INI + AMEN.
The Word of God comes first and is faithful and true: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” That’s what the Father said about Jesus at His Baptism. There the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. There the Son goes through sinner’s Baptism, takes on the Spirit, His anointing as the King of the Jews, and in Jesus rests the pleasure and delight and righteousness of God.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Now things are totally different. No one looked weaker than Jesus: “after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.” Then the devil strikes at Jesus. His weapon is his word that he wields against what is most faithful and true: the Word of God.
((3. The devil tempts Jesus with food.))
The devil wages war against the Father’s Word, “This is My beloved Son.” “So, if you are the Son of God,” he says, “tell these stones to become bread.” “Eat something, Jesus. You look so hungry, fasting forty days and nights.” The devil’s up to his old tricks, trying to get someone to eat. “Did God really say, ‘Don’t eat?’” So, Eve took the fruit. And with her sin, her taking, her unbelief, she brought all her children into bondage, and no matter how hard any of us try—habits, bargains, self-help, self-improvement—nothing works. Just different sorts of fig leaves.
When everything that’s wrong with us was on Jesus’ shoulders, He did not sin. Then the Word of God was faithful and true: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The sort of God the devil expects is the sort of God we all want. Power God. Miracle God. But Jesus’ victory isn’t in some sort of whiz-bang miracle. No power show. No stone into bread. Jesus was tempted to not go the “hungry” way, the “thirst[y]” way, the Calvary way, but to go the power way.
Those who look for a big power god will get that sort of god. Of course, there are people who reject miracles, and so they reject God. But we fall into the devil’s “power god” trap when we first try to prove miracles. We think if we prove miracles, we’ve proven God. But the only “god” we’d prove is a god who does miracles. There’s all sorts of gods like that, but there’s only one “hungry,” “thirst[y],” Calvary God—Jesus.
Jesus turned away from miracles. He’d heal in response to pleaded need, but then He’d tell them to be quiet. Those who come to Jesus for some miracle should just stay home with the gods they already have that last as long as they produce the sort of miracle you’re looking for.
((2. The devil tempts Jesus’ trust.))
The faithful and true Word of God came from Jesus, but the devil wouldn’t quit. He’ll play that Word of God game. So, He takes Jesus to church to tempt Him there. The devil knows how to play nice in church and bring up a convincing word of Scripture. He always has one, but snipped and trimmed to his own purpose. The devil loves to take people captive by using and twisting God’s Word and name. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you…lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” “You can trust God’s promises, can’t You, Jesus?”
Again, Word of God, faithful and true: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” No tempting of God, calling Him up for a big miracle. No matter how hard you try you can’t control God like that. You can’t bend His power, can’t bind Him to get what you want out of Him.
((1. The devil tempts Jesus away from suffering.))
Jesus couldn’t be tricked away from the faithful and true Word of God at the Temple, a place where He never performed a miracle. So, maybe His power is meant to be out in the world. That’s where the real Jesus is. He’s not in church. He’s wherever the Church is out there “being church.” That’s the devil’s line of thinking. “The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’” “You can be king, Jesus. All the power and influence will be yours. No suffering or death needed.” Faithful and true: “Get behind Me, Satan.”
There was a time that Church had power and glory in the world—the Age of Faith. But try that out on the Jesus of this third temptation. That Jesus won’t be stopped or turned away. He’s going to Calvary: to suffer, to die. “My Kingdom is not of this World.” Now, that Word of Jesus is faithful and true.
At Calvary Satan returned: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” He does not come down from the cross. At the Jordan He’s put to that task. At His temptation He holds Himself toward the cross. Satan’s sort of king isn’t the one who hangs on a cross, the one who resists temptation on His way to the cross. Not ours either, truth be told.
THE LORD’S WORD IS FAITHFUL AND TRUE. It came first for Jesus, “My Beloved Son” from the Father. When Jesus was Baptized, it meant that Jesus was the anointed King, the Suffering Servant, the Son who would die. “After forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.” When He was suffering and saving you, He said, “I thirst.” And after that, “It is finished.” Dead. All for you.
THE LORD’S WORD IS FAITHFUL AND TRUE. “This is My Beloved Son.” We follow the baptized, tempted, and crucified Jesus this Lent. We rejoice in all He’s done for us. Whatever He does is credited to your account—His not giving in to temptation is your not giving into temptation, too. What He does on the cross makes us righteous and forgiven.
So hidden, so weak, so hungry—sign in its opposite! But that’s the way of the cross. The way Jesus does it. No wonder so many have no use for a Man who got Himself crucified! But THE LORD’S WORD IS FAITHFUL AND TRUE for there was no other way of being king, of being God’s Son, the Suffering Servant, of being Christ, of being Savior, of being Jesus for you. Even to His body given and His blood shed for you.
INI + AMEN.