Sunday, March 13, 2011

Homily for Invocabit – The First Sunday in Lent


Matthew 4:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10; Genesis 3:1-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Both St. Matthew and St. Luke say that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. St. Mark, less gently, says that the Spirit drove Him or cast Him into the wilderness. Regardless, on this the three Evangelists agree: Jesus did not just wander into his confrontation with the devil.

Immediately after His baptism by John in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit cast Jesus out into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tempted by the devil. Jesus was chrismated, was anointed by the Holy Spirit for that very purpose: As the new Adam, to resist and overcome the temptation of the devil by the Word of God; as the new David, to slay that demonic Goliath with the five smooth stones of the Word.

But, whereas Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden because of their sin, Jesus, who knew no sin of His own, was made to be sin for us. He was baptized in the sewer of man’s sin, but instead of emerging cleansed in Holy Absolution, He was made to be a curse for us. Nevertheless, His Father loved Him and was pleased with Him, because, though He was innocent, He laid down His life in sacrificial love for you. And, whereas David, a man after God’s own heart, abandoned the Ark of the Covenant on the battlefield, committed adultery with his commander’s wife, and then murdered Uriah the Hittite by sending him to the frontlines of the battle, Jesus is the express image of the heart of God and His glory.

In Adam, we see a man who was holy, free, and without sin deceived by the devil, trusting and fearing him more than God, and submitting himself to enslavement to sin and death. And, in David, we see a man, we see all men, conceived and born in sin, whose every inclination is to sin always. We have battled with the devil and have lost. We battle with the devil every day and succumb often. Thanks be to God that He drove His holy and sinless Son into battle with the tempter for us, carrying the burden of our sin, fasting from worldly sustenance, but finding His strength and placing His trust solely upon the Word of God to resist temptation and to overcome the devil for us and to seal the victory in His death upon the cross.

I think that we are tempted to downplay the humanity of Jesus, to think that resisting the devil’s temptations was easy, child’s play for Him. But, that’s not what the Scriptures teach about Jesus, and that’s not what we confess with the whole Church about Jesus in the Creeds. Jesus is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother. He has a rational soul and human flesh just like you. But the key thing that we must understand and confess today is that our Lord is not a mishmash of divinity and humanity, that is, Jesus’ divine and human natures are not confused or comingled in His person; this is to say that there is not a scrap of human nature in His Godhead, and there is not a smitch of deity in His manhood, any more than there is in your or mine. Jesus came to save us, in our nature, not to put on some flashy, theandric, superhuman performance that would be fundamentally irrelevant to our condition. Jesus faced the tempter, the devil, in hunger and thirst and in physical weakness, as a man, just like Adam, even more just like David, and even more still just like you.

Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations, not by summoning up His divine power and glory – that’s exactly what the devil wanted Him to do! – but by finding strength and counsel, and by placing His trust in the Word of God, just like you do. The devil tempted Jesus to use His divine power and turn stones into bread that He might eat and satisfy the desires of His flesh. But, Jesus refused, trusting that the LORD would provide all that He needed to sustain His body and life. Then the devil tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, quoting the Scripture saying that angels would bear Him up, lest He strike His foot against a stone. Again, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptation and put His trust in the LORD and in His Word. Then, a third time, the devil tempted Jesus to take for Himself earthly power and glory, and Jesus resisted Him again by putting His trust in the LORD and in His Word.

If Jesus would have used His divine power, He would have blown it for us all. But, because He suffered the devil’s temptations as a man, as one of us, and resisted, placing perfect fear, perfect love, and perfect trust in God alone, he remained innocent, sinless, and holy and He could take His innocence to the cross, bearing your sins, bearing my sins and the sins of the world, and die, the sinless for the sinful, thus breaking the curse of death that hanged over us. And, on the third day, He was raised from the dead, the firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep.

The devil began his tempting by challenging Jesus’ divinity saying, “If you are the Son of God….” The devil knew full well who Jesus was, but he wanted Jesus to act like Superman rather than like Clark Kent. But, if Jesus were to have used His divine power to resist the devil’s temptation, then that would have done nothing for all us Clark Kents who do not have such power. Jesus is not Superman, but He is the perfect Man, the fullness of what God created Man to be, for you. Though He demonstrated that Adam could have withstood the temptations of the devil if he had placed his fear, love, and trust in God and His Word, He also demonstrated that sinful David, and sinful you as well, can face Goliath-like temptation and overcome by fear, love, and trust in God and His Word. But, more than either of these, Jesus has resisted and overcome the devil for you and has died for you to set you free from his tyranny. So, now, there is nothing to fear from that liar and deceiver. The emperor of this world has no clothes, and his kingdom is slipping through his fingers. The gates of hell are overcome by the Church of Christ in water, word, body, and blood. For, though He would not use His divine power to do what the devil tempted, Jesus uses it now to provide the bread of His body to feed and strengthen you, to call upon all the angelic host to guard and protect you in all your ways, and to exercise His divine power and authority over heaven and earth by forgiving your sins and giving you eternal life.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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