First Sunday in Lent – March 5, 2017
Pastor Don Ninmer – Matthew 4:1-11
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” …Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, satan! For it is written, Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” Then the devil left Him, and just then angels came and served Him.” (Matthew 4:1-4, 10-11)
Do you like history? Do you like to study about the great victories that have been recorded in history? We think about the battles that took place in the past 200 years. There is the battle of Gettysburg. Many consider this to be a turning point in the Civil War. There were somewhere between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties. Many think that if that battle had been lost, the other side would have been victorious.
Soldiers that served in WW II often refer to it as “the big one.” The key battle in WWII is called the battle of the bulge. It took place on Dec. 16, 1944. The German army had 406,000 men, 1214 tanks, 4224 artillery pieces. The German army had between 67,000 and 125,000 casualties. That includes those who were killed, missing in action or wounded.
The American army had 89,000 casualties. Around 9000 soldiers were killed. It was the largest and bloodiest battle of WWII. Many would state that if that battle had been lost, we would have lost the war. We think about the war in Vietnam which included almost 300,000 military deaths, 627,000 civilian deaths. Total killed in one way or another, well over 1,000,000.
Don’t these numbers remind us of the words of the Savior? He tells us that as long as this world endures people and nations will not live in peace. Each one wants to have their own way and will not stop until they get it even if it means killing thousands of soldiers or civilians. We live in a world of anger and war.
Maybe you remember that 4 weeks ago, which also happened to be Super Sunday, we talked about a war. It was a war between Jesus and all the forces that satan could muster. We remember that this was not a war to see who would control the promised land or who would rule in Russia or who would be in control of Vietnam. This was the war of all wars because it was fought to take away our sins and to see who would go to heaven. We said at that time that this was our Super Bowl because Jesus was carrying our sins After the battle He could announce: It is finished.
But that war did not start on the cross. In fact it began 4000 years earlier when satan attacked God’s perfect creation. Those words that he used live in our minds as we hear him say: Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden? That is the message that satan has brought to mankind since that time. Did God really say?
The temptation of Jesus was that same powerful temptation used in the Garden of Eden: Is that really what God said? Are you really the Son of God? Give me proof that you are who you say you are. Remember that Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. What better temptation could satan use than this: If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.
Satan showed his ignorance here. The fact is that Jesus could have responded by changing stones into bread as He later would change water into wine. But He did not fall for satan’s trick. How did He respond? – by quoting a passage from the Bible: Jesus answered, It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3: To teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. What Jesus is saying is that food is important for the body. We can only fast for so long. But more important is that we know and follow every part of God’s wisdom. Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
We remember that things for the body are important – the things that Luther mentions in the explanation to the First Article: And I believe that God still preserves me by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, cattle and all I own.
Do you think that satan would give up? Would he say, well I tried once, and now I am going away? Then the devil took him took Him into the holy city. He placed Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and he said to Him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you. And they will lift you up in their hands that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Notice how clever satan was. He does what many people do today, he quotes or rather misquotes the Bible. He quotes Psalm 91: For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. How does Jesus respond? By quoting a passage: Jesus said to him, Again, it is written: You shall not test the Lord your God.
Satan was not finished: Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said to him, I will give you all of these things, if you will bow down and worship me. Again this shows the ignorance of satan. He offered to give Jesus what is already his – all the kingdoms of this world.
The Lord’s answer: Then Jesus said to him, Go away, satan! For it is written, Worship the Lord your God and serve him only. Then the devil left him, and just then angels came and served him. You see, Jesus won that war. Satan threw the best temptations that he had at him. He used the temptations that caused Adam and Eve to fall into sin - Putting earthly things, selfish things ahead of the word of God.
Doesn’t he use the same temptations today? If you forget about God’s Word, you will be happy. If you want to get ahead in the world don’t be so concerned about what God says. Our response today should be the same as that of Jesus: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God…You shall not test the Lord your God…Go away, satan! For it is written, Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.