Sermon Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. After he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The Tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” Then the Devil took him into the holy city. He placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, and he 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 they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Jesus said to him, “Again, it is written: You shall not test the Lord your God.” Again the Devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said to him, “I will give you all of these things if you will bow down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Then the Devil left him, and just then angels came and served him.
JESUS HELPS THOSE WHO ARE BEING TEMPTED
Prayer: O blessed Redeemer, we thank You that You came to be tempted even as we are, yet without sin. Be with us, we humbly ask You, in the hour of temptation, and teach us to pray, that we may overcome the Tempter and obtain the victory in Your power, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ, whose victory over Satan is given to you: Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and Jesus our Lord. Amen.
What is Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness about? What does it mean? To answer that we go to Hebrews 2:18, where it says: “Because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”
So Jesus didn’t “fall into temptation.” We do. You’re lulled into it, or you aren’t careful enough. But the Bible says that Jesus went there purposely, “to be tempted by the devil.” He went to meet Satan’s temptations, so He can defeat every single one. He did it for you, to help you.
Jesus’ help first took place when: 1. He Defeated the Tempter For Us
This was the first thing Jesus did after being baptized. Once His redeeming work begins, it’s His first act. Jesus says: “I’ll start by defeating the Tempter.”
This is who Jesus is. Romans 5 teaches this. We hear of the first Adam that “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” But Christ is the Second Adam; He came so that “by the one Man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” He came to be tempted as we are, yet remain perfectly obedient, without sin. So we can be righteous in God’s sight. When He went to be tempted, He was thinking of you. He was doing it to help you.
This helps us understand what Jesus was doing when He went to the wilderness to be tempted. He was being our Substitute.
Take the first temptation, where Satan says to Jesus: “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” This is the temptation to think look at what you want, or wish your life is, vs. what God gives you. It’s the temptation to brood on what you lack in life. There’s also opportunity here to exercise faith – to trust God and be content. But we fail daily!
So Jesus, who came down from heaven for you, tells the Holy Spirit: “Lead Me into that wilderness, that child of God’s wilderness, so I can be tempted that way. I want to make it so God won’t see that this child of God has ever been discontent, or hating his/her life; and instead God will only see in this child of His My perfect faith and obedience, and this child of God” – you! – “will be without sin.” Jesus then said to Satan: “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” He did it to count for you.
Then there’s the second way Satan tempted Jesus: putting Him on top of the temple and saying: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: He shall give His angels charge over you, and, In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” The devil quoted a Bible verse, Psalm 91:11. But he left out the part that says God sends His angels “to keep you in all your ways,” that is, the Lord’s ways. He also was tempting Jesus to take a promise of God and use it to sin.
This is where the devil uses God’s Word to lie and deceive. It’s the tempta- tion to listen to the distortions of God’s Word, to reject what’s inconvenient for us. It’s the temptation to neglect God’s Word. So Jesus had compassion for you, came down from heaven, and tells the Holy Spirit: “Lead Me into that child of God’s wilderness, so I can be tempted to misuse God’s Word. I’ll defeat that temptation and make it so God will see no despising of His Word by this person; this child of God” – you! – “will be perfectly forgiven.” Jesus then said: “It is written: You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” He did it to count for you.
Finally, the devil tempted Jesus with “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” This is being tempted by the materialistic things, getting obsessed with how much – or little — money you have. Also to want to be honored by the world, to want the world’s approval.
So Jesus, who came down from heaven for you, told the Holy Spirit: “Lead Me into that wilderness, that child of God’s wilderness, so I can be tempted with money and popularity. When I refuse, it will count for this child, and God won’t see that this child of His ever loved the world or the things in it more than Him. My perfect love of God will count him/her” – you! – “who will be perfectly forgiven.” Then Jesus said: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written: You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” And you are forgiven.
Jesus gives this victory to you as a gift. Simply by the gift of faith in Him, you have this victory. Jesus won it for us, we simply believe and we have it.
This is important — and comforting — when we fall to temptation. The way He guards and keeps us is through the forgiving of our sins. It’s due to what Jesus did for us. God be praised that Jesus defeated the Tempter for us! It isn’t only what He did 2,000 years ago. But as He brings His victory to us in His Word and in the Lord’s Supper, He undoes what the Tempter did to us.
But He also helps us who are tempted in another way:
- He Strengthens and Helps Us to Defeat the Tempter
The victory that we have over the devil is the victory of faith, which is passive. Faith is a gift that we receive. But there’s also an active side to it. It’s that we believe. It’s that we use this faith. And good thing, too: the devil doesn’t sit on the bench just because Christ defeated him. He attacks us.
We believe that our faith and salvation is due to Christ alone. We believe that He’s the one who preserves us in the faith. We can’t do it ourselves. But we also don’t just sit there as the devil attacks us and say: “God will take care of my faith; there’s nothing that I need to be doing.” God doesn’t have you do it on your own, always in Him and in His strength, but He does give you things to do as a Christian. He gives you the desire and determination not to let the world and the devil win or take you from Him.
It’s why Christ says to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temp- tation” (Mt 26:41).And His apostle writes: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1Pe 5:8). So Christ certainly says we have something to do: to recognize Satan’s lies and fight against them with His help.
We may despair at how crafty the devil is, and all the forms his deceptions take. Where do we look next? How will we know? Well, Jesus helps us here.
First, in the devil’s repetitive phrase “If You are the Son of God,” even though that was specific to Jesus as God and Man, it does teach that the devil attacks our identity. He’s attacking identity a lot these days. He attacks your identity that you are a child of God by faith in Christ. That’s where to find your identity: in Christ. Satan wants you to doubt that you’re God’s child. These are the attacks to guard against.
Second, Jesus shows us how to guard against these attacks. Repeatedly He answers the devil with the word, “It is written.” It isn’t a magic formula. And we should never act arrogantly toward God’s Word and think we know it well enough. But God has given us His Word as protection against Satan.
We use His Word, that’s how it helps us against Satan. It’s not something inside ourselves, but the Word comes to us from the outside to help us and guard us. The liturgy is full of God’s Word. Coming to the Lord’s Supper is not only receiving Christ’s body and blood, but “the words are the main thing in the Sacrament.” Receiving His gifts like this is receiving His Word, and it fills you up and makes a protective fence around you. Fighting the devil is something you do not out ahead of the Word, but inside the Word.
We’re always being tempted, but in Christ always being helped. Amen!