First Sunday in Lent [c] March 6, 2022
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” 9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
In the Name of Jesus.
We all know what Satan does, Satan and his legion of fallen angels. He tempts us. The demons tempt us to do other than God’s will. Just review the commandments where we see what the temptations will be for each of us.
Remember the Sabbath Day, keep it holy. So the devil will tempt us to hurt our families by prioritizing other things over the Lord’s gift of Word and Sacrament.
Honor your father and your mother. So the fallen angels will tempt us to dishonor parents and disrespect those in authority, and will tempt parents to neglect the gift of the Lord’s Word they are to give to children.
You shall not murder. So the demons will tempt us to love ourselves over our neighbor, and instead of supporting him in every physical need, to wish harm upon our neighbor.
The rest of the commandments: the demons will tempt us place ourselves as more important than our spouse, to cheapen the Lord’s institution of the marriage of man and woman, and the institution of family, and to have lust in our hearts. And all the rest, the unclean spirits tempting us to covet what the Lord has given to others, to steal, to slander, and the list goes on for the sinner who loves self more than others.
We all know what Satan does, his tempting of us to sin.
And it is true. Wherever we see something being done outside of the Lord’s good gifts, outside of love for neighbor, something done bringing violence against families and the Lord’s gift of life, it is true, Satan and the demons are doing their work. As the Large Catechism puts it,
Since the devil is not only a liar, but also a murderer, he constantly seeks our life, and wreaks his anger whenever he can afflict our bodies with misfortune and harm. Hence it comes that he often breaks men’s necks or drives them to insanity, drowns some, and incites many to commit suicide, and to many other terrible calamities.
Sin, discord, brokenness in families, violence, war, bloodshed—the demons are always there.
But what if all this temptation, this incitement to sin, to violence—what if, as bad as that is, it’s not Satan’s worst against you and me?
Satan’s worst is a word of doubt spoken into our conscience.
A word of doubt, we know how that works. You can make a positive statement to someone, such as a husband telling his wife, “I love you.” Or you can make a conditional statement to someone, such a husband saying to his wife, “If you love me, then why won’t you do what I want.”
One statement is positive and definite—it gives certainty. The other statement is conditional—it brings doubt.
A child saying to a parent, “I love you; I’m glad you’re my parent.” Positive, definite—it gives certainty.
A child saying to parent, “If you loved me, then why did you ask me to do that?” Conditional and contingent—it brings doubt.
Satan’s is a word to bring doubt. Genesis 3:1, to our mother, Eve:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
Did God really say? Just an innocent little question. No. A question to bring doubt at just the point where God would never have us in doubt: At the point of God’s Word.
God had spoken positively; it was definite: Eat of all the trees of the Garden, but this one I give you to not eat of.
Then Satan brings the doubt.
Jesus is the new Adam. He stands in for all men, for all humans, taking all our sin and doubt upon himself.
Standing in our place for us, Jesus is tempted by Satan. Luke 4:3:
“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
If you are the Son of God. The conditional if. Whether or not Jesus is God’s Son is now made contingent, provisional. It depends on what Jesus will do.
But just prior to this, John the Baptist had baptized Jesus in the Jordan, and upon his baptism, the voice of God the Father from Heaven said,
“You are my beloved Son.”
No condition attached, no contingency, just plain, positive, definite statement: You are my beloved Son. No room for doubt in the word spoken by God.
Then Satan brings the word of doubt: If you are the Son of God. If you are the Son, prove it. Show it. Demonstrate it. Because, Satan would say, God’s Word is in doubt until you validate it.
Satan does the same with all Christians, with you and me.
You are a Christian, you belong to Christ, you bear the name of Jesus. You are justified by the Word out of God’s mouth. All that, the Lord gave you with all certainty when he baptized you.
Then Satan slithers in—into your conscience, into mine. If you belong to Christ, then why don’t you feel closer to God? If you are a Christian, then why have you withheld love from your neighbor? If you want to be a Christian, then pray more, then be more spiritual, then change your life. And on and on it goes. Satan’s little word if.
Then in the wilderness, Satan comes to Jesus again, shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and says,
If you will worship me, this will all be yours.
But Jesus is the Son of God. That’s know from the word spoken to him at his Baptism. It is already all his. But Satan wants to bring doubt with his little if. Then Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple.
If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here … [God] will command his angels … to guard you.
Three times Satan comes at Jesus with the conditional if. First, it’s the temptation for bodily or personal safety and comfort. It’s the temptation to eat bread. Second, it’s the temptation for worldly status—all the kingdoms of the world. Third, it’s the temptation for authority in the Church—the pinnacle of the Temple and the angels.
Our own personal comfort and safety, our status in the world, our standing in the Church, Satan uses all these to bring the word of doubt into our consciences.
Three times Satan tempts Jesus to doubt the word spoken over him at his Baptism. Three times Jesus responds with the Word from his Father:
—It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone. [Luke 4:4]
—It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. [Luke 4:8]
—It is said, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. [Luke 4:12]
It is written, it is written, it is said. Each time Jesus answers Satan’s word to bring doubt by responding with the word. For what is said and written is the Word.
Satan brings his word of doubt to our consciences. His legion of unclean spirits continue to afflict us.
They tempt us to sin, we know that. But that is all toward their final goal, which is, to bring doubt to the conscience, to make the conscience unclean, to have the sinner questioning his justification before the Father.
If you are a Christian, then why don’t you … If you belong to Christ, then you need to …
It’s all conditional, contingent on our works, it’s all Satan’s word to bring doubt.
What does Jesus do? Jesus each time answered Satan’s word of doubt with the Word of God. Jesus kept the Law on our behalf. And Jesus accounts that righteousness to us.
He continues coming to us with his Word to justify us. He continues having his Gospel preached to the sinner to cleanse the conscience. He continually and daily brings us to the name and promise he spoke to us in our Baptism. He continues gathering his people into the church to hear the Word of God in the preaching and in the Sacraments.
For God’s word is never doubt. It is always to give sureness and certainty.
God sends his Word forth to proclaim Christ crucified, to declare the sinner forgiven, to cleanse the conscience, for, as Paul says, the Word of God is near you. It is given to your mouth, it is planted in your heart, so that you are given to confess with your mouth that Jesus is your Lord and to have a heart of faith that God the Father raised him from the dead and you are justified and saved. [Romans 10]
In the Name of Jesus.