First Prize Performance

Text: Luke 4:1-13
Date: Lent I + 2/17/13

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, for He comes to conquer Satan and to free us from the grasp of sin and death.

The first reason we have come here is because in many and various ways God’s Word, God’s diagnosis of us, has convinced us that we are separated from God, that this separation is the result of sin, and that the wages of this sin is death. But we have come here also because we have heard and believe that God has provided the answer equal to our need, forgiveness of sin, deliverance from death, and communion with God.

We have heard the Christmas angels proclaim the royal birth of the Savior, Jesus, the son of Mary and the Son of God. We have heard the Voice from heaven at His Baptism, “This is my beloved Son,” and at His Transfiguration the command, “Listen to Him.” So now we listen. And what is the first thing we hear? As of first importance, before any word of preaching, any lesson of teaching, any miracle of healing, the first thing is this: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”

We might say, “But what is so special about that? We all have been tempted by the devil.” What was special about Jesus’ confrontation with the tempter was that when He was tempted by the devil He became the first man ever to be tempted and win; and not sin! He would later say, speaking of the devil, “how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?” (Matt 12:29). It was because of this first, initial act of binding Satan that, for the rest of His time, Jesus would rebuke unclean demons and command their obedience to Him.

Now, because he was tempted like we are, yet without sin, now, because he commands both angels and demons, now we can sing aloud,

Though hordes of devils fill the land
All threat’ning to devour us,
We tremble not, unmoved we stand;
They cannot overpow’r us. (LSB 657:3)

“We tremble not.” “They cannot over power us.” And yet they will try. Jesus triumphed over all temptation. We are here because we have not. We have tried to live by bread alone and neglected the Word of God. We are here because we continue to place our trust in other things rather than God—money, family, things of this world—worshipping and serving created things rather than our Creator (Rom 1:25). We are here because we have put the Lord our God to the test, making deals to somehow some way earn or deserve His favor, His protection, His love, all the while keeping the upper hand on our terms. So, rather, we are here to listen and to learn God’s Word and its proper, pure understanding in divine faith—that man shall not live by bread alone, that you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve, that we might not misuse God’s Word by listening to false interpretations.

We are here because we have sinned. Sure the devil is involved but it is we who have fallen for it. But now, having bound the strong man, “when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” Satan knew this was not the last act. For, even though he was bound to slavish obedience from now on to every Word of Jesus, still any number of times he would attempt to interrupt, to disrupt, to ruin our Lord’s work. The mystery we learn from the pure teaching of God’s Word, of course—the doctrine of the two natures of Christ, 100% human and 100% divine—the mystery is that even though Satan knows precisely Who Jesus is, still he madly tries to tempt Jesus again and again, the final, desperate temptation through the voices of those Christ came to save, echoing those wilderness words, “If you are the Son of God, if you are, come down from the cross!” For, what looked for all the world to be His final defeat, His innocent, bitter suffering and death, was actually the devil’s and death’s undoing, the great, pure and holy sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the life of the world:

True God, He first From death has burst
Forth into life, all subduing.
His enemy Doth vanquished lie;
His death has been death’s undoing. (LSB 483:2)

This is why we have come here. Certainly many may come for other reasons with more shallow expectations and may even be offended to find here an exclusive Word, a Truth that is not variable or relative to anything else as the now retiring Roman Pontiff called it, “the tyranny of relativism,” and a Way and a Life that is all bound up in Jesus. This is why we have come here.

“When you come,” God said through Moses, “you shall worship before the Lord your God and you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you” (Deut 26:1, 10-11), for, as the Apostle said, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).

So here we have come, to confess our sin and need, to receive holy absolution and forgiveness, deliverance from death and the devil, and to give thanks to God for life restored now and forever.