Sunday, February 17, 2013

Homily for Invocabit (The First Sunday in Lent

Lent 1 Temptation


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.

In His Baptism, Jesus became the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. The Word of the Father proclaimed Him to be His beloved Son with whom He is well pleased. He was the Man, the New Man, the True Man, the Second and True Adam. The Holy Spirit of God rushed upon Him and remained with Him, marking Him as the Lamb that God had provided. Then He was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness or, as St. Mark records, the Spirit drove Him out, or even, threw Him out into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil.

Jesus is your David. Jesus is your Christ. Jesus is your scapegoat. And Jesus is your Adam – which means, Jesus is you, for you are His Eve, His Bride. This time, when Adam squares off against the devil, He does not stand silently as the temptations befall you, but you are the one who is with Him, and yet says and does nothing. And, this is no garden of paradise filled with fruit-bearing and life-giving trees, but this is a barren and fruitless wilderness, and Adam is hungry and thirsty from fasting. The only thing that is the same is the temptation – “Did God actually say?”

The contrast is striking, and intentional. When your First Adam faced temptation, he had everything that he needed, he lacked nothing. He had plenteous food and water, he had Eve, his helpmate and wife of his own flesh and bone, and he had communion with God, walking and talking with Him, in harmony with His Word and His will. Likely, this is why Satan went after Eve. Eve hadn’t been around when God spoke to Adam about the Trees. She heard the Word and learned the command from Adam. Therefore, Satan sowed a seed in her heart and mind, a seed of doubt – “Did God actually say?” “Well, God has said thus and thus,” she thought correctly. But, somehow, she just wasn’t as certain as she had been before. She felt compelled to bolster God’s Word by adding her own word to it saying, “…neither shall you touch it.” And so, the answer to the devil’s question, “Did God actually say?” is, actually, “No, He didn’t.” He did not say what Eve said that He said.

Oh, Eve, Bride of Adam, what have you done? Oh, Adam, oh man, what have you done? You have traded the Truth of God for a lie. You forsook life and chose the way that leads only to death. You have rejected grace and have chosen wrath. You have rejected communion with God and have chosen forsakenness. You have fled from God in guilt and shame and fear. When He called to you, you hid, passed the buck, and blamed Him. Now you are barred from the garden paradise, life, and communion with God, for your own sake. Is there any hope for your restoration? How could there be? Only God knows. Repent. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and He relents over disaster. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent?

And that is precisely what He has done. Before the sun sat on the day you rebelled and betrayed your Creator, His plan was already in action: The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Though you, oh man, created in the image and the likeness of God, desired to be God yourself and to judge for yourself what is good and what is evil, take heart, for, in mercy and in selfless love, your God and Creator has become a Man, your brother to defeat the devil and take away the sting of death forever.

In the incarnation, God became a Man and dwelt among us as one of us. He fulfilled the Law’s demands, perfectly loving both God and neighbor. And, when He was baptized by John in the Jordan, God proclaimed that He was His beloved Son, with whom He was well pleased. Then He chrismated and anointed Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God’s offering. And the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness as your David to do battle with the Satanic Goliath. However, Jesus did not face the devil and temptation simply in your place as your substitute, but He faced the devil and temptation in your flesh, with you, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, so that His strength in the face of temptation, his reliance on the Word of God, and His victory over the devil were, and are, your strength, your faith and trust, and your victory as well.

Though He was at His weakest according to His humanity, He found strength in the Word of God alone. Three times the tempter tempted Him, first to feed His belly, then to test God, and finally to claim power and glory for Himself, and three times He resisted, not with violence, not with anger, but with faith and trust in the Word of God alone saying, “It is written.”

Consider the objectivity of those words. Jesus understands the Word of God to be something that is true and certain in and of itself. Because this Word is written, because this Word has been spoken, you can bet your life on it. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.’” This Word is true! You can face any temptation, you can face the devil himself and overcome by trusting in it. “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” This Word is true! Here the devil cunningly quotes the Word of God, but only partially, leaving out the important Words “to guard you in all your ways.” Never had the Father commanded Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple; thus to do so would be to “walk in a way” outside God’s Word and command. “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’” This Word is true! And here, in this final temptation, Jesus, the Second Adam, has overcome and resisted all the temptations the First Adam failed. He perfectly feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things, for you, with you, in your flesh and bone.

“Ecce homo,”– Pilate said, “Behold the Man,” “Behold Adam.” When Jesus died on the cross, He died as the True Man, the True Adam, the True Son of God, for all men. He did not merit, earn, or deserve death – you do – but, He, who knew no sin, was made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. Your Lord Jesus has taken your Tree of Death and has died upon it for you, and with you, and He has made it to be for you again the Tree of Life. Because of Jesus’ incarnation, obedience, suffering, and death, you are no longer barred from the garden paradise, life, and communion with God, but you have access to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. When you die, death cannot hold you, for Jesus has taken death’s sting, sin, away, but death has become an open door to the Eden of Heaven where God Himself is present, and the Lamb, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, and the Tree of Life flanks the River of Life that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. Though now we see through a glass dimly, then we shall see face to face. And, until that day, He has given you a foretaste of the feast in heaven at this communion table of His body and blood that you, His Bride, may have strength, and hope, and faith to persevere until His comes.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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