Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus tells His followers to pray to the Father: “Lead us not into temptation.” We know that God indeed tempts no one. God doesn’t want His children to fall into sin, and He promises that no temptation will befall His people that we are not able to withstand by the power of the Holy Spirit. But today we see a unique temptation, one into which the Holy Spirit actually led Jesus. Face to face with Satan himself, your High Priest is willingly tempted like you in all ways. But there’s one difference this time: Jesus didn’t sin.
You misunderstand this story if you think it is our how-to manual to avoid temptations. Jesus used the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, as His weapon against Satan; so you think that, armed with your own spirituality and strength of will, you can resist temptation too. But this is not a Law example for you to follow, for you are not God. You are frail, sinful people who fail to resist temptation, for you daily sin much, following the example of your earthly father, Adam, who was enticed by forbidden fruits.
This temptation is really our Lord’s Own work, a Gospel gift to you. After all, it was in your place that He did what you couldn’t, standing up to the devil’s temptations to defeat Him once and for all. He did this for you, that you may live not by bread alone, that you would be satisfied by the Word of God’s mouth. This Word in Jesus became flesh, so that instead of forbidden fruit, you may feast on bread which, by that Word of God, hides Christ’s body, which He gave for you at Calvary and with which He feeds you in His holy Supper for your forgiveness.
You give into temptation all too readily because you are just like that old Adam. Just as his human nature was thoroughly corrupted by sin after the Fall, you too inherit that same sin-befouled flesh. The children of Adam and Eve are so easy to tempt—and not just by Satan, but also by your own selfish desires! The devil tempted Eve with the things she wanted in her selfishness, and you too really want the many sinful things you covet and lust for against God’s will for you.
Jesus didn’t fall for Satan’s tricks, noting the part of scripture the devil craftily omitted. As Satan tried God’s own word against Jesus, he failed, omitting the important phrase, “in all Your ways.” Jesus didn’t forget God’s ways, praying often, “Thy will be done.” Jesus didn’t do what He as a human may have wanted; He did the Father’s will for your salvation! Jesus remembered His place as the Son of God, and He reminded Satan of that fact, forbidding the devil from testing God. And in baptism, God’s will is to restore His image to you in His Name.
You are tempted by questioning what God says, ignoring His revelation to you. It is so much easier to follow the crowd, to listen and give in to popular opinion. You think that God can’t really mean what He says when so many people believe otherwise. Such is the temptation Satan used on Eve, when he said to her, “Did God really say...?” Such is the temptation into which the Israelites succumbed, testing God in the Sinai, wondering if He was really speaking through Moses.
Jesus doesn’t question God’s word or ignore it. Instead, Jesus answers Satan’s question, “Did God really say…?” He answers resoundingly, telling the devil that man lives “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus reminds you: God says that, instead of tempting Him, you are to worship Him. The highest form of worship is not done in what you do; the highest form of worship happens when He gives you His good gifts of gospel grace, and you receive them by His gift of faith—a gift He gives you through the Spirit in your Baptism. God really says to you today, “I forgive you all your sins” through Christ who died in your place, who rose to exalt you on high!
So as you go forth today to face the many temptations from the devil, from the world, and even from your own sinful flesh, rejoice that the forgiveness God provides for you is not given with any devilish strings attached. You don’t need to bow to Satan or put your Father to the test. Instead, God gives His grace to you freely through His Son, Jesus, who has already been tempted in your place. He resisted Satan perfectly, even dying for you as your perfect sacrifice at Calvary’s cross. Don’t trust your own strength to resist temptation. Trust His strength. Trust His obedience. Trust His love for you. He is sufficient for the task. He does not lead you into temptation; He delivers you from evil. 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.