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Lent I, February 18, 2018 - St. Matthew 4:1-11

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Posted: Sunday, February 18th, 2018 by Pastor Westgate

It’s Lent now. It seems we only just lit our hand candles and trees to celebrate Christmas. But here we are, in the 40 days leading up to Easter. The time has come for us to ponder Jesus’ holy Passion. It’s time for us to ponder why He came down from heaven to die for us. The Church gives us this time to encourage us to refocus ourselves in Christian living and repentance, on self-denial, almsgiving, and prayer.

Today has 2 names. At the start of the bulletin you see the name Invocavit. The Sundays in Lent and Easter take their names from the opening word of the Introit in Latin, the language our Sunday services were first composed in. The other name is Quadragesima. We’ve been about 70, then about 60, then 50 days away from Easter. Now it’s about 40. So why is Lent 40 days?

The number 40 is throughout Scripture. When God sent the Flood, it rained 40 days and 40 nights. Moses was on Sinai 40 days and 40 nights when he received the Law from God. It took Elijah 40 days and 40 nights to get to Sinai when he fled wicked Queen Jezebel. Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness after His Baptism, being tempted by the devil. Those stories about Moses and Elijah were for a long time read in the Western Church this coming Wednesday to teach the faithful about these 40 days.

Mountains, wilderness, Sinai – these are common themes in these readings; let’s call the Flood a wilderness of water, water everywhere! These are all extreme areas. You don’t want to be there without aid. And that’s the point. No place else in the world can tell you: “You need God,” like a wilderness can, because there you have nothing. You can’t overcome the forces of nature. You can’t find food or drink. You need God to provide and keep you alive lest you fall off the cliff or starve. These places give death. You need God to give you life.

That’s the situation Jesus was in. He’d gone without food and drink for 40 days and 40 nights. The only things around were dirt, wild animals, maybe a few plants – and stones, lots of them. There was nothing to eat. Maybe He didn’t want to eat either. Being human just like you, He was weak, He was hungry, starving. It was a perfect time for the devil to cast his net, to set his bait, and sink The Son of God into sin.

He had tempted a son of God before. Adam was God’s son. He was created by God, shaped by God, formed by God. He had God’s image and likeness. And Satan had success! He slithered and hissed and God’s boy actually listened. He actually took the fruit from his wife’s hand. He did that because he had started to covet it; if he didn’t covet it, he wouldn’t have let Eve talk to the devil. He looked at it and started to desire the very thing God told him to avoid and to not desire. What makes it so incredible is that Adam didn’t need it! He was surrounded by perfect beautiful fruits, more fruit than he could eat in a year. They had everything they needed. They didn’t need this 1 fruit. He just wanted it. He sinned. He died.

So the devil thought he had Jesus right where he wanted Him. Adam wasn’t hungry. Had he been alive 24 hours yet? He didn’t know what hunger was. Here you have Jesus, without food, in the middle of nowhere, starving after 40 long days. Surely He wants food. Surely He’ll listen. Surely He’ll take the bait, right? Sure, there’s no food, but who cares? He’s God. If He can make water wine, He can make stones bread!

Have you ever wondered what was wrong with this? Why’d He say no to that? God never said, “Thou shalt not turn stones into bread.” What was wrong is that it was the devil’s suggestion. If you listen to the devil, you make him god. He wants to be god of gods and lord of lords and king of kings. He wants the exact opposite of what God wants. God wanted to train His Son, to steel His human nature for the coming war against Satan and prepare Him for the way of The Cross.

But the devil wasn’t done. He took Him to the peak of the temple, perhaps the place where a priest would blow a trumpet to alert the people, a point high up above the valley below. It was a long fall to the bottom. He assured Him God would keep Him from hitting the ground, and he was hoping Jesus might start to doubt His own Word. But for Jesus to jump, He needed a command from God to do it. Satan saying it = tempting God to act when there’s no reason for it. God has not promised to rescue us from perilous, risky situations of our own doing. He does want us to trust His Word and listen to nothing else.

Jesus did not throw Himself down, so the devil took Him to a very high mountain. There he gave him a vision of the glory of all the kingdoms of the world: Rome and Persia, the Maya, Aztec, and Inca, Babylon and Egypt, America, Britain, and Germany. He showed Him everything. He promised Him everything – all for sale for the bargain basement price of His Divinity. That’s what He was after, after all. He wanted to finally become god, the thing he failed to do thousands of years before when he first rebelled.

That’s why he tempted Adam. It was the only path he could take to godhood. If he couldn’t kick God off his throne, then set up a new throne and redirect people to him. His plan succeeded far easier than we would have imagined. Adam sinned without a second thought. And from that moment all mankind has served him. All mankind is born not knowing God, not believing in Him, not trusting in Him, and not desiring to serve Him. All mankind is born coveting, harboring sinful and wicked desires that conflict with God’s will and commands.

Therefore you can be tempted. Temptation rears its ugly head every day of your life. How are you tempted? The Catechism teaches us that the devil tempts us, but so does the world and our sinful flesh. The devil wants us to reject God. The world wants us to follow the paths of sin with sinners and break all God’s commands. The flesh wants to do it too because it will feel so good, it believes. It feels good to harbor resentments, lusts, pride, anger, the felt-needs for more, for things that will replace God and nudge Him out of our lives.

And the devil left Jesus. He left Him to tempt Him at another time, to tempt Him to come off The Cross. But He will fail then too. This Man Jesus was tempted because you are tempted. You are tempted daily to sin. You often fall. But this Man, your God, did not fall. He stood firm and did not sin. This He did to rescue you from your sins, to forgive you, to give you who believe in Him the ability to think and do what is right in His sight.

He refused to sin, and you are forgiven for every time you have chosen to sin. He refused to sin, and you have the right to go to Him and pray Him to defend you from temptation. He promises to give you strength to resist and stand firm in The Faith. For He promises to stretch out His right hand to defend you from those who rise up against us.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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