The First Sunday in Lent – Series C – Luke 4:1-13
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Son of Man has entered the Garden.
It may be a desolate place, it may be a lifeless wilderness, but it is a Garden all the same.
For here in the Garden of this fallen world, the Christ will find that same crafty serpent slithering about, whispering the same lies and temptations, and attacking the same Word of promise that was first given to Adam.
The wilderness temptation should make one thing perfectly clear to us, and that is that Jesus has come to actively ‘fulfill all righteousness.’
Not with a flick of his hand, not with a casual word spoken, but literally in his flesh and blood, through his faith and righteousness, by his Word and promise.
For he has come to undo what Adam has done, to be steadfast where Adam fell short, to remain in the Word of Promise, where Adam and Eve fled and hid themselves in shame.
Therefore, it is no small thing, that immediately after being anointed as the Beloved Son and the Messiah in His baptism; Christ enters the Garden of the wilderness to redeem Man from his naked beginning, to provide faith where man was faithless.
The start of salvation begins at Man’s own beginning…in a Garden, with Man and a Serpent, all about a Word.
And it is that Word, that is the reason that we find not every temptation of Jesus written out in Luke chapter 4, but rather a select three.
For in these three temptations we are pointed clearly back to the third chapter of Genesis, where Adam and Eve then, and Jesus now, are tempted by the serpent, according to, and we might say simply, their guts, their minds, and their hearts.
And perhaps, to make it even more simple still, we are tempted according to our passions.
For the serpent really is craftier than all the beasts of the field, he’s not stupid, and so he does not tempt us according to our strengths, but in our weakness; in our passions, that part of us that shifts like the sand, that changes face and form every second.
Our whimsical, senseless, fleeting passions.
The first temptation that comes to Jesus, arrives in the form of hunger, “If you really are the Son of God, then turn these stones into bread.”
When Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden, they had not just come off a 40 day fast, rather they were still surrounded by every other tree that God had given them, every good thing that they had ever needed, held within their grasp and on their fingertips.
And yet still, even with all of this, Eve saw that the tree was good for food, and was pleasing to the eye, and so in a single moment, seeking that everlasting satisfaction, she ended up instead with a life of separation and sorrow.
No one can make sense out of sin. Just as no one can make sense out of the human heart and its passions.
We are filled to the brim with the good gifts of God, and yet we are so quick to exchange all of this for a moment of so-called satisfaction.
We are full, and yet constantly complain and act as though we need something more.
We hope in that which is fleeting, that which always disappoints, always leaves us in sorrow and emptiness.
We tell ourselves, “Just this one time, just this last thing, and then I’ll be happy, then I’ll be satisfied, complete, well-protected and cared for.”
And perhaps even more accurately, we tell ourselves nothing at all…we simply act on whatever our gut tells us to do, whatever our pain seeks a relief for, whatever our emptiness promises as fulfillment.
Maybe it’s not fruit from a tree, maybe it’s not a loaf of bread, maybe it’s the addiction that binds us in chains that we’ve tried to give up more times than we can remember.
Maybe it’s the anger that we refuse to manage, the lust that we don’t want to control, the gossip that we’re all too happy to share, or the pride that we’ll do anything to maintain.
What we spend so much time believing to be lasting and practical, is actually fleeting. Bread rots, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.
A second time, the serpent comes to tempt Jesus, this time taking him up and showing him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world.
“All this I give to you,” He says, “If only you would bow down and worship me.”
Though this temptation does not have its aim on the stomach, it does come in the form of hunger, seducing our constant and relentless quest for power, fame and self-sufficiency.
In the same way, the devil lies to Adam and Eve, saying, “You will surely not die, but you will be like God, knowing good from evil.”
For Adam and Eve, and so for you and I, it wasn’t enough that God had made and named them as his true and dear children, that he came to them as their dear Father, providing for every need, guarding from every danger.
What mattered to Adam and Eve was power, self-sufficiency, the right not to receive from God, but to provide for themselves.
The devil may not come to you and show you in a moment all the kingdoms of the world, but he does show you the road to so-called power, he shows you your neighbor’s reputation and how to destroy it in order to get ahead.
He does tempt you with your career, he reminds you of your paycheck, your degrees, your resume, your standing in the company.
And with these he whispers to you that you have given yourself all of these things. No one helped you, no one gave you a body, a brain, an education, an ability to get wealth, instead this is all your own doing, you can thank yourself, live your own life, make your own plans.
As much as we try to get ahead, as much as we put our families on the backburner in favor of our careers, what does it really gain us?
Who is it, that really matters, that actually cares?
What does a man really gain, if he profits the world, but loses his soul?
A third time, the devil comes to Jesus and speaks a different kind of word.
He doesn’t show him kingdoms, and he doesn’t tempt him with bread.
Instead, the serpent goes in for the kill, aiming straight at the heart; if power and passion cannot overcome the Christ, then perhaps God’s own Word can.
Here is the heart of every temptation, it’s the same old trick that the devil continues to play: attacking the Word of God and what it promises.
In the Garden, the entire temptation of Adam and Eve is founded upon twisting the Word of Promise that was given and what it means.
Instead of God’s promise to commune with his creation, that they might live under him in his kingdom in everlasting, innocence, blessedness and righteousness…the devil refashions it, he leaves the promise and its interpretation completely up to man, his own authority and his heart’s desire.
Here is the question: Are we the hearers and recipients of God’s Word and Promise, or the makers and engineers of it? For here is the temptation to twist the Word of God into meaning whatever we desire.
As this temptation comes to you and I, today, it remains to be as subtle as it sounds.
More often than not, the damage is already done before we know that we’ve fallen for it.
For not every corruption of the Word of Promise comes to us in the gaudy and bombastic display of the so-called ‘prosperity Gospel’, that is, the refashioning of God’s Word as the means to worldly wealth.
Instead, we listen to and believe words that sound well-intentioned, like, “Learning to forgive yourself”, or “Working on loving yourself.”
These words certainly sound nice, and even seem harmless, but they ultimately remove us from the kind of forgiveness that Christ alone has come to give, and the kind of love that God has already shown, that is more than enough, and far more important than our own so-called self-acceptance.
Perhaps even more recent, we might look at the Word being refashioned in the crucifixion of Christ, the Word now proclaimed from both Christians and non-Christians alike, that God doesn’t really care about your sin, that he loves you and shows his love for you, by applauding your choices and behavior.
That forgiveness isn’t really a removal of sin, but an acceptance and approval of it.
It is a subtle lie. It might even make sense.
And perhaps as Jesus was hoisted to the top of the temple and told to cast himself down, it might also make sense to us, that he should do it, that he should test the Promise of the Word, and see what happens.
But the Christ, unlike us, does not reason with the devil’s temptations. He does not rationalize or justify where there might be wiggle room.
And he does not fall to the desires of our ever-shifting passions, in the ways that we do.
For He is the Christ, and in him is found the One True Faith.
Faith which is radical, extreme and unrelenting. Faith which lives by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Faith which does not receive its strength from the body getting the next satisfaction, the next loaf of bread, the next want and then becoming whole for a moment, but Faith which is found in weakness, made whole in life everlasting through the Promise of God.
Faith which does not seek to satisfy itself and search for power and self-sufficiency, but Faith which is glorified in giving up, in laying down everything, in sacrifice.
Faith which does not reinvent the Word and what it means, Faith which is not embarrassed by the Promise that is spoken, but Faith which lives by the Word itself, Faith which receives its very form from the Word which is spoken.
This is the Faith of Christ. He alone remains steadfast, He alone stands while Adam falls, He alone lives, while the Old Adam dies.
Therefore, Thanks be to God, that Christ has entered the Garden of the Wilderness FOR you.
He does not battle the devil in order to shame you in what haven’t done, or to give you a mere example of faithfulness by which you might have life.
He enters the Garden in order that you might be given what he has already done.
He crushes the Serpent not as a mere example, but to give you his life, for indeed, you live not by bread alone, but by the Word made flesh, who has come to you as the One True Faith.
Here is that Faith, given to you in the kingdom of God through your baptism, strengthened by the food of faith at this altar, and restored to you in Word which endures forever in Holy Absolution.
Indeed, in this wilderness of the world, you will falter and fail, you will continue to obsess over things that don’t actually matter, to chase your fleeting passions as though these are all that you are…
But that is not true. You are more than that. In fact, in Christ, you are no longer that at all, for this One True Faith declares and makes it so, you are forgiven, you are free, you are in him, steadfast unto death, joined forever to His Word and Promise.
For where our human passions shift like the sand, the one who has called you into and keeps you in the One True Faith binds you now to his Passion…that which does not change, does not disappoint, and does not leave you empty.
Rather, found in His Faith and in His Passion, you have been made whole, kept constant in love, and bound to the life that does not pass away.
Therefore, Go forth in His Faith, live in His Passion, be kept in His Word.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.