Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Outcome Was Never in Doubt. . .

Sermon for Lent 1C, preached to the saints at Faith Lutheran Church, Hopkinsville, TN, on Sunday, March 10, 2019.

The battle of temptation fought between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness was no suspense thriller.  You did not need to hang on the edge of your seat. Jesus was not going to lose.  Jesus was never going to lose. Because Jesus is sinless.  Jesus is sinless not because He tries harder than you or I try to be holy but because He is the Son of God.  While we try to point out the similarities between Jesus and Adam or Jesus and us, it is more a study in contrasts.  Adam could sin – the question was whether he would or not.  Jesus cannot sin – the issue is not if He could but why He cannot.

The devil is always in a losing position with regard to God.  He did not have a chance in hell, so to speak, to overcome the angels in the battle for heaven told in Revelation.  He did not have a chance in hell to overcome the Son of God in the battle for earth.  It was never a dramatic version of what you and I face but the unique battle between the Son of God and the devil.  It was not even close.  And it was never a fair fight.

When the devil tempted Adam in the garden, he was still licking his wounds from being banished from heaven in the unsurprising defeat of the devil and his angels by the mighty forces of God.  When he came to earth, the devil found himself in a better position.  Though Adam could have resisted the devil, he did not.  He was not hungry like Jesus or even weary like Jesus.  He had heard the voice of God.  But Adam had already failed by the time the fruit was eaten.

He had not loved God above all things or loved Eve as himself.  He has not faithfully spoken the Word of God to the woman whom God had given Him and so he failed not only Eve but the Lord and himself.  He was seduced not by weakness but by delusions of grandeur – dreams of being like God.  In the end he became like the devil.  And in the end, he lost everything.  He lost the loving wife God had given him, the garden in which to fulfill his creative purpose, and the God who had made and preserved him.  All for a lie.  In the end, Adam was a hollow man, one who did not know who he was or why he lived.  He knew guilt that he was not created to know and he knew death that he was not created to experience.

So he gathered up the woman and ran to hide from the God who had given him life.  He was sure God would destroy him and did not even realized that he had already done it to himself.  So when Jesus was tempted by Satan, it was not a battle of wits but the triumph of truth and life over lies and death.  God was not about to let the devil win.  Jesus had come to fulfill the promise of God that Adam had all but forgotten – the promise of mercy and forgiveness and life.  The first step was to meet Satan on his own turf and steal from the devil his bragging rights.  God had come in Jesus Christ to take back Adam and all his heirs – back from sin and its guilt, back from death and its grave, and back to life and the triumph of hope.

It was not that the devil did not really tempt Jesus.  The temptation was real.  But Jesus was not Adam.  Jesus is pure and holy.  He seeks not Himself or His own way or His own glory.  Jesus is not deluded by imagination but is directed by truth.  He will not participate in the devil’s conversations.  In every case, Jesus ends the devil’s dialogue with the Word of the Lord that endures forever.  Jesus does not speak this Word like someone who has memorized it (like we do) but as the author of that Word who speaks what He knows to be true forever.

The devil cannot win but he does not know this.  So he tries and fails.  And he goes home with a chip on his shoulders.  What once worked in Eden does not work any longer.  So all the devil will do is to try to extract a cost from Jesus.  He will haunt Jesus and threaten Jesus so that the Lord of life cannot forget that He must suffer in order to redeem the fallen world.  The devil thinks He can tempt Jesus away from His saving purpose but Jesus is in it for the outcome, for the salvation of our souls.

So this is not about what Jesus might do but what God cannot.  God cannot forget YOU.  He cannot forget that sin tore you from Him.  He cannot forget the death that claims you.  He cannot forget what His love promised Adam and Eve in the garden so long ago.  And in the great surprise, the devil has unwittingly become a pawn in God’s plan of salvation.  The tempter has become the tempted.  The manipulator has been manipulated.  The liar has been cornered by the truth.  Jesus is still tired, still weary, and still hungry but the devil is lost.  Like an animal in pain, he will lash out to hurt anyone in his path but the outcome of it all is not and was never in doubt.

Therein lies the miracle.  Jesus suffers and you are relieved.  Jesus aches and you are healed.  Jesus dies and you are given life.  Jesus does not lose His righteousness but you are made righteous in Him.  This was the first battle in the great war of Your redemption and you are already the winner.  And at the end, it is the devil who limps away and Jesus who remains. 

The angels come to Him and for Him because God has appointed them for this service.  And because they come to Him, they come for us, doing the Father’s bidding in us and for us.  And you and I discover that man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.  You and I discover that the Lord’s love cannot be tested and it cannot be lost.  You and I discover that the cost of salvation is free but only because Jesus paid it for us.  That is what we learn from all of this.  The devil knows God’s Word but when he speaks that Word it is twisted and turned upside down.  When Jesus speaks that Word it speaks clearly, bluntly, and directly to seek and save those who are lost.

Jesus is tempted like us to show He is not us.  He is the holy and righteous One, the Son of God long promised, the voice who speaks the Father’s Word, the God who fulfills that Word, and the Savior who suffers to give life and hope to the sons and daughters of Adam.  We stand in awe not that Jesus did not sin but that God has loved us with such a love, saves us despite knowing our sin, and will not be distracted from His saving purpose.

And now, what about you?  Will you stand in Christ and with Him?  Will you give up the false misleading dream for the reality of the God who loves and saves you?  Will you rejoice that the Lord has done all things well for you, to save you?  Will hope in Him who gave His life for you and calls you now to live in Him?  The devil will tempt but Christ will still be there for you.  And when the devil is gone, no one is left to accuse you.  The only one left is the One who died for you.  And He who spared not His own Son but willingly gave Him up for us all, will He not now give us all things in Christ?  That is what we learn today.  He has given us all things and He will give us all things.  That was never in doubt.  Amen.

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