Sunday, February 17, 2013

He Did This For You

First Sunday in Lent
February 17, 2013
The Old Testament reading today gives the account of the Fall into sin. It details the crown of God’s creation, human beings, desecrating God’s good gift of creation. Before that was the creation itself. God bringing into being all good things. He did this for you. He gave to Adam and Eve everything in His creation, all for them, all for their benefit.

What Adam and Eve did was the opposite of that. What they did was for themselves. They took what God gave them and twisted it into their own making.

Then there is Satan. What he did was to harm them. What he does is to harm you. He seeks your destruction.

There is God’s good creation and there is also the way we and Satan desecrate that creation. We do this for ourselves. God intends to bless us, we intend to look to ourselves rather than to Him alone for all our good.

In the Gospel reading we have a reprise of sorts of the account of the Fall in the Old Testament reading, this time with a different ending. In the Gospel reading a human being is there. Satan is there. Again what we have is God doing what is good for us and what Satan is doing as what is harmful to us.

It begins with Jesus being led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. What a strange thing. God the Holy Spirit driving God the Son into the wilderness in order to be tempted by Satan. The Bible teaches us that God tempts no one. But on this occasion He drove His Son into the place where Satan could freely attack Him. Why did God do this? He did this for you. He would never drive you into the wilderness for this kind of temptation, but He would His Son, a foreshadowing of His going to the cross in your place.

What did Satan do to Jesus? He tempted Him. He did this to defeat Jesus. But what Satan was doing was what he was doing to you. He was doing this to harm you. If he brought Jesus down it would be your downfall. Satan has only destruction in his sights when he considers you. This is what he was attempting in his temptation of Jesus. If Jesus had fallen into sin you would have no hope.

What did Jesus do? When Satan attacked Him, He attacked Satan. Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus combated him with the Word of God. Why did He do this? Was it to show His power? Was it to show His superiority over Satan? No, He did this for you. He did it to save you.

The amazing thing about how Jesus did this for you is that He did it precisely in the opposite way Satan was tempting Him to act. Satan tempted Adam and Eve with power. Do you really need God? Wouldn’t it be better if you struck out on your own? Wouldn’t it be better to rely on yourself rather than to have to rely on God and always have to wonder if He’s holding out on you? Did God really say what He said to you because it was best for you, or because He just wants to keep you in check so that He can hold sway over you and your life?

He did the same thing with Jesus. So You’re the Son of God, huh? I believe it, I really do, You don’t have to convince me. But it would be great if you could give a little display. Just show me a little glimpse and I may just come over to Your side. So turn these stones to bread and then I’ll go around telling everyone that You are, indeed, the Son of God.

Enticing with power, that’s what Satan does. Enticing with relying on yourself, with dispensing with having to entrust yourself to God while never knowing, for sure, whether God really is on your side; whether He’s really going to come through for you. Think about faith for a moment. What is it? It’s full reliance on God without being able to see that your reliance on Him is worthy of that reliance. It’s, as the Bible says, walking by faith, not by sight. So Satan comes along and says, “Wouldn’t you rather go by sight? Doesn’t that make more sense? Is God really for you if He’s withholding something from you?” And all of a sudden that forbidden fruit looks a lot more enticing. All of a sudden those stones turning to bread look a lot better than continuing a forty day fast.

But Satan is not for you, he is against you. Jesus, He is for you. God, He is for you. What God does, what God the Son does, they do for you. Jesus does not respond to Satan in power, but rather in humility. In the full reliance on God His Father. When the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness He fasted. He was weak. He was hungry. He was in no condition to do battle with Satan. But that is precisely the point. Jesus did what He did for you. He didn’t display His power, rely on Himself, call into question what in the world His Heavenly Father, what the Holy Spirit, was doing, but rather fully relied on His Father, and fasted. He went without basic and strengthening sustenance so that the Word of God alone could be His sword that would defeat Satan. He did this for you.

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Jesus became a man. He needed food. He ate food. He slept, He rested, He had needs that all humans have. But in attacking Satan, it is the Word of God that was His weapon. This He did for you.

And this you have, as well. You have the Word of God. Eve fell into sin because she went on the word of Satan rather than retreating to the Word of God. Adam fell into sin because he listened to the word of his wife rather than submitting to the Word of God. What did Jesus do? He was weak, He was hungry, He was ready for something good, so to speak, from His Heavenly Father, after the Holy Spirit drove Him out into that wilderness. But Jesus found His hope only in the Word of God. He said nothing original to Satan, simply quoting the Word of God. He did this for you.

Satan seeks to destroy. He doesn’t do it by assaulting you physically. He entices you. He gets you thinking about those things that can’t be that bad; after all, God has given us good things in this life—surely we should enjoy them! And so if Jesus is going to quote the Word of God, Satan is going to play that game all day long. “Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’”

Satan hasn’t changed. Just as he did with Eve, he doesn’t quote God’s Word so much as he twists God’s Word. He quotes it so that it sounds good and so that it seems like he’s looking out for you, but alters it in such a way that it will harm you if you succumb to his temptation. We rationalize and think that it can’t be that bad. Jesus, He goes to the Word of God and quotes it according to what it is intended for. And that is for your good. Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Well, that’s what Satan does. He puts God to the test. And so “the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’” Power. Going beyond what God has given you. Consider for a moment what God had given His Son Jesus Christ. A humble state. The Holy Spirit sending Him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. You think Satan didn’t know this? He most certainly saw his chance here in giving Jesus an opportunity to get a lot more than what His supposed loving Heavenly Father had given Him.

But one thing Satan didn’t realize, or at least thought he could get around: Jesus did this for you. He did this because He wanted to. He who is God and eternal and who holds all glory and power became a man. He was born. He went through the awkwardness of adolescence. He suffered scorn and experienced loss just as you do. He was tempted as you are. He chose all of this. He did all of this for you.

And that’s why Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Jesus is God. That you know and believe. But always remember, His being God has never been something He enjoys for its own sake. His being God is quintessentially being love, and specifically, loving you. He has no qualms whatsoever of submitting to the holy and loving will of His Heavenly Father. That’s because it is His own will to love you and save you. He worshiped the Lord His God and served Him only, His eternal Heavenly Father. He did this for you.

And while He is God He nevertheless remains man. He became a man and even now carries the scars in His hands, His feet, and His side, from the suffering He endured on the cross. They are glorious scars, as they bear witness to the atonement He accomplished in that very suffering and death. They are eternal marks, pointing you to what He did. That is why you can always look back to the things He did. The things He accomplished. The things He did, for you. In His humility, in His weakness, He accomplished the most glorious, most powerful thing—salvation for you. Where Satan sought to destroy, Jesus accomplished salvation. Where Satan sought to bring you down, Jesus lifted you up.

Consider, He did it in the unlikeliest of ways, which is why Satan will always try to get you to second-guess it. But Jesus has more power than Satan and His power is all concentrated in His love for you. And that is why when Satan failed in his attempts at getting Jesus to succumb to his temptations, the Gospel reading says that “then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to [Jesus].” This, perhaps, is the most remarkable thing of all, as it takes us back full circle to where Jesus started, in being led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan; weak, humble, vulnerable.

Now that it is over, He is the recipient of angels’ ministering. This is Jesus! This is God! this is the Creator and the Sustainer of the Universe! Needing angels to come to minister to Him. Never forget that He did this for you. Always remember that what He didn’t need is what He willfully and joyfully chose. He was glad to be the recipient of lowly angels ministering to Him. Because it meant that what He was doing He was doing for you. It was His joy to go to the cross, because what He was doing He was doing for you. It is what He did, it is what He continues to do for you. Even now, where it would appear that there is simply bread and wine given to you in the Sacrament hosted at this altar, it is His joy to come to you in and with that bread and wine with His very Body and Blood. He does this for you. Given and shed, for you. Amen.


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