Matthew 4: 1-11

After the baptism of Jesus the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tested. What does it mean that Jesus overcame temptation for you?

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry afterward. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth.’ ”Then the devil took him into the holy city. He 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,so that you don’t dash your foot against a stone.’ ”Jesus said to him, “Again, it is written, ‘You shall not test the Lord, your God.’ ”Again, the devil took him to an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said to him, “I will give you all of these things, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.’ ” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and served him.

Matthew 4: 1-11

The first temptation

The first temptation is a basic need. If your hungry just perform a miracle for yourself. This seems harmless enough on the surface, at least to you and me. You see, we are sinful people and we don’t like to thank God for our daily bread. At least not apart from faith. How often do we think about tomorrow and are anxious about paying bills, affording this and that, or simply… Our next meal. We often forget to thank God for our little snacks throughout our day, our blessings of air, clothes, friends, internet, or faith. Jesus is fixing what Adam broke and what the Israelites failed to do; to trust God for the basic things. Later in our discussion on Matthew we will discuss more on what our daily bread means. As for now let’s see what the Large Catechism says about our daily bread:

The Fourth Petition.

71] Give us this day our daily bread.

72] Here, now, we consider the poor bread basket, the necessaries of our body and of the temporal life. It is a brief and simple word, but it has a very wide scope. For when you mention and pray for daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy daily bread and, on the other hand, against everything which interferes with it. Therefore you must open wide and extend your thoughts not only to the oven or the flour-bin, but to the distant field and the entire land, which bears and brings to us daily bread and every sort of sustenance. For if God did not cause it to grow, and bless and preserve it in the field, we could never take bread from the oven or have any to set upon the table.

73] To comprise it briefly, this petition includes everything that belongs to our entire life in the world, because on that account alone do we need daily bread. Now for our life it is not only necessary that our body have food and covering and other necessaries, but also that we spend our days in peace and quiet among the people with whom we live and have intercourse in daily business and conversation and all sorts of doings, in short, whatever pertains both to the domestic and to the neighborly or civil relation and government. For where these two things are hindered [intercepted and disturbed] that they do not prosper as they ought, the necessaries of life also are impeded, so that ultimately life cannot be maintained. 74] And there is, indeed, the greatest need to pray for temporal authority and government, as that by which most of all God preserves to us our daily bread and all the comforts of this life. For though we have received of God all good things in abundance, we are not able to retain any of them or use them in security and happiness, if He did not give us a permanent and peaceful government. For where there are dissension, strife, and war, there the daily bread is already taken away, or at least checked.

75] Therefore it would be very proper to place in the coat-of-arms of every pious prince a loaf of bread instead of a lion, or a wreath of rue, or to stamp it upon the coin, to remind both them and their subjects that by their office we have protection and peace, and that without them we could not eat and retain our daily bread. Therefore they are also worthy of all honor, that we give to them for their office what we ought and can, as to those through whom we enjoy in peace and quietness what we have, because otherwise we would not keep a farthing; and that, in addition, we also pray for them that through them God may bestow on us the more blessing and good.

76] Let this be a very brief explanation and sketch, showing how far this petition extends through all conditions on earth. Of this any one might indeed make a long prayer, and with many words enumerate all the things that are included therein, as that we pray God to give us food and drink, clothing, house, and home, and health of body; also that He cause the grain and fruits of the field to grow and mature well; furthermore, that He help us at home towards good housekeeping, that He give and preserve to us a godly wife, children, and servants, that He cause our work, trade, or whatever we are engaged in to prosper and succeed, favor us with faithful neighbors and good friends, etc. 77] Likewise, that He give to emperors, kings, and all estates, and especially to the rulers of our country and to all counselors, magistrates, and officers, wisdom, strength, and success that they may govern well and vanquish the Turks and all enemies; to subjects and the common people, obedience, peace, and harmony in their life with one another; 78] and on the other hand, that He would preserve us from all sorts of calamity to body and livelihood, as lightning, hail, fire, flood, poison, pestilence, cattle-plague, war and bloodshed, famine, destructive beasts, wicked men, etc. 79] All this it is well to impress upon the simple, namely, that these things come from God, and must be prayed for by us.

80] But this petition is especially directed also against our chief enemy, the devil. For all his thought and desire is to deprive us of all that we have from God, or to hinder it; and he is not satisfied to obstruct and destroy spiritual government in leading souls astray by his lies and bringing them under his power, but he also prevents and hinders the stability of all government and honorable, peaceable relations on earth. There he causes so much contention, murder, sedition, and war, also lightning and hail to destroy grain and cattle, to poison the air, etc. 81] In short, he is sorry that any one has a morsel of bread from God and eats it in peace; and if it were in his power, and our prayer (next to God) did not prevent him, we would not keep a straw in the field, a farthing in the house, yea, not even our life for an hour, especially those who have the Word of God and would like to be Christians.

82] Behold, thus God wishes to indicate to us how He cares for us in all our need, and faithfully provides also for our temporal support. 83] And although He abundantly grants and preserves these things even to the wicked and knaves, yet He wishes that we pray for them, in order that we may recognize that we receive them from His hand, and may feel His paternal goodness toward us therein. For when He withdraws His hand, nothing can prosper nor be maintained in the end, as, indeed, we daily see and experience. 84] How much trouble there is now in the world only on account of bad coin, yea, on account of daily oppression and raising of prices in common trade, bargaining and labor on the part of those who wantonly oppress the poor and deprive them of their daily bread! This we must suffer indeed; but let them take care that they do not lose the common intercession, and beware lest this petition in the Lord’s Prayer be against them.

Large Catechism; The Lord’s Prayer

We are all idolators. We think life is about things God gives instead of God Himself. Man shall not live on things, gifts, blessings, but on the Word of God. This is to say that all of those blessings come forth from God’s will. He wills you to eat, to have clothes, etc. Then so he provides the means of which you have these things. He makes you able to work for them because the ground is cursed (Gen 3) nevertheless they are still blessings from God. Your food wouldn’t be if God didn’t will it. Yet we treat our daily bread as if we have to will it, as if we cannot trust God to provide, so we worry, we doubt, we toss and turn in the night, we are anything but at peace because in those moments we are the god of our own selves. We, not God, are the ones who must make something out of nothing. This is because we fear things more than God. This was Jesus first temptation, to trust that the Father’s will be done.

The second temptation

Faith is a gift. You trust God because you have faith. Yet, at times you lean on your own understanding and you want to test God. You try to find some way for God to verify that what He has said is true, that He is real, that His Word is not a lie. This was Jesus’ second temptation, to doubt God’s Word. In the first temptation Jesus said that it’s not bread that He wants or needs but it’s the Word. Satan then tries another angle. If he can’t get Jesus to doubt the Fathers will for taking care of basic needs, then get Him to doubt the very Word that He is holding to.

Satan, misquotes Psalm 91:11. It’s a sly trick but it is his only trick.. to sow doubt. He likes to quote God’s Word if he can take a word out, remove context, or insert a new pretext into it. In this case he omits the last part of the verse “in all your ways”. He tries to get Jesus to doubt the Word. The very trick he used in the garden on Eve is the trick he is trying to do to Jesus. Yet, the Word in flesh with the Breath of God with Him, is no match for Satan’s misuse of the Word. “It is written…” He states as he rebukes Satan.

It’s as if Jesus says “There will be no testing of God today. I will hold fast to what the Word says and be obedient because those that I love failed to do so.” I want to pause here for a moment and point out something that often does overlooked. Jesus is using the name of God for Himself. This happens in His response not only here in the second temptation but also in the third temptation. He is saying that He is the one that should not be tested and in the final temptation that He is the one to be worshipped that Satan has no ground to test Him and ask Him to worship him.

We too, not just the Israelites, fail to trust in God above all things. Sometimes we can ask for a sign, perhaps we have a feeling, or we rely on something other than mysticism. We try to trust our reason. We try to out think and out smart God. We might try to test Him by willingly falling into sin, well God wouldn’t let me do that so let’s see if He would stop me, Or we try to set up false assurances for our salvation. We might doubt that simple childlike belief is all that is needed and we like the circumcision party think that we can be oh so clever with our words and works.

If baptism saves then it will because it’s my act of obedience. If faith saves it’s because I chose to follow Jesus. If grace saves then it’s because I have merited enough good works. The Holy Eucharist can’t possibly contain the body and blood because the finite cannot contain the infinite. Oh so sly we can be with our reason and sinful logic. Yet, God’s Word stands true over our sinful devices and clever twists. Our testing of Gods Word, our doubt, is taken upon Jesus, punished in His disfigurement, and left in the tomb at His ressurection.

The third temptation

Satan then reveals his hand. Satan had one final card to play. To claim that what is God’s is his to give. If you denounce this Father of yours I can give you all that He is being stingy with. All this stuff of His creation that He won’t give to you, I can give it to you because He doesn’t…love you. This is Jesus’ final temptation. To love something more than God. How we might read this and think that it is no large temptation, we would be mistaken. Most of us would give much less than bowing down and calling someone Lord to have the entire world.

This is because we love the world. We love things, we love power, we love money, we love traveling, we love nature, etc… To think of what it would be like to go anywhere and have high class treatment is a fantasy we all have. And you have fantasized of much less than that. If you have ever had to wait in traffic, had someone cut you off, had to travel on any airline that wasn’t a private jet, if you’ve ever had to walk due to car trouble, or even if the internet is slow… You know the temptation. Yet these are just a small nothing compared to what Satan claimed he could do. Yet, he can’t do it. This world is not his to give because it is not His creation. All of these temptations is ultimately a temptation for Jesus to give up going to the cross.

Trust, fear, and love God; or an idol

The first commandment is to have no other gods. This means that we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. These temptations of Jesus were different attacks on this one commandment. Jesus, did something that no human was ever able to do; He fulfilled this commandment to the fullest. Jesus suffered as a man and He overcame these temptations as God. He took on our flesh, felt discomfort for His entire life, was tempted with more than you and I could ever imagine, and yet He did not sin.

He was without sin. You and I are tempted by far less than Jesus was tempted. Yet, unlike our failures, He stayed true and sinless. We will face temptations on a daily basis and we have an advocate who has been through much worse temptation. We are called to pray to Him in those times of temptations and even daily before they come in the Lord’s Prayer:

101] Temptation, however, or (as our Saxons in olden times used to call it) Bekoerunge, is of three kinds, namely, of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. 102] For in the flesh we dwell and carry the old Adam about our neck, who exerts himself and incites us daily to inchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, avarice and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him, and, in short, to all manner of evil lusts which cleave to us by nature, and to which we are incited by the society, example and what we hear and see of other people, which often wound and inflame even an innocent heart.

103] Next comes the world, which offends us in word and deed, and impels us to anger, and impatience. In short, there is nothing but hatred and envy, enmity, violence and wrong, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, raillery, slander, pride and haughtiness, with superfluous finery, honor, fame, and power, where no one is willing to be the least, but every one desires to sit at the head and to be seen before all.

104] Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things. These are indeed snares and nets, yea, real fiery darts which are shot most venomously into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil.

105] Great and grievous, indeed, are these dangers and temptations which every Christian must bear, even though each one were alone by himself, so that every hour that we are in this vile life where we are attacked on all sides, chased and hunted down, we are moved to cry out and to pray that God would not suffer us to become weary and faint and to relapse into sin, shame, and unbelief. For otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.

106] This, then, is leading us not into temptation, to wit, when He gives us power and strength to resist, the temptation, however, not being taken away or removed. For while we live in the flesh and have the devil about us, no one can escape temptation and allurements; and it cannot be otherwise than that we must endure trials, yea, be engulfed in them; but we pray for this, that we may not fall and be drowned in them.

107] To feel temptation is therefore a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. We must all feel it, although not all in the same manner, but some in a greater degree and more severely than others; as, the young suffer especially from the flesh, afterwards, they that attain to middle life and old age, from the world, but others who are occupied with spiritual matters, that is, strong Christians, from the devil. 108] But such feeling, as long as it is against our will and we would rather be rid of it, can harm no one. For if we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent thereto is when we give it the reins and do not resist or pray against it.

109] Therefore we Christians must be armed and daily expect to be incessantly attacked, in order that no one may go on in security and heedlessly, as though the devil were far from us, but at all times expect and parry his blows. For though I am now chaste, patient, kind, and in firm faith, the devil will this very hour send such an arrow into my heart that I can scarcely stand. For he is an enemy that never desists nor becomes tired, so that when one temptation ceases, there always arise others and fresh ones.

110] Accordingly, there is no help or comfort except to run hither and to take hold of the Lord’s Prayer, and thus speak to God from the heart: Dear Father, Thou hast bidden me pray; let me not relapse because of temptations. Then you will see that they must desist, and finally acknowledge themselves conquered. 111] Else if you venture to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsel, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil more space. For he has a serpent’s head, which if it gain an opening into which he can slip, the whole body will follow without check. But prayer can prevent him and drive him back.

Catechism; Lord’s Prayer

God suffered His entire earthy life for you. He was victorious where you and I will fall. He does not stand in condemnation over you when you are tempted by sin, the world, and the devil. He has taken your sin and the punishment for that sin. There is no condemnation for you. No matter your sins, no matter how vast and grievous they be, they are no match for the overflowing grace that God pours out on you. Gods love abounds more than any sin you could have done because God is greater than your sin. God proved this by taking all your sin upon Himself, dying on the cross, and rising three days later from the dead. Your sin is buried and swallowed up in death and it cannot convict you any longer. God is greater than your sin, God’s love is greater than your temptations, God’s grace and mercy are so vast that God came down from heaven to suffer, bleed, die, and rise again; all for you. He was tempted by Satan to not do this for you, yet He didn’t listen to Satan, He went all the way to the cross, to death, then back to life, all for you. Even if it were only for you and you alone, God did all of it; for you! May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. With your sins forgiven, go in peace.

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