What tempts you?
Are you tempted like Saul? Are you tempted to jealousy and fits of rage and anger? When Saul and David returned from victory in battle, David was praised for killing tens of thousands, while Saul was only praised for killing thousands. This was the tipping point of Saul’s jealous rage against David. Are you tempted like Saul?
Are you tempted like Cain? Are you tempted with anger that runs so deeply that you would plot and would even consider harming someone else? When God favored Abel’s sacrifice over his brother Cain’s because it was given as a first fruit, Cain responded in hatred and killed his brother Abel. Are you tempted like Cain?
What tempts you?
Are you tempted like the Israelites? Are you tempted to grumble and complain and not be content with what you have? As the Israelites were set free from 430 years of slavery, they quickly took their freedom for granted and grumbled against God and Moses for their lack of food options and water. Are you tempted like the Israelites?
Are you tempted like King David? Are you tempted to lust after someone who is not your spouse? Are you tempted to commit an affair, even an emotional one on-line? David looked and saw Bathsheba bathing. Instead of guarding his eyes, he lusted after her, and then he committed adultery with her. He even stole her to be his wife. Are you tempted like King David?
What tempts you?
Are you tempted like King Ahab? Are you tempted to look and see that the grass is greener elsewhere…be it the stuff your neighbor owns, the house your sibling has, the life your friends live? Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard. He coveted it intensely. Then with his wife Jezebel’s help of killing Naboth, Ahab stole Naboth’s vineyard for himself. Are you tempted like Ahab?
Are you tempted like Adam and Eve? Are you tempted to try and be like God, or at least try to be the god of your own life because you think life would be better if you called the shots, if you were in control, because after all, you know what’s best for yourself? Adam and Eve bit into that fruit that Satan dangled in front of them because it falsely promised them likeness with the Almighty God. Are you tempted like Adam and Eve?
What tempts you?
What tempts you? Scripture says: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man (1st Corinthians 10:13). We are all tempted in countless ways. Page through Scripture as we have just done, and we see that when it comes to the temptations we face, there is nothing new under the sun.
Though temptations in and of themselves are not sin, temptations have a way of luring us in and getting us to sin. Like a worm on a hook, temptations promise what they can’t deliver. Like a fish that sees a tasty snack on a hook, only to be reeled in to their own demise and death. That’s the aim of temptation: sin and death.
The orchestrator of all such temptations is the father of all lies, the devil. “The old satanic foe, has sworn to work us woe. With craft and dreadful might, he arms himself to fight. On earth he has no equal.”
On our own, we are no match for the devil. Faced against the old satanic foe on our own, we will lose every time. Every time. “No strength of ours can match his might. We would be lost rejected.” We are no match for the devil under any circumstances. To try and defeat him by our own merits will only lead to our defeat.
Our text for today reveals that even though we are no match for the devil’s temptations, Jesus triumphs over temptation. Though Scripture only reveals three of the temptations, knowing the very nature of Satan, we know that his attacks on Jesus were relentless. We know this from our own experience. As the Large Catechism states: “The devil never lets up or becomes weary; when one attack ceases, new ones always arise.”
And so it was with Satan’s temptations of Jesus in our text for today. After having gone without food in the wilderness for forty days, Satan goes on the attack against Jesus’ grumbling belly. If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”
Here Satan tried to get Jesus to comfort Himself with His divine powers. He tried to get Him to use those powers for instant satisfaction and gratification.
No doubt we would have fallen instantly. We have become addicted to this instant gratification lifestyle that we are now accustomed to living. Everything is a click away. There is no sense of restraint. No sense of self-control. We simply want to have it our way…and right away.
But Jesus wasn’t having it. He not only thwarted the temptation of Satan, but by telling him that man doesn’t live by bread alone, He directed Satan’s attention to where ultimate satisfaction is delivered…the Word of God…the two-edged sword Jesus used to thrust into his enemy with each temptation that was thrown at him.
But as we know all too well from life, the devil was not done. He had more to throw at Jesus. Just like he always has more to throw at us. And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only will you serve.’”
Here the father of all lies was at his finest. Not only is he a liar, but his very temptation of Jesus is delivered on the basis of a lie. He doesn’t have the authority over all the kingdoms of the world. Sure, he has his reign right now, but all that will end in the twinkling of an eye when Jesus returns. Yet, that didn’t stop Satan from lying to Jesus nonetheless.
But where Jesus won the battle, we would have no doubt fallen. To think of having all that power and dominion in this world would have been far too tantalizing to pass up. We are a power-hungry people…at work…at home…everywhere. We love to be in charge. We love to be in control.
Jesus, however, knew full well who was in control, no matter how Satan tried to twist the truth. He knew Satan’s reign is limited. He knew Satan is on a leash. But where so many dogs like to try and take control of their owners while on a walk, so it is with Satan. He kept at it.
And Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said 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 guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed until an opportune time.”
Here we see the alarming reality that Satan knows Scripture. Not only does he know it, but he knows how to manipulate it and abuse it for his own purposes.
But where Jesus came out on top, we no doubt would have fallen yet again…simply because we have chosen not to prioritize consuming the regular diet of God’s Word in our lives. We need to read God’s Word, learn it, mark it, and inwardly digest it…because we do not live by bread alone. The strength and nourishment we need to stand up to Satan is none other than the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. We need Jesus. Knowing His Word and learning it by heart will help us to be armed and protected against the flaming arrows of the enemy.
This is why teaching God’s Word is so essential after being baptized. Though baptism saves, if it is not nurtured by the Word of God, it will die. That’s because, just as it was for Jesus, so it is with us. As soon as we are baptized, Satan goes on the attack to do anything to try and tempt us and drive a wedge of separation between us and God.
So, where do we turn? What do we do when we are tempted by Satan to sin? We turn to the One who triumphs over temptation. Scripture tells us to “Call upon name of the Lord. Call upon Him in the day of trouble; He will deliver you.” Make no mistake about it…when we are being tempted, we are in trouble. We are on a slippery slope with no hope of escape on our own. And the devil knows that. The devil knows we are no match for him.
But the devil is a defeated enemy. He is no match for the Son of God. So, no matter what the temptation is, we always have hope. Scripture says: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted. He knows it to his very core. He felt its intensity there in the wilderness, and he undoubtedly felt it pressing in as he approached the cross. He had every chance to give in to Satan’s temptations and turn away from the cross. But, as Scripture tells us, He set his face toward Jerusalem…The very place Satan took him to and set him on the pinnacle and told him to throw himself down. Little did Satan know, but that is exactly what Jesus was going to do.
Jesus willingly and voluntarily allowed for His life to thrown down upon the cross. He let them drive nails into his hands and feet. And at any moment, Jesus could have called down legions of angels to save him, but he didn’t. He didn’t fall to temptation. No, He endured everything Satan threw at him so that He could shed his holy and innocent blood for us and our salvation.
You see, had Jesus fallen to even one temptation, the blood He had to shed for us would have not forgiven and saved us. It would have not been for our benefit, and He would have been no help to us. But as Scripture tells us: “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
Jesus is our help us because His foot is firmly planted on the head of the Satanic serpent. Jesus triumphs over temptation because Jesus has already triumphed over the Tempter by way of the cross and the empty tomb. “But now a champion comes to fight, whom God Himself elected. You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is He, Christ Jesus, mighty Lord, God’s only Son adored. He holds the field victorious.”
So, what tempts you to fall into sin? Whatever it is, turn to the Triumphant One, Jesus Christ, and take comfort in these words of Scripture: God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1st Corinthians 10:13).
So let us close in prayer that we may not enter into temptation (Luke 22:40). “Almighty and everlasting God, through Your Son You have promised us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that in our daily need, and especially in all time of temptation, we may seek Your help and, by a true and lively faith in Your Word, obtain all that You have promised; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.