First Sunday in Lent – Matthew 4:1-11

It is not child’s play when we pray lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Temptation and evil will haunt us until the day we die. Luther’s Small Catechism says God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.

Concerning our deliverance from evil, the Catechism says we pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

When we hear Matthew’s account of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness we often wish that we could have the strength and ability to overcome temptation and evil as Jesus did. We believe that because Jesus overcomes temptation in our place, we too should overcome temptation. We know that we will succumb to temptation and the evil that follows. We want to do better. When that next temptation comes, we think we will do better. We will not do better. We will fail. We will not overcome temptation by doing exactly as Jesus does. We can’t do exactly as Jesus does because we have something Jesus does not have: a sinful nature.

Our sinful nature wants to live by bread alone instead of every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Living by bread alone means we put worldly things above the God Who made the world and everything in it. We trust in mortal princes to save our country. We trust new spiritual fads we hear from our neighbor. Maybe a spirituality that champions the self over any God will give us the answers we need rather than receiving every good thing that comes from the hand of a merciful and gracious God.

The first four words of the explanation of the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer are God does not tempt. There are many times when we believe beyond any doubt that God is the one bringing temptation or evil into our lives. The devil, the world, and our sinful nature will always accuse and attack us. What separates Christians from children of the world is that with the help of the Lord we may finally overcome [temptation] and win the victory.

Satan tempted Jesus with the kingdoms of the world: All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me. All these things belonged to Him, yet Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. His is a heavenly kingdom. Yet we live as if we have eternal roots here rather than above. We live as if this world will never end and the life of the world to come will never happen.

Satan attacks us at our weakest moment with temptations that go after where we are weak. Unlike our outcome, Jesus’ outcome was much different. Yet this different outcome is not about Jesus being stronger or better than us. The different outcome between Jesus and Satan is about the Valiant One Whom God Himself elected holding the field forever.

Satan tempts Jesus with lies. Jesus can make stones become bread. We don’t need to live on earthly bread when we have the Living Bread that comes down from heaven. This Living Bread always satisfies, especially in the Divine Service. Here we are fed with Living Bread in preaching, Baptism, Absolution, and the Supper.

Jesus could throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple and live, but that miracle would do nothing to proclaim Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. It would be a self-serving miracle rather than an act of selfless love for sinners. Jesus is no show-off. He comes to set prisoners of sin free from their sin.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. He reigns over His holy Church, but He is not a theocratic ruler of a visible earthly kingdom. His kingdom is seen when the Good News of His victorious death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead is proclaimed. His kingdom comes to us every Lord’s Day and will come in its fullness when Jesus returns visibly to judge the living and the dead.

Though the first Adam fell to temptation and sin, the Second Adam does not fall to temptation. Jesus takes on our sin and gives us His redemption, restoration, and forgiveness. Jesus sets a beautiful example before us when He rebuffs Satan. Yet this is more than an example. Jesus conquers Satan’s temptations and ultimately conquers death to give us life. Though Satan may take everything, he has nothing. Our victory has been won. The Kingdom of God is ours for Jesus’ sake.

abridged and revised from 2009

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