Lent 1 + February 15 & 18, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin Download PDF
Text: Mark 1:9-15
Once upon a time, a mighty king ruled a vast kingdom. This king had a son. He loved his son. But the king spoiled his son. The king told his son’s teachers, “Don’t give my son the same difficult tests you give the other students. Give him easy assignments. And always give him top grades.” When the son did military training, the king told the officers, “Don’t push my son as hard as you push the other soldiers. Don’t discipline him like the other students. Make sure that he wins every sword fight and wrestling match.”
The teachers and the officers obeyed the king. They never gave the young prince hard tests. They passed him with flying colors even though he never studied or did his assignments. He graduated top of his class even though he should have failed every class he took.
One day the king died. His son became king. But the son was not ready to rule. When difficult events and obligations pressed on the new king, he made foolish decisions. He waffled. He was a terrible king. His father’s once-great kingdom fell into shambles and chaos.
That’s to be expected. The young prince never had to work hard. He never faced any tests or challenging situations. So, he could not rule like his father did. And it was his father’s fault for spoiling his son the way he did.
There was another king. He was a mighty king whose kingdom was large and wealthy. This king also had a son. And this king loved his son deeply. This king knew that his son would sit on his throne one day. So, this king made his son endure difficulties and hardships so that his son would be ready for the difficult work of ruling his father’s kingdom.
This second king is God, the Father. Our Gospel Lesson shows us how God, the Father, certified and disciplined, his Son, Jesus Christ. God did this so that Christ would not be like that spoiled, untested, and unready prince. God’s Word tells us: the Father's Son is ready to save you.
See our text again. "Jesus…was baptized by John in the Jordan…And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (v. 9-11) At his baptism Christ received approval from his heavenly Father. This assures you and me that Jesus is God’s one and only Son. It assures us that Jesus has God’s approval to be our Savior.
But in his love for us and in his love for his one and only Son, God disciplined his Son. Our text says, "At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan." (v. 12-13)
Jesus was not some spoiled prince who never had to experience any difficulties. Jesus endured the full force of Satan’s lies, temptations, and insults. Those temptations tested Jesus. By enduring those temptations Jesus proved that he was ready, willing, and able to serve his heavenly Father. Jesus was ready, willing, and able to do the difficult work of being our Savior.
Now, some people have said, Well, of course Jesus didn’t fall for Satan’s temptations. Jesus was the Son of God and true God himself. Since Jesus was true God, there was no way he could have sinned. And since he could not have sinned, those temptations were not the same as our temptations.
It’s true. Jesus was and is true God. But Jesus was and is true man—a real flesh-and-blood human, just like you. And that man, Jesus Christ, struggled against real temptations. Actually, Jesus suffered more than you are ever likely to suffer. After all, have you ever spent forty days without food while sweltering in the harsh Judean desert? Have you ever had Satan tempt you one-on-one the way Satan tempted Jesus? Have you ever had such pressure on you that, if you fell to temptation just one time, even for half a second, then the entire human race would be lost and damned forever? No. Neither you nor any other human has ever experienced such temptation, such pressure, and such testing.
But Jesus did. And even when Jesus was weakened by hunger, thirst, and exhaustion—even when Jesus was on the ropes—Satan could not get Jesus to sin, not even once. Even though Satan did not delegate the tempting of Jesus to his demonic henchmen—even though the prince of darkness took personal charge of tempting Jesus, Satan could not get Jesus to budge one millimeter. Even though Jesus had no advantages and even though Satan had every advantage, Jesus still won the battle. Jesus passed the test.
The book of Hebrews tells us, "[Jesus is able] to sympathize with our weaknesses, [he] has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb. 4:15-16)
What is our time of need? Well, we are in need every time Satan tempts us. And Satan certainly did not lose this thirst for tempting humans after he failed to get Jesus to sin. Satan is a "roaring lion looking for someone—anyone—to devour." (I Pet. 5:8) And Satan has set his sights on you.
Satan tells you, You don’t have to worship and love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, all the time. You can take a break and focus on yourself. It’s your time and it’s your life. And, it’s your money, too! So, you don’t always have to put God first. Do what you want.
And Satan tells you, You don’t have to be nice to everyone. Some people are just nasty. And some people are so weird they are just begging for insults and ridicule. So, yes, be nice to nice people. But don’t feel guilty for getting mad at nasty people. Don’t feel bad for putting idiots in their place.
And Satan tells you, Don’t be a puritan. It’s OK to spice up your language. Go ahead and watch videos and shows filled with sex and violence. It’s not like you are actually going to go out and do those things yourself. And don’t worry about taking a few things from the office or fudging a bit on your taxes. Everybody does it. It’s not the end of the world.
Yes, Satan tempts us every moment of every day. But Jesus is there to help. Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians, "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (I Cor 10:13-14) Jesus is the way out of temptation. Jesus gives us his strength to overcome Satan’s tricks and lies. By being faithful to Jesus and by using his Word, you can, as Saint Peter says, "resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)
But what do you do when you fail to be faithful to Jesus and you sin? What do you do when you ignore God’s Word and indulge in sinful behavior? What do you do when Satan wins? Well, Jesus is your only hope at those times, too. Yes, Jesus strengthens you to resist temptation. Never forget that. But Jesus also gives you the ultimate victory over Satan and sin. Jesus forgives all your sins—all of them!
And Jesus has the power and the authority to forgive you because he always wins the battle against Satan. Not falling for Satan’s temptations in the desert was the just the first of Christ’s many victories over Satan. Those victories culminated in his bloody cross, his empty tomb, and his glorious ascension. So, Jesus is not some spoiled, untested, and unready prince. Jesus is the one and only Son of his heavenly Father. Jesus passed the test and the Father's Son is ready to save you. And Jesus Christ has saved you. All glory be to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever.