Sermon for First Sunday in Lent

Sermon for First Sunday in Lent

(Transcribed by machine 04/08/2024)

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness, and Jesus was in the wilderness
forty days, being tempted by Satan.
You may be seated.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Dear Saints, we want to consider what it means that Jesus is tempted for forty days and forty
nights in the wilderness by the devil and rejoice in the accomplishment that our Lord
manages on that day.
But, before that, I think both of the Old Testament lesson and also the Epistle just
need comment, because they’re important texts and often misunderstood.
The first is Genesis chapter 22, the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.
And normally this history is considered an example of someone being obedient to the Word
of God.
God says to Abraham, go, and Abraham goes.
God even commands him to sacrifice his own child, and Abraham was willing to do that
in obedience to God, but we cannot understand the story if we don’t understand it in the
context of the Old Testament.
We want to remember that God called Abraham and told Abraham that he was going to have
lots of children.
In fact, he was an old man, and he didn’t think that was going to be possible.
He was 90, 92, then at last 99 years old when God says, no, Sarah, your wife, who was 90,
is going to have a baby and they laughed at that.
Why are you laughing?
God says, we weren’t laughing.
I heard you laughing.
They were laughing at the promise that God has made and finally at last in their old
age, they are granted a child and that child of promise is named Isaac and the Lord said
to Isaac, well the Lord said to Abraham about Isaac, that through him you’ll have children
as many as the stars in the sky and the sand in the sea.
That on Isaac was that promise.
Sarah and Abraham in their old age would look at this, their one child, and say that through
him they would have grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Through him would come the Messiah.
Through him would come a great nation.
That was God’s promise.
And then God comes to Abraham and says, now I want you to take this one and sacrifice
him.
Now, at this point, on Isaac are two different words.
There’s the command to sacrifice him, and there’s the promise that he’ll have many children.
And here’s where the important test comes to Abraham, and for us to consider as well.
Well, that Abraham went to offer Isaac precisely because he knew that Isaac could not stay
dead.
Because he knew that God had more to do with Isaac.
That Isaac needed to have children, and Abraham grandchildren.
And so that whatever the Lord does, he will make it happen.
And this is why Abraham is an example not of pure and raw obedience, but rather
he is the example of faith. This is what we read in Hebrews chapter 11. I want to
read you these verses and this is how we’re supposed to understand Abraham.
It’s so important. I’ll tell you a story. I was visiting, hmm, this was back in
Albuquerque, wow.
I was visiting a Jewish rabbi in Albuquerque when I was thinking about going to the seminary,
and we would sit down and talk about the Old Testament, and I wanted to talk about Abraham
and Isaac, and he said, you don’t think that really happened, do you?
And I said, you don’t?
I was just thinking about this because someone reminded me this week that 50 years ago in
our own church body we had the Symanex fight, you know, this battle back and forth.
Do we believe that the Bible is true and that it’s God’s Word and that it’s historically
accurate?
I think tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of this whole thing, but to realize that the
whole world doesn’t want to trust what the Bible says is true, and if you don’t, if it’s
It’s just some sort of mythological story, then you lose so much.
But you see, this rabbi had such a hard time understanding the story of Abraham because
it seemed so strange that God would tell him to offer the child as a sacrifice.
Well, if you don’t have the whole rest of the story, it is strange.
It seems very strange.
The Lord never does anything like that ever before.
But it was the test, again, not of Abraham’s obedience, but of his faith.
So I want to read Hebrews 11, verse 17 and following, how we understand it.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promise
was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, through Isaac shall your
offspring be named.
Abraham considered that God was able even to raise Isaac from the dead from
which figuratively speaking he did receive him back. In other words the
willingness of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was because Abraham knew that Isaac
couldn’t stay dead. See the point? And this is now I mean the way to understand
Abraham but it’s important for us too because so often in our own lives this
This is exactly how the Lord works.
He will give us a promise and everything in our life, everything in our mind, everything
in our calendar, everything in our body will testify against that promise.
I’ll give you an example.
You are going to live forever.
Now you look around and it doesn’t seem like it.
You look in the medicine cabinet and it certainly doesn’t seem like it, or the doctor’s bill,
or the cemetery down the street, or whatever.
It just does not look like you’re going to live forever, but you have this promise of
God that you will live forever, body and soul in His presence.
And like Abraham carrying Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice, we trust the promise.
God is able to raise the dead, and He will, and He will.
The second text we just need to make a quick note on is the Epistle lesson from James,
and the reason is because it gives us insight into the way that sin works, maybe clearer
than any other passage in the Scriptures.
James is talking about, there’s a continuity between conception and birth and old age,
and it’s the story, it’s like the lifespan of sin.
He says, desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and then when sin grows up, it becomes
death.
Now, this is important for us because we are, as Christians, fighting against our own sinful
flesh.
You have desires.
You and I all want to do the wrong thing.
And the devil comes along and he says, look, look, look.
You want to do this thing.
God doesn’t want you to do it, and that’s because God is mean.
He wants to enslave you.
He wants to put you in bondage.
The way of sin is the way of freedom.
That’s the devil’s lie.
James says you’ve got to look at it.
Desire gives birth to sin and that leads at last to death.
And the Lord does not desire death, your death, anybody’s death.
That’s why he puts a constraining element on our own sinful flesh.
But we want to see that straight line between desire and sin and death.
That’s what James is pointing us to.
So we want to have that in our minds.
That’s James.
Okay, now on to the real business of the gospel.
Always and all the way back in church history, the first Sunday in Lent was for the hearing
of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
In the old one-year lectionary, we read from Matthew, and now in the three-year lectionary,
we read from Matthew and then Mark and then Luke about the Lord Jesus being driven out
into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days.
Now, Mark doesn’t give us the details that Matthew and Luke do.
Remember the three temptations to turn the rock into bread, to jump off the top of the
temple, to worship the devil and get all the kingdoms of the world.
But you know that all three of them are actually pictured on the front cover in the picture
of the bulletin.
It looks like there’s only one, like the devil’s handing Jesus a rock.
But if you look, you’ll see on the top of the temple that Jesus and the devil there.
If you look on the top of the mountain, you see Jesus and the devil there.
So all three temptations are pictured there.
But Mark doesn’t tell us about those three temptations.
He just said that Jesus was in the wilderness.
And for that, it’s kind of helpful that Mark connects the baptism of Jesus to the temptation
of Jesus to the preaching of Jesus.
And we want to see that connection.
Because it’s true also for us that when we are baptized, we are baptized into a battle
with the devil.
We are baptized into a battle with darkness.
We are baptized into a war.
Baptism doesn’t take us out of that war.
In fact, baptism puts us at the front of that war.
When we’re marked, remember how it is with baptism when the pastor marks you with the
sign of the cross on your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed?
You’re being marked as a target for the devil and all of his attacks.
And notice how the temptations of Jesus are connected to his baptism.
Remember the highlight of the baptism of Jesus is God the Father opened heaven and spoke
and said, you are my beloved Son in whom I’m well pleased.
It’s the same thing the Lord says when we’re baptized.
Can you imagine when you’re baptized the Lord says I’m pleased with you, you’re my child, I love you.
It’s so fantastic.
But then Jesus is in the wilderness, and what does the devil say?
If you’re the Son of God, if the heavens just spoke, I am the Son of God.
Do you see how the devil loves to put an if in front of every promise of God, or a question
mark of the end?
He tries to make everything obscure and unclean.
If you’re the Son of God, turn the stone into bread.
If you’re the Son of God, jump off the top of the temple.
Is this true, what God says of you?
But Jesus stands, and He stands in the truth of God’s Word.
It’s an amazing thing to see that when the devil comes to tempt Jesus, he doesn’t fight
back with his divine power, give him some sort of Superman punch in the face or something
like that.
Jesus fights back with the Lord’s Word.
And can I paint the picture for you like this?
This has to do with how Luther teaches us to sing A Mighty Fortress.
Yesterday, for the CITA, the Interpreter Training Academy, one of the sessions that we had
was how to interpret hymns, and we were there thinking about the hymn, A Mighty Fortress
Is Our God, and it became clearer to me than it ever has in the past.
Here’s the story.
Can you imagine that you’re on a battlefield, and you start looking around, and you start
to realize that all around you are enemies, foes.
There’s one huge big one that’s the devil and he’s leading this horde to come and destroy
you.
Like Psalm 27 says, they want to eat up your flesh.
It’s like some sort of zombie movie or something.
It’s horrible and you’re like, what am I going to do?
But the Lord says, I’m with you and we look and we see and that God surrounds us like
a castle.
That he protects us inside of this huge, big, mighty fortress.
And now we’re safe.
We peek out the window, and we look, and we’re like, there’s the devil still coming to fight.
And here’s all these, you know, all the devils, all the worlds should feel all eager to devour
us, and they’re all coming, and we realize that someone is going to have to go out there
and fight them, and we’re hoping it’s not us.
And as we’re looking out the window of this castle, we see that someone does go out to
fight, and this one, some mighty warrior, he goes out and he’s fighting them.
And you can’t see at first what he’s using to fight, but he goes one
after another, and all of these wicked foes, he’s destroying them all. And you
ask, who’s this? Jesus Christ it is! Of Sabbath Lord, there’s none other God. He
holds the field forever. He goes around and he destroys all the — sorry that when
I’m pointing to the demons, I’m pointing to you guys, let me just — he goes and he
destroys all of the demons, all of the enemy,
and they’re just wiped out.
And there’s not an enemy left on the field.
And he stands victorious.
And then he looks back and he says,
you wanna come stand with me?
Well, now we’re pretty brave.
I wasn’t gonna go outside at all 10 minutes ago.
But now that all the foes are destroyed, okay,
so we go out and we’re standing with Jesus
and we’re pretty happy about this triumph over,
You know, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
And then something happens.
Now, I think, I’m trying to picture it,
but one of these little defeated demons
starts to twitch a little bit,
comes back to life, and starts to charge at you,
and Jesus pulls out his weapon.
You think it’s a sword, but it’s a Bible.
And as the demon charges, he sort of whap,
kills it with a word.
word, just a little word, and it dies.
And then another one comes charging, and Jesus kills it, and he’s just swatting them
away and they’re dying like this.
One little word, and he looks over and says, well, you want to try?
You can borrow my Bible, and we’re just wiping the… and one little word can fell him.
Do you see the picture?
He’s by our side upon the plain, with His good gifts in spirit.
Take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, let these all be gone.
The kingdom, the victor is one, the kingdom remains.
He is the victor, He is the champion, He is the one who holds the field, and we’re with
Him, we’re next to Him, He is next to us, so that there is nothing to be afraid of.
Death destroyed, sin forgiven, the grave is opened, the wrath of God appeased.
You are…
You have a champion, so the victory is yours.
This is what Jesus does when he comes up out of the river and he goes into the wilderness.
He’s there fighting the devil, doing what Adam and Eve could not do, standing where
they fell, guarding, defending, winning for you the victory, and He shows you how to do
it and He does it for you all, all together.
Christ is yours.
He is your champion.
He is your fortress and your defense.
He is your victory and your life and your peace.
He’s with you all through the troubled life that He’s given to us, and He’ll
bring us at last to the joys of life eternal. So we rejoice today that
Jesus holds the field forever, that He holds the field for us, and that He gives
us that same victory. May God grant us the peace and the joy and the wisdom
that comes from knowing that. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. And the peace of
God which passes all our understanding keep you in the true faith to life
everlasting. Amen.