From the Beginning
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We’re all familiar with the story of David and Goliath. David was a young man. He was no warrior. He was a shepherd who took care of sheep. His weapons were not swords and armor and the like. His “weapons” were a staff, maybe some small stones to scare away the wolves, and his voice. The way He led his sheep to follow him was not by force or power; it was by his voice. His flock knew his voice, and so would follow him wherever he went. That was what made the Philistines, with Goliath at the front, so offensive to young David. He knew that God is Israel’s true shepherd. They are to listen to his voice, and to follow him. But Saul and all of Israel had forgotten the voice of their true shepherd. They believed the voice of the liar. They believed the lie that they were weak and without strength, and that God Himself had abandoned them. For days Goliath had taunted them with his might and power, and they believed him. They had forgotten God’s promise that He would be with them, that He would fight for them, that they would win the battle by His mighty deliverance. But David remembered. David listened to the voice of the Lord, and won the battle with a stone and the promise of God to be with His children, not matter how great the adversary, no matter what the cost.
David’s son, Jesus, faced a similar battle a thousand years later. Only this time the enemy wasn’t a big Philistine; it was Satan himself. After Jesus fasted 40 days, Satan came to Him when He was weak. Satan believed that he could deceive the Son of God, just as he had deceived the people of Israel on the field with the Philistines so many years ago. He attacked by appealing to Jesus’ pride. If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread. What was the temptation for Jesus? The temptation was to take up His power and might as the Son of God and use it for His own benefit and well-being. It was really a temptation to glory. But Jesus, our great champion, would have none of Satan’s lies. He responded with the Word of God: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus recognized that His nature as the Son of God led him to sacrifice, not to selfish glory. He heard the voice of His Father, who would not leave Him or forsake Him. He trusted in the promise of God when even His own eyes might tell him otherwise. 40 days is a long time to go without food. Did God know what He needed? The answer, of course, is yes. And so Jesus trusted in that Word of God.
That is the temptation that Satan seeks to put before you today and every day of your Lenten journey. We live in a world which on the one hand is much more spiritual than it was even a few years ago. This is a time of patriotism, of family, of tradition, and many other values which we as Lutherans can uphold and say with our fellow Americans, “Yes, that is what makes us who we are.” And yet these very same values which we hold dear as Americans can also be our greatest downfall. Where do we place our trust? Is it in our strength? Family? Tradition? Personal willpower? What is the source of your strength? This question is not simply one of priorities or career setting or whatever other short-term and long-term goals we may have. It goes deeper than that, for it gets to your very identity as a human being. Are we defined by what God Himself gives us by His Word and Spirit, or are we defined by what Satan, the world and our own flesh would have us believe?
Left to our own devices, surely we will fail every time. Even so early on in Jesus ministry, here at His temptation, it was the task of Jesus, day and night, to keep the Law because you cannot. As the new Adam and the greater David, Jesus held true to God’s promise, while we fail. Satan tempts us every day to give in to our passions. Do what you want! You deserve a break today! Give in to the world. And sadly, we do. We put on a good show for church, but deep down, you know that you fail in this fight against Satan. We are like the people of Israel, on the battlefield with the Philistines. In the face of so great an enemy, it is very easy to simply give in to despair, to turn over and not even engage in the battle. What’s the point? You might say in your fear and despair. I know I’m going to fail, so I might as well at least enjoy myself on the way. But this is not the way of faith; it is the way of unbelief and despair. For you see, Jesus knows the struggles you have. He knows your weaknesses and your pains. But more than that. He has lived your pain. His temptation means that He stands with you even now. Your trials are His trials. You need not fear that God doesn’t get your problems. You can hear His voice, and cry out to Him in faith. For when you cry out to God in faith, Jesus cries with you. That is why we can come boldly to the throne of grace.
So don’t be afraid. Christ our Lord goes through Satan’s temptations, and clings to the promises of God for you. You may approach God’s throne of God with confidence, knowing that God hears your prayers, because you pray with His only Son. And He gives you His very body and blood as a sure and certain sign that God’s love for you is everlasting. He will keep you from the evil one. Satan’s power over you is only in his twisted mind. We have a champion who will fight for us, and who will keep us always in God’s loving hands. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.