You Are Here
What a relief those mall maps or now GPS devices are that tell you where you are. If you don't know where you are, your next step may be away from the store you came into the mall through, or, if outdoors, your next step might be off a cliff. Today on this First Sunday in Lent this text tells you, you are here.
Really? When's the last time you were tempted to make bread from stones? When's the last time the Devil said if you would worship him he'd give you all the authority and splendor of the world's kingdoms? When's the last time you struggled with whether or not to throw yourself off a cliff so the angels could catch you? So maybe you're not here after all.
No, you are here. These are your temptations Jesus is facing. Jesus being tempted to turn stones into bread is you being tempted to fulfill the legitimate needs of your flesh and blood by illegitimate ways. It's the temptation to find happiness, fulfillment, peace in food or drink. It's the temptation to find love and companionship in sex outside of marriage. It's the temptation to find peace of mind in what you do or don't do rather than in the promises and mercies of God.
Yes, you are here. Your temptations of the flesh are here and so are your temptations in the world. Hasn't the Devil come to you with the Faustian deal of your soul for the world's happiness, riches, honor, glory? Don't be content with the path the Lord has you on or your place in life. Don't be content with the legitimate ways God enriches your life. What you need is more money, a better house, a different job. What you need is whatever the world is waving before you.
And you are here suffering this last, worst temptation of all: the temptation about faith. "If you really believe, you will do this or that," hisses the Devil. "If you had enough faith; you would do that or this," he whispers. On and on this temptation goes - "If you really are a Christian; if you really are a believer, if you really are forgiven" till all you can see is you and all you're not. Then faith is changed from the means of receiving things from God to a power to be exercised; then faith is emptied of Jesus and filled with how certain you feel.
You are here in this desert, face to face with the Devil who is pulling all of his temptations out of his bag: temptations of the flesh, the world, and even the faith. But you're here for more than the battle; you're here for the victory. And where is the victory? In the Word. 3 times Jesus parries the Devil's thrust by quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy.
Jesus doesn't simply say the first two times, "It is written." No this is a perfect. It should be translated: "It has been written and it forever stands." This Word of God was true when it was written; it is true now; and it will be true forever ever. Jesus was really hungry. His flesh really needed food even as your body has legitimate needs. But Jesus took His stand on a Word God had written 1500 years before. "Man does not live on bread alone" was true when God spoke it and will be true into eternity.
Is that how you use the Word of God? Do you use it as an absolute authority? Do you use it as the power to fight off temptations? Do you regard the Word as absolutely true, correct, right? Jesus did. When the Devil tempted Him to gain the whole world not by suffering and dying but by worshipping him, Jesus finished the discussion with, "It has been written and still stands true today and forever, Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only."
You are here. This is your battle. Are you learning anything? Notice how after Jesus counters with two citations of God's Word as still being true and powerful today, the Devil parries with one of his own. Luther called this the White Devil since he cites Scripture, and he does it just the way Jesus does. The Devil too says, "It is written and forever stands true." What you going to do now? Do you think anyone who cites Scripture must be right? No the Devil himself can do that.
Jesus knocks the Sword of Scripture out of the Devil's hand with, "It says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Jesus doesn't say this time "it is written" but "it says." And this too is a perfect, so it's correctly translated, "It has been said and still says today and forever Do not put the Lord your God to the test." Here Jesus uses the Word as the living, sharp two edge sword that it is. He won't let the Devil silence him by appealing to Scripture, but knows that God forever says it is never right to put His promises to the test.
Are you really here? Here is your victory over the temptations of the Devil: the eternally true, powerful Word of God. All you have to do is go from here using that Word and victory is yours. That's true, but you'd be a fool to try. Perfect Eve wielded the sword of God's Word and with a few quick thrusts the Devil knocked it out of her hand and stabbed her with it. Our victory is here but not in our using the written Word of God but in the Word made flesh: Jesus.
This is what we sing in A Mighty Fortress is our God. We sing that nowhere on earth is the Devil's equal; that "with might of ours can naught be done; that devils fill the world all eager to devour us; that the Devil is the prince of this world. Then after all this talk about the Devil and his power we sing, "One little word can fell him." But this Word is not our citing of the Scriptures, not our use of the Scriptures, not our unsheathing the Sword of Scripture. No, the Word here is a He. After singing, how one little Word can fell the Devil, the hymn continues, "The Word they still shall let remain/ Nor any thanks have for it; He's by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit."
Yes, you are here, in this desert. These are your temptations that Jesus goes up against, and you are here for the victory, but it's in Jesus' correct use of Scripture not in your use. Your victory is in the Word made flesh not in your ability to use the written Word.
Galatians 4 says that Jesus, God the Son, was born under the Law to redeem those under the Law. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity could crush the Devil and all His demons with no effort as He will finally do on the Last Day. He will speak a word and "poof" they will be gone. But in our text Jesus is on the field of battle in our place. God's Laws were given to men. We are obligated to keep them even in the face of temptations. This we haven't done; this we can't do. Not even perfect Adam and Eve could.
So Jesus is here in our place. If He doubts the promises of God once, He breaks the Law. If He gives into temptation for but a moment, game over. If He gives into the temptations of the flesh, the world, or the Devil, then you can only go to heaven when you die if you have kept all of God's Laws perfectly. But Jesus doesn't falter; Jesus doesn't slip. Jesus keeps all of God's Laws perfectly even in the face of great temptation.
You are here. Jesus' victory over the Devil, Jesus keeping the Law is for your sake. As true God Jesus was not under any of the Laws of God, so He became true man to take your place. Now when the Devil comes at you demanding to know what about this law, what about that broken commandment, what about this time you gave into temptation, remember: you are here. You are here in this dessert having kept God's Law perfectly and having remained faithful in every one of the Devil's temptation. You did so in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't use any of the power He has as True God to remain faithful, just so you could share in His victory.
Jesus won our victory not just by keeping the Laws of God we break, but by paying for all that we have broken. You are here: you have given in to the temptations of your flesh and sought to fulfill your legitimate needs by ways God has forbidden. You are here: you have made the Faustian deal and gave up your soul in an attempt to gain not the world but just a tiny piece of it. You are here: you have sought for God to prove Himself by doing something when and where you demanded. You are here and you can't stay here under this sin, under this guilt, under God's heavy wrath and judgment, and you don't have to stay here.
Jesus comes out of the wilderness having remained the perfect, sinless, holy Man we need Him to be, but He goes from here to the cross. He goes from here, bearing the sins of every man, woman, and child, especially yours. He goes from here bearing your guilt of having given into every single temptation. So, though perfect, He goes from here under the wrath and judgment of God. He goes bearing the shame, pain, and sorrow your sins deserve. He will go all the way to the cross this way where He'll pay the full price not only for our sins but the sins of the world.
He will freely give His life as a wrath removing sacrifice for sins and God will accept His suffering and death as payment in full for all sins. God the Father will show that He does by raising Jesus from the dead on Easter. The only reason Jesus died was to pay for our sins. Having done that, death could not hold God the Son and where God the Son goes the Son of Mary, Jesus, goes too.
You are here on this First Sunday in Lent. Yes, that's right; you're here at Easter now. Don't think this strange. The Sundays during Lent have never been counted as part of the 40 days. That's why they're called Sundays in' Lent and not Sundays of' Lent. You are here at Easter. Here Jesus preaches the forgiveness of your sins, freedom from a guilty conscience, and victory over sin, death, and the Devil based on His keeping of the Law and His paying for your sins.
Sometimes it's not a relief to find you are here by a mall map or GPS. Sometimes you find yourself where you don't want to be or far away from where you do want to be. It is an unqualified relief to find you are in a better place than you thought. And that's what you have found on this First Sunday in Lent. You are here, in Easter. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
First Sunday in Lent (20120217); Luke 4: 1-13