Our March 6 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The March 13 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. With an upturn in county COVID cases, we recommend masks even for those who are vaccinated.
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Deuteronomy 26:1-11 | Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Romans 10:8b-13 | Luke 4:1-13
The Gospel lesson today, is of course the Temptations of Jesus in the Wilderness, it always is for the First Sunday in Lent. If Lent is a time of remembering Jesus’ forty days in the Wilderness, it makes sense that we should start the Season of Lent with that story. It takes place immediately following Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John. I noticed something interesting this week concerning the temptations, a slightly different slant on the subject.
Did you notice that all three of the temptations are temptations to Jesus’ human nature, but not something to tempt his divine nature? I mean, partially that makes sense. How can you tempt God with earthly things? It can’t be done. As the Author of Creation, ultimately everything of this world belongs to the Son of God anyway! You can only tempt the human nature which, for us being human, and being born into Original Sin is already in bondage to sin, and so fallen. Perhaps that is what Satan is counting on, not knowing that Jesus is not in bondage to sin because of his miraculous Virgin Birth meaning that he is born with Original Sin. In which case, Satan is no theologian. But what if there is something else taking place? What if Satan himself doesn’t really understand about Jesus’ divine nature? Yes, Satan calls Jesus, “Son of God” in the text, but what if Satan really doesn’t understand how that manifests itself in Christ? Indeed, that argument can be made throughout Jesus’ mission. Satan doesn’t understand exactly what and who he is contending with! Satan has greatly underestimated his opponent. It is kind of like Putin underestimating Ukraine! No, some people don’t want to join you.
What if Satan is referring to Jesus as “Son of God” in the classic Jewish understanding that the king was seen as a son of God? The Messiah, Christ, means the Anointed One, and that can also refer to the king. King David is a good example. You get that in Psalm 2:7, which is a coronation psalm, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.” That plays into the 2nd Temptation, “all of the kingdoms of the world.” Satan says, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority.” Back in Psalm 2:8, God says to the king, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Seems like Satan is trying to tempt Jesus with what God declared already to the king of Israel at his coronation. Now, there’s a twist! Does Satan understand the Messiah in precisely the same terms that the Jews of Jesus’ time did, as an earthly king and nothing more? Like I said, it seems that Satan is no theologian – kicked out of Heaven, and he skipped out of the eschatology classes about the end of time too!
This also continues until the end of our Lenten journey, when we end at the cross and the resurrection. One of the ways of understanding the crucifixion and resurrection is called “Christus Victor,” the victorious Christ. Basically, it says that Satan loses precisely because he bites off more than he can chew. That the apparent moment of defeat, Jesus’ death on the cross, is really the moment of victory – Death cannot hold him, neither can Satan. Satan chokes on the cross as he tries to destroy God’s Son, the Messiah. How disheartening, just when Satan thought that he had won, he discovers that he has been defeated utterly. Is that part of God’s plan?
Does God allow our ancient enemies: sin, death and evil assume that Jesus is a special God chosen man, but at the same time, an ordinary sinful man? Is that why Satan’s temptations are so mundane? I mean, I would assume that if you are going to tempt THE Son of God, God Incarnate, you would come up with something really creative. Satan’s aren’t. But, remember, I’ve told you before, another characteristic of evil is it is stupid. The Temptations show us just how blind to what is going on, and what he is dealing with! True, the temptations would probably work on us poor humans. Jesus’ refusals should have caused Satan to step back and rethink his plans. He didn’t.
Jesus’ responses are also interesting. He does not counter these temptations in any manner that could be called heavenly glory, like we witnessed last Sunday when the Gospel lesson was about the Transfiguration, and Jesus’ divinity shines out through his humanity. No, to these temptations, Jesus answers by quoting the Word of God, calling on a Higher Authority; not just higher authority of a sinful man, or a higher authority of Satan himself, but even the Word of Jesus’ own Heavenly Father, the Highest Authority! There isn’t really an inkling of Jesus being the Son of God in the sense that we now know that he was! Satan is befuddled in a way which he may expect to be! Does this all lead up to the cross, and his final hoodwinking, when the tempting trickster, “Old Nick,” that is an old name for Satan, is tricked himself completely by God himself? God’s ways are greater than our ways, and greater than the devil’s.
Lent, it is the season when we try more closely to conform our lives to Christ’s, to walk in the wilderness with him, face our own temptations, and make our own journey to Calvary. Jesus faces, and answers, the temptations, as a human being, as a mortal, so we may have an example to follow. He doesn’t resist with his divine nature, but faces them humanly, following a period of fasting which left him weakened and famished. He shows us the way when we are confronted with those things which entice us away from God, and towards the tempter. We are to answer in faith, and according to God’s Word. As Jesus walked in obedience all the way to the cross, we are freed and empowered to live now in obedience, following his example and resisting evil as it comes our way. For now, we belong to Christ in our faith, we are made Children of God in the way which Christ is, not just as an earthly Messiah, but joined to the very only begotten Son of God, God with us, our Emmanuel, he who is the Victorious Christ and the vanquisher of sin, death, evil, and even Satan himself. Let us follow where Christ leads this Lenten Season, and always, living our lives in faith in him, and declaring his glory in all that we say and do, witnessing to the greatness of our God!