as we suffer and to be tempted as we are tempted. Baptism is followed by the manifold assaults of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. We all know and have experienced it and Jesus blesses our suffering by enduring it Himself!
We read on. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. (Ibid, 3) The Son of God has been dignified and honored by the Father. The Spirit leads Jesus into that desert place where He has fasted from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Son of God made man is not only famished but alone. Satan tempts us hardest when we are hungry and in isolation. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God who is with us after the fast, when we are alone and most sorely tempted by earthly things, like hunger and thirst, lust and gluttony.
Satan begins If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. (Idem) The Son of God, God’s Word, who brought waters out of the stoney rock (Ps. lxxviii. 16) to nourish the ancient Hebrews in the wilderness can surely use His Divine Power to satisfy His earthly hunger by turning the flat rocks in the wilderness into bread. Satan tempts Jesus to prove that He is the Son of God by putting His own earthly needs before His Divine Commission. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the one who will redeem us by hungering and thirsting for [God’s] righteousness. (St. Matthew v. 6) The Son of God was made man so that man might become a son of God once again. Jesus will insist Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, that….all [other]….things may be added unto you. (St. Matthew vi. 33)
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the one who knows that we all are tempted to put earthly hunger and thirst, our bodies’ needs and urges before God. We all have been consumed with food, drink, sex, and riches. But Jesus has meat to eat that Satan does not know of. His meat is to do the will of Him that sent…. Him. (St. John iv. 32,34) Jesus knows that Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (St. Matthew iv. 4) St. Paul, in today’s Epistle, reminds us that only with patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, and in fastings (2 Cor. vi. 4) -in the flesh, do we discover Satan’s assault. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God with us in our first temptation when the world is barren and determined to assault and persecute us, and when we are tempted to put our bodies and the flesh before our souls and the spirit. Jesus is the Son of God who proclaims I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (St. John vi. 35)
Who is Jesus? Jesus is determined to become the bread of God’s will. Satan will not be deterred. He will tempt Jesus a second time with pride, envy, and wrath. Fasting in the body often brings anger in the soul and then envy of God’s pure and simple blessedness. Then comes the pride that tempts us to abandon and even harm the body altogether. He has denied the good of the body, Satan thinks, so let Jesus dispense with his body entirely, cleaving as he does to this ‘Word’ of God. He trusts in God, then let Him deliver Him now, if he will have Him: for he said, I am the Son of God. (St. Matthew xxvii. 43)
Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou thy foot against a stone. (St. Matthew iv. 5,6)
Satan tempts Jesus to prove that He is the Son of God by hurling Himself from on high onto the pavement of the temple with pilgrims gathered to witness the event. Cast yourself down; surely God will not let one perish who places the good of his soul above that of his body. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God made flesh, with a soul in a body. Grace never destroys but perfects human nature. The Son of God will not command faith from miracles as Satan commanded bread from stones. We are tempted to avoid and flee suffering and sacrifice. Jesus shows us that we must not. Jesus will suffer and sacrifice His life for us all. He will not hurl Himself down but allow Himself to be lifted high on the Cross. Through suffering and sacrifice, Christ conquers all. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God made flesh whose humility and meekness will defeat sin, death, and Satan from the Cross of His love. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. (St. Matthew iv. 7)
Who is Jesus? Satan thinks that only one temptation remains. Surely if Jesus is the Son of God as flesh, He can still be tempted by greed and sloth. Jesus has come to save all men, but He wonders if Jesus is enslaved to God’s will. Jesus’ last temptation, brought on by exhaustion and sloth, is to covet with greed His Father’s power and to steal it for His own selfish glory. Like us, Jesus is tempted to become His own god, becoming the master of His own destiny and the definer of right and wrong.
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. (St. Matthew iv. 8,9)
Satan tempts Jesus to despair of His Father’s Kingdom and to rule over His own. The last temptation is the worst since it lures us into the world of becoming our own gods, calling good evil and evil good. Jesus has Himself wholly to His Father’s kingdom. Finally, He is tempted to give it all up –to do evil that good may come of it. (Idem, Knox, p. 65) Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (St. Matthew iv. 10) The Son of God has come to reveal the Father’s wisdom and judgment. The Son of God will freely offer Himself as God’s own pure Lamb, to make atonement for our sins and invite us into salvation. Then the devil leaveth Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him. (St. Matthew iv. 11)
Who is Jesus? The Son of God who became the Son of Man. The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (St. Matthew xx. 28) At the end of our Gospel lesson we read that Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. (St. Matthew iv. 11) Luther tells us that the angels came down from Heaven to feed Him. Now Jesus’ earthly hunger can be satisfied. The Son of God has come to set first things first. The Son of God will go on to win our salvation on the Cross of Calvary. He is the Broken Body and Poured out Blood. He is our Broken Bread and Poured out Wine. Food for Men Wayfaring.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: