When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty—
you will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my stronghold,
my God in whom put my trust.”
Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
and the Most High your habitation,
no evil will befall you,
nor shall affliction come near your dwelling.
For God will give the angels charge over you,
to guard you in all your ways.
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion cub and viper;
you will trample down the lion and the serpent.
I will deliver those who cling to me;
I will uphold them, because they know my name.
They will call me, and I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue and honor them.
With long life will I satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.
“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 4:1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Temptation – oh sweet – sweet – often delicious temptation! It feels like temptation is absolutely – positively everywhere! Like we are being bombarded by temptation everywhere we turn – every single – solitary moment of our entire lives!
And – of course – the incredibly tricky thing about temptation is that it is – so – very – very tempting. Temptation is so appealing. Which means it is often shockingly easy to give in to temptation. Sometimes you have surrendered to temptation before you even realize you’ve done it!
You hear your phone buzz or chirp or chime letting you know you have received a text while you are driving. You know texting and driving is ALWAYS against the law BUT you decide to send a quick text while you are driving anyway. Because you are an exceptionally good driver. Your driving skills are far above average!
Plus – you bargain with yourself – you will be VERY careful. You won’t swerve all over the road like those “other drivers.” You won’t sit through a red light. You won’t cause an accident.
And anyway – those laws are just plain draconian and an outrageous infringement of your civil liberties.
Or it is so tempting to tell that lie because sometimes lying is just so much easier than telling the truth is.
“Sure – Dad – my homework is all done. I totally rocked it like a rock star!”
Or “no – Mom I have no idea who ate the last scoop of ice cream and put the empty container back in the freezer. Maybe it was Dad. . . or aliens. . . Yeah – either Dad or aliens!?!?”
Or perhaps you might be tempted to act like the able-bodied gentlemen I saw this week who was far too busy to return his grocery cart to the cart return. So he parked his cart right in the middle of a handicapped parking spot. I try not to be too judgy – but seriously leaving a cart in the middle of a handicapped parking space . . . so NOT okay!
Temptation is incredibly – often shockingly appealing. Temptation looks really good to us. If it didn’t – it wouldn’t be so tempting – now would it?
Unfortunately – temptation by its very nature – is bad for us too.
And often it is bad for the other people in our lives also. Surrendering to temptation can leave a path of destruction in its wake.
I have never – ever heard anyone say – “oh my – that celery just looks so tempting!”
“Or Pastor – I have to confess – I surrendered to temptation last night and gave $400 to the church mortgage fund!”
Nope – temptation is about the stuff that makes a mess of our lives and hurts us and hurts other folks too.
Sadly – temptation is a part of the human condition. Even Jesus – himself – faced temptation.
Right after his baptism – the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness where Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. As this time comes to an end – the devil comes to Jesus with some seriously tempting temptations.
First the devil suggests that Jesus – “Turn a stone into bread.” Well – what is so wrong with bread? Bread seems harmless. It’s not like the devil suggested Jesus turn the stone into a nuclear weapon. Frankly some bread would have probably tasted really – really good to Jesus after not eating for such a long time.
This temptation seems so harmless to us – but Jesus knows it isn’t harmless or benign. So – Jesus said no.
Next the devil says to Jesus – “I will give you all of the kingdoms of the world if you just bow down and worship me.” Well – wasn’t Jesus sent here to win over all of the kingdoms of the world? It would be so easy to quickly bow and then the world would instantly belong to him. And without all of the work of preaching and teaching and healing and feeding and calling disciples. It would have been so much faster. So much easier!
But – Jesus said no this time too. Jesus knew this temptation was NOT harmless.
Finally – the devil tries one more temptation. The devil takes Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem where he suggests Jesus jump off the very top of the Temple.
It is important for you to know the Jews of this time thought the Messiah would reveal himself to the world by suddenly appearing at the very top of the Temple.
Well – if that was what folks were expecting – why not just go ahead and do it? What could be so wrong about showing everyone he really was the Messiah with some real pizzazz and flare?
But Jesus knew this temptation was not harmless. So – Jesus said no again.
To us – it is not all that surprising that Jesus said no to temptation. After all – we know Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We know Jesus could see these temptations were dangerous. Jesus knew giving in would have derailed God’s plan for salvation.
But it is important to remember these temptations were really and truly tempting to Jesus. These temptations were tempting! And yet – Jesus didn’t surrender.
So how did Jesus resist temptation? Well – Jesus did not rely on himself. Jesus relied on God the Father. Jesus did not rely on just his own wisdom and willpower – Jesus relied on the Word of God. Jesus resisted temptation by turning to God and God’s Word over and over again.
This is true for us too. When we face temptation we can turn to God and his Word for help and guidance. God will always help us do what is right.
Sadly – we are flawed – sinful human beings. And because of this – there will be times when we give in to temptation. We will all fall short of the glory of God.
For most of us – there will be many – many – many times that we give in to temptation! No matter how hard we try – we will mess up. And unfortunately – not even the perfect role model is going to keep us from giving in to temptation all of the time.
Thankfully – when we give in to temptation there is still hope for us.
Jesus knew we were going to need a lot of help.
So first – Jesus showed us how to resist temptation by giving us an example – which is an amazing blessing to all of us. But Jesus did not stop there. Jesus gives us an even greater blessing. A Savior.
Jesus gave us the help we need when we surrender to temptation. Jesus took our sins upon himself and died in our place. He died for the forgiveness of our sins.
Jesus has offered us all forgiveness. Through the cross Jesus saves us from ourselves. Truly this is Good News – AMEN.