Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Invocabit Sunday (Lent 1)
February 10, 2008
Genesis 3:1-21, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, Matthew 4:1-11
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “God For Me”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from our Gospel lesson just read from St. Matthew chapter four.
Johann Gerhard once wrote that the entire life of Christ was one of fighting temptation, and that we, through Holy Baptism, enter into that same battle. ((The entire life of Christ was one of contesting against temptationâ€¦. Christians, as soon as they are welcomed and accepted as children of God through Baptism, also must be subjected to the devilâ€™s temptations. Postilla 222)) Temptation has been the struggle of man since the Fall into sin. All the way back to the Garden, the struggles of the flesh in food, of twisting God’s Word for our own desires, and of worshipping the false god who promises the world but instead gives us hell, these have been our constant companions, the thorns that prick us and will not go away.
This is your life, O Baptized. This is your life, for when you were baptized into His death you were also baptized into His life, and Jesus life was one of constant temptation and struggle against the devil. Every step He took, from His birth, His epiphany and baptism, His ministry of healing the sick and preaching the Gospel, every step was beset with this constant question: Will you go to the cross? The people want Him to provide food for them, to satisfy their basest needs. The Pharisees and scribes want to trick Him with the Word of God, so that He will deny his messianic purpose. And the disciples, His own closest followers, when He speaks of the cross and His impending death, they are aghast. They cannot fathom a God who would become Man and then would die. What kind of a God dies? It’s not possible, and so even His closest friends sought to deter Him from His holy purpose.
But what of you, O Baptized? How often have you forgotten God in favor of satisfying your own flesh? How often have you justified your sinful actions with a misplaced bible passage, or a cover-all like “love” which means do whatever you want? How often have you forgotten the way of the cross, the way of sacrifice for your neighbor, of giving of what you have and trusting that God will provide for you? You know the answer to these questions. The answer is you justify your false actions and forget. You forget who you are all the time. You forget that you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:21, Psalm 103:14). You forget that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). You forget that apart from Christ you are nothing, but in Christ you are kings and queens in the heavenly kingdom.
It is for this, our wretched forgetfulness, our willful disregard for God’s Word that our Lord came into the flesh. It is for this reason that He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. It is for this reason that He fasted. It is for this reason that He allowed the devil to do His worst. It is for this reason that He lived. It is for this reason that He died the lonely death of the criminal, the greatest sinner, for He took all our sins into Himself.
So what does this mean for you, O sons and daughters of Adam? What this means is everything. The walk of the Christian life is not one of victory to victory. It is a life of sorrow and hardship, where joy is found not in the little battles with sins each day. It is in those battles that to our eyes we lose all the time. The walk of the Christian life is Christ’s life, and that means a life of suffering, rejection and even death. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ((in The Cost of Discipleship.))
But this, dearly beloved, is not a sadness or some sort of gloomy message that only Lutherans can really appreciate. Far from it. Our Lord said, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24). It is in this suffering, rejection and death that you are most like Christ. Where the world sees weakness, we see strength. Where the devil sees his victory, we see his greatest defeat. Where our sinful nature cries out that we are giving up our very lives, we cry out with joy that we have been given Christ’s life for us.
Our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness is not an example for us to follow, like some sort of formula for beating temptation. His temptation in the wilderness is your defeat of Satan. No matter what may come your way, no matter what the temptation, no matter what the sin or grief or sorrow that you bear, Christ takes it all into Himself. The suffering that you bear ties you to Christ in a way that is mysterious and yet very simple. Your suffering ties you to Him, because He suffered for you.
That is where the Cup of our Lord’s Supper fits in so beautifully with your life as a Christian. The Cup of blessing which we receive from the Lord’s hand is the sure and certain promise for you that our Lord has died and rose again for you, and that the trials you undergo today, the temptations you face every day, that our Lord has given Himself to you in those trials, and where you fail by weakness or sin, that He Himself has paid the price for your forgiveness.
Be at peace. As the Paul Gerhardt so beautifully put it for us:
If God Himself be for me,
I may a host defy;
For when I pray, before me
My foes, confounded, fly.
If Christ, my Head and Master,
Befriend me from above,
What foe or what disaster
Can drive me from His love? (LSB 724:1)
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.