Let Love Live – Lent 1 26/02/2023
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’
4 Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the highest point of the temple. 6 ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘“He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”[c]’
7 Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”[d]’
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9 ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’
10 Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
It is no accident that Jesus winds up in the wilderness after his baptism.
He is not lost. Matthew tells us Jesus is being led into this fight.
Like a boxer being led into the stadium and then into the ring, the newly commissioned and affirmed Saviour is about to fight the destroyer of all that is good who has the world’s death secured.
As Paul says in Romans 5,
“… by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man.”
That reign of death is about to be challenged out there in the Judean wilderness.
Like a boxing match, this is a test and like any test, it has its temptations to give up the fight and play it safe; save yourself, not anyone else. For Matthew, this wilderness experience; this fight, is both: test and temptation (Matthew 4:1).
Satan obviously knows the Scriptures well, but twists them mercilessly, because he is the great deceiver and the great accuser of us all. You could say that this fight functions like an assessment; like an assessment task you have to hand up for your teacher.
This is first proof of Jesus readiness as God’s baptised beloved Son (Matt 3:17) in the world-changing mission for which he has been commissioned.
There is no doubt in Matthew’s mind that Jesus has the credentials to win.
- Jesus has the pedigree shown in that genealogy Matthew begins with in chapter one.
- Then there is the detailed birth story.
- Then there is that baptism moment under John, the ‘Elijah’ sent to get the people ready for Jesus.
- Now there is this wilderness test.
But why out there in the wilderness?
Throughout the scriptures, the wilderness represents a place of preparation, a place of waiting for God’s next move, a place of learning to trust in God’s mercy. For an extended period – forty days and nights….
- Forty: the days and nights that Noah and his family endured the deluge on board the ark, after which God made a covenant never again to destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 7:4, 12; 8:6; 9:8-17);
- Forty: the days and nights Moses fasted on Mount Sinai as he inscribed the words of God’s covenant for the Israelites (Exodus 24:18; 34:27-28; Deuteronomy 9:9);
- Forty: the days and nights Elijah fasted in the desert before receiving a new commission from God (1 Kings 19:8);
- Forty: the years the Israelites wandered the wilderness in preparation for their arrival in the Promised Land (e.g., Exodus 16:35; Deuteronomy 2:7);
- Forty: the days of the season of Lent as Christians participate in Jesus’ ministry and follow his way toward the cross.
Questions: How is the Spirit getting us ready these forty days for our calling in ways and places that are yet untold?
Our mission is Jesus’ mission. He calls us into his mission. We say it as ‘sharing his love and hope with each other and everyone else’. This year we are saying, “Let love live’ as St John calls in 1John 4:7. How is Lent preparing us for any testing or temptation we are facing?
The Deceiver’s deception begins with one thing and includes three things. He begins with that one little word that can fell him: “If”.
‘If you are the Son of God …’
The ‘if” strikes at the core. It casts doubt on who Jesus is and who he is called to be and to whom he belongs and who loves him.
If he is not the Son of God then he cannot save, he is not the beloved of his Father and he has no purpose, mission or meaning of any note.
- If you are a Christian, then you SHOULD do this or be like that.
- If you follow Jesus, you SHOULD be nice and not say a word.
- If you go to church, you SHOULD not swear or drink or smoke or see that movie or do anything else we deem to be ‘bad’, as if church was only for the good and well-behaved people.
Satan has one goal – shame. His desire is always to shame you because shame is about your core; who you believe yourself to be.
Shame says not, “I did a bad thing and I am guilty of doing that”, which can simply be forgiven. Shame says, “I did a bad thing therefore I am a bad person” And we assume there is no way back from that.
This is not true. With Jesus there is always a way back for any wrong and any sinner – it is Jesus!
So, founded on his will to shame Jesus and knock him out of the fight by undoing his identity and his calling from his Father, the Deceiver throws his three punches…. He attempts to;
- Entice Jesus to grasp after personal or even national food security for its own sake – amass more than his share of food by turning stones into multiple loaves of bread.
- Demonstrate his close association with the spiritually powerful – prove that God’s angels will keep him from injury.
- Secure the glory of political leadership (rule the kingdoms of the world).
See how the temptation is not food, power and leadership, but rather food, power and leadership used for the wrong ends, or at the wrong time, serving the wrong master – the “self, the devil or the world” (Small Catechism). And that keeps death in the game and Satan on the throne of one’s life.
What happens in the ring does not stay in the ring. The fight continues. The Deceiver and the Saviour spa for the rest of Jesus ministry.
This is how Jesus stays upright….
- Jesus refuses to turn stones into bread to assuage his own hunger, but before long he will feed thousands in the wilderness with just a few loaves and some fish (Matthew 14:17-21; 15:33-38), and he will teach his disciples to pray to God for their “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
- He refuses to take advantage of his relationship to God by hurling himself down from the heights of the Temple, but at the end of his earthly ministry he endures the taunts of others (Matthew 27:38-44) while trusting God’s power to the end upon the heights of a Roman cross (Matthew 27:46).
- He turns down the devil’s offer of political leadership over the kingdoms of the world, and instead offers the kingdom of the new world to all those who follow him in the way of righteousness.
The Wounded Victor now ruling says;
“I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
No place is so desolate, so distant, or so challenging that Jesus has not already been there; no test or temptation is so great that Jesus has not already overcome it.
How do we live in the victory of Jesus and stay standing in the last-ditch attempts of a defeated enemy who still has some punch?
- Feed on the bread of life on offer here and then feed others with what you have – even a couple of fish and bit of bread is enough.
- Pray for your “daily bread” in that prayer Jesus has given you as your own everyday (Matthew 6:11).
- Endure the taunts of others, the doubts of others, the ‘shame intentions’ of others as you trust that Jesus was taunted more, hurt more, violated more and shamed more and his shaming and pain were enough to secure your peace, your place and your promising future.
- Let the day the world was made new be your central daily joy. Jesus did indeed turn down the devil’s offer of quick and limited, but easier political leadership over countries and planet to get to that day of days when the new creation began. You have been baptised into that new creation, ‘born anew’ and made permanent citizens of this ‘new country’.
That is the country to which we belong, no matter how the fight rages within or without.
Like the people before us:
“…they (all those trusting the Lord’s promises) were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
God is not ashamed of you. You don’t need to be ashamed of you. There is no “if” when it comes to who you are and what your purpose in this life is.
You are a beloved person of God; That means, “you live on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
You can leave the riches and the power and the popularity and the prestige and fashion and things of this culture behind because there is greater riches, meaning, satisfaction, love and hope in this King of the new realm of grace and truth now here.
Back to those questions…..
Our mission is ‘sharing the love and hope of Jesus with each other, this year. We say, “Let love live’.
In this forty days and nights, called Lent, how is the Spirit getting us ready for our calling in ways and places that are yet untold?