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03.10.19 Verifying Who We Are Luke 4.1-13 Sermon Summary

by on March 12, 2019

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us that after his baptism, Jesus was driven by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Only Matthew and Luke give us a detailed description of the temptations, and they switch the second and third temptations.

No one was there with Jesus, so obviously Jesus must have told the disciples the details. Why? Was it to show how powerful he was? Do Matthew and Luke resort to the testimony of the Devil to identify Jesus as the Son of God? Or was there another reason?

Why did Jesus tell his disciples about his wilderness trial, about his “vision quest” as native religions call them? The story of Jesus’ temptations is an archetypal story. We’re given clues to read the story as more than history. For example, Jesus is driven to the “wilderness,” which makes us think immediately of the wilderness experience of the ancient Israelites being liberated from slavery in Egypt to the Land of Promise.

He is in the wilderness for “forty days”—another symbolic clue. In Noah’s story, the Flood lasted forty days. Moses was on Sinai for forty days. The spies were in Canaan forty days. It was forty days between the Resurrection of Jesus to his Ascension. These literary cues tell us we’re in the genre of archetypal story.

Jesus’ temptations are told to us by Matthew and Luke for our benefit. Just as Jesus expected us to fast—“When you fast,” he says; not “if you fast”—so he expects us to face temptation. Not these exact temptations, but these types of temptations. These three are basic and inclusive of any others.

The three temptations are to turn stones into bread, worship Devil to receive worship, and to throw oneself from Temple to be rescued. Jesus is teaching something general which we can apply to the specific situations in our lives. We are all are tempted, tried, tested, proven, and improved.

God’s calling upon us is to fulfilment of our destiny of who God created us to be. Temptations ask the question, “Will we rise to it?” That’s all temptation is. It’s a test of our identity. Will we behave as children of God or not? Temptations are opportunities to grow as children of God.

As we learn these three temptations, we can apply them to every temptation we face, every trial we experience. And we’ll have resources to navigate our own faithfulness. So remember these archetypal temptations. Jesus faced them, and so will we.

The first temptation is to turn stones into bread. It is the temptation to be practical. We do need to eat. We do need to do something useful. This is the temptation to provide for ourselves, to “look out for number one.” And not just now, but into the future. This is the temptation to be preoccupied with the material. It tells us that “what we see is all that matters.”

But Jesus teaches that there is value in what is NOT useful; for example, grace. Grace cannot be calculated or measured. There is no economy of grace. Grace is God’s continuous self-giving. It has no value in the way we calculate value, and without such value, it is useless. But it has a value in a different economy. Jesus is calling our attention to this truth.

Our work has value—we work and we get paid. But ultimately it is God who provides. Thus the proper attitude is not, “I deserve this; I’ve earned this.” Such an attitude leads either to pride or to resentment. Rather, the proper attitude to work and rewards is humility and gratitude.

Material things are wonderful, but they are not all that matters. We’re called to be more than consumers and more than producers.

Perhaps this Lent you can trace some of your spiritual sickness to this first temptation.

The second temptation is to worship others in order to receive worship. It is the temptation to believe that if you succeed, others will admire you. If you make the sacrifice, you’ll have others’ esteem. What kinds of sacrifices are we tempted to make?

Some of us are sacrificing our happiness to this temptation. Others sacrifice their health. Some sacrifice their relationships with their spouse or children. Many of us sacrifice the present to the future. We are sacrificing our very selves.

But Jesus teaches that we are to worship and serve God first, then prioritize accordingly. How did Jesus do this? Some examples. Remember he taught, “Consider the lilies of the field, how beautiful they are, here today and gone tomorrow; God provides better for you.” Remember he said, “Let the little children come to me, though they offer no value to your society, and I will bless them.” In summary, he taught, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where they last, not on earth where they do not.”

I suspect that your own meditation on the second type of temptation can help you find the idols in your life.

The third temptation is to prove your relationship with God. “Throw yourself from the Temple height,” the Devil said to Jesus, “let everyone see your favored status.” It is a test to place our trust in human testimony as opposed to God’s testimony. We ask, “What are people saying about me? How many FB friends or followers do I have? How many ‘likes’ did my post get?”

Before all these, God has already given his testimony about us. Through baptism we are God’s “beloved,” and “in us God is well pleased.” God will not ask about our popularity, but whether we believed we were a child of God, and whether we behaved like we believed it.

We can still try to prove it to others, to impress them so they say, “What a godly person! See how God has blessed them! See how God rescued them from the fall from the Temple!”

Or we can remember the promises God has made to us in Christ: “I have claimed you as my children. Now trust that I will provide: You need bread and more than bread, and I will provide it. I love you for who you are, not for what you can do or how many people admire you. All I want from you is your attention and your love. Don’t sacrifice yourself to get MY attention. I am obsessed with you already. You are my beloved child; now act as my child, regardless of what others may say. Be kind, be generous, be gracious, for that is my DNA, and you carry it as my child.”

We remember these promises at the Table of the Lord. Here we receive God’s Word reminding us we are one with Christ. Here we receive God’s Spirit accompanying us as she did Jesus into our own wilderness. Here we remember that when temptations and trials come, God is near to us, maybe even the closest he can be to us. Here with Jesus, we recognize trials as opportunities to grow more into our calling. Here we receive grace for the trials we face.

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