God’s Devil and Jesus’ Temptation

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Invocabit Sunday (Lent 1) (February 26, 2012, revised from 2007)

Genesis 3:1-21, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, St. Matthew 4:1-11

TITLE: “God’s Devil and Jesus’ Temptation”

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.

All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose, as St. Paul writes in Romans (8:28.Again St. Paul writes in Ephesians one that God put all things under Christ for the sake of His Church (Eph. 1:22-23).As we begin this holy season of Lent, it is important to recognize that it is God’s plan for Jesus to be tempted, to suffer, and to die for you.“Even the Devil is God’s Devil,” so said Martin Luther.

This is easy to forget with a text like this.Right after Jesus is Baptized, the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.This isn’t the devil’s idea.Jesus hands Himself over to be tempted.He is led by the Spirit, or even driven by the Spirit, as St. Mark records it (Mark 1:9).So Jesus is tempted by selfishness, by religiosity, and by idol worship to leave the path of righteousness, the path that leads to our salvation, by the very one who started us on the wrong path to begin with in the first place.

We have heard the story of the Fall into sin so many times that we think we know it all.Adam and Eve are deceived by the devil.They listen to his words rather than the Word of God.The apple is good food, isn’t it?You will be like gods, won’t you?Come to me and we will overthrow God’s kingdom all on our own.So the devil tempted them, and they fell.They fell into sin, the pit of despair and shame which we all live in even now.

You are still there, you know.Worldliness, a false show of religion, and idolatry face us every day.Who among you have not been tempted to put your own needs above others?Who among you has come to church, read the Bible, prayed, or done all the right things because you believe doing religious things will save you?Who among you have not put other things before God, like hobbies, work, friends, or even your family?You have fallen prey to all of these temptations and far more.That is the Law, and you can’t keep it.

But remember that Christ orders all things for the sake of His bride, His body, His Church, you.When Jesus goes out to do battle with Satan, he does so not for Himself.He is led by the Spirit to face these temptations for you.Always for you.Where you fall into temptation and the snare, as sons and daughters of Adam, Jesus, the new Adam, answers the temptation with the Word of God.He uses God’s Word to defeat Satan.He stands in your place and is tempted , but he does it so that you will be blameless and free before God.

Because Christ has won the victory for you over sin, death and the power of Satan, you are free, just as Christ is free by the resurrection of the dead.You are free to serve your neighbor in love.You are free to serve your neighbor because you don’t have to pretend you are perfect.You are free to receive the blessings of God by faith.You are free to worship God alone, because He alone can save you.Dr. Luther put it this way:

Christ has served and helped us by His fasting, hunger, temptation and victory. Also, whoever believes on Christ shall never suffer need, and temptation shall never harm him. Instead, we shall have enough in the midst of want and be safe in the midst of temptation because the Lord triumphed in our behalf. Christ’s fasting also encourages us to believe that, by His example, we can cheerfully suffer want and temptation for the service of God and the good of our neighbor, like Christ did for us. Therefore this Gospel is sweet consolation and power against the unbelief. It awakens and strengthens our conscience, that we may not be anxious about the nourishment of our bodies, but be assured that God can and will give us our daily bread. (Luther)

Christ’s temptation, fasting, hunger and victory demonstrate to you that God will always take care of you.You need not worry about tomorrow, for God will be there.Christ has come and bore the brunt of God’s wrath on the cross, and all of the devil’s attacks for you.Christ feeds you not only with bread to sustain your body, but with the bread of the Word of God, the bread of His very body to keep you body and soul in Him.He gives you faith to look past false religious practices, and to be who you are: a sinner redeemed by Christ.He gives you the strength to withstand the evil one, by giving you His Word, by keeping you here, in the bosom of His Church, so that you are never alone in your struggles.

“Even the Devil is God’s Devil.”There is much comfort in these words.While the Devil is trying to bring down the Son of God, the Son of God is doing His work of saving you.Satan’s power is only as far as God will allow him to go.So God actually uses Satan and all of His evil work for your benefit.Amazing, isn’t it?What kind of God is it that can turn even the evil things of this world to our benefit?This God is none other than the true God, who comes down from heaven to save you.Trust that when He gave you His Spirit in Holy Baptism, that you are now in His hands, safe from all the assaults the devil, the world and your own sinful nature may fling at you.

Be at peace.Christ has overcome the world, and He creates a new world for you.Believe it for Jesus’ sake.Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting.Amen.

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