Then the devil took Jesus into the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If You are The Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written: 'He will give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you in their hands. lest You dash Your foot against a stone.'”
There is that same pseudo solicitous tone - “I know what you are going through and the total horror that lies ahead for You. Are You sure Your Heavenly Father is truly here for You. Let's put Him to the test.”
The tempter uses the beautiful, comforting, and strength-giving PSALM 91 — He Who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, abides under the shadow of the Almighty. “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” How like the tempter’s words to Eve – If God loves you the way He says He does why did God say “… in the day that you eat of the forbidden fruit you shall surely die” Put God and His Word and His love to the test.
Again quoting God’s Word, Jesus answered, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put The Lord your God to the test’.” (DEUTERONOMY 6:16) The tempter knows THE HOLY BIBLE and uses it to challenge our faith in God. As he had so successfully done with Eve, the tempter called upon Jesus to test God’s Truthfulness and Love - to see if God is worthy of our faith. Jesus shows us the answer to such misuse of Scripture is always found in God’s Word itself. God never contradicts Himself. One misused passage of Scripture can always be corrected by the correct use of God’s Word.
Again, the devil took Jesus up into an exceeding high mountian and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Jesus, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
Tradition has always pointed to Mt. Ebal as the site of Jesus' third temptation and it is a most appropriate site. To the west and south devoid of all human resources is the vast barren wilderness. To the east is Jericho - the Miami Beach/Palm Beach of the Holy Land’s First Century where the powerful lived and exercised power. And to the northeast the road of the conquerors - Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans -- each in turn coming to hold the land and the people captive.
Again, the tempter’s false solicitous tone - “I feel your pain. I want to help. Look at all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. You can choose my way of what the world sees as power and abundance or Your Heavenly Father's way which carries You through betrayal, rejection, torture, and finally the cross. Why bother? Will all the people really accept and appreciate what You do for them? All these things - the kingdoms and their glory - I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
Again, from the sermon God gave Moses to preach in DEUTERONOMY (6:13; 10:20; et al.), Jesus answered the tempter, “Be gone, Satan, for it is written, ‘You shall worship The Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve’”.
To conquer temptation and take away our sin, guilt, and death, God came as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ. He experienced life as we do - with the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and tragedies, the fatigue and pain – and, yes, with the temptations. To offer His life on the cross to conquer our death and pay for our sins, God's life as the human Christ had to be perfect. For His human life to be perfect, the temptations had to be real - as real as ours and more.
After Jesus entered our struggle through Baptism, as He prepared Himself through forty days of fasting and prayer, as He began those years of preaching, teaching, and healing on His way to the cross, Jesus was confronted by Satan. The tempter had to be there in the wilderness, on the pinnacle of the temple, on the mount of temptation – and later in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the places of worldly power where the kangaroo court trials were held, on the road to the cross, and even as Jesus suffered and died on the cross.
Satan tempts Jesus to avoid the horrible suffering He came to bear on our behalf, tempting churchmen and statesmen intoxicated with worldly power to destroy Jesus, tempting His closest followers to flee from His side and in at least one case to totally deny knowing Him, tempting the world to ignore The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In speaking of His Own role as The Good Shepherd Who gives so totally of Himself for the human sheep of His flock, Jesus said, "The thief (of whom Satan is the worst) does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am The Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep." (JOHN 10:10-11)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. (ROMANS 6:23) It is a gift ever so dearly purchased for us by The Savior in all the places where Satan dwells. It is the gift that crushed Satan's head and defeated temptation, sin, guilt and death - as God had promised all the way back in Eden when our ancestors first yielded to temptation.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS - OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR. AMEN.
First Sunday in Lent
February 18, 2018
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio