Posts Tagged ‘Temptation of Jesus’

Will I Survive This 3-10-19

In this sermon, taken from Luke 4:1-13, I explore the 40 days of temptation that Jesus endured in the wilderness.
(note that due to a cancellation of speaker, I filled in with preaching this morning. I’ve used this sermon before, though have made changes this time around. As such, this may seem familiar).

You can listen to the audio of this sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

May the grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, now and forever. Amen.

I’m going to share a fact with you…now this fact should not be shocking to anyone…and yet, I think it might shocking when we stop and consider that the millennium…Y2K, the beginning of the 21st century…whatever ever we want to call it…it was almost 20 years ago. (Pause) Think about that…and think about how vastly different things are now than they were back then.

One of the things that has changed so dramatically is the state of television…the bulk of tv shows, especially primetime shows were scripted back then…but in the year 2000, a new show came on that helped usher in the age of reality tv that we are so familiar with today…that show was Survivor…and the premise of this show, still running and in its 38th season by the way…the premise, was quite simple…strand a bunch of people out in the middle of nowhere with hardly anything in terms of food and supplies…and see who can last the longest…and over the course of 40 days, let them gradually vote each other out of the game until there’s only one left and they are the sole survivor.

I was obsessed with this show for a while…I came into it a few years in and stuck with it up until a few years back when I finally realized that every season is pretty much the same thing over and over again…but as obsessed as I was with it, I never tried out for it…I knew better…but I always wondered just what I would look like if I managed to go the full 40 days…and so for a long time, each every year when Lent kicked in…and different people would talk about giving something up…I always said I was giving up shaving just so I could see what 40 days of beard would look like…side note, I’ve never made it…16 days was longest I’ve ever managed…so I think its safe to say that if I can’t even make it 40 days without shaving…I certainly would fail to survive the actual experience…and some else would win the title of sole survivor.

That being said…if there’s anyone who might just be able to endure the various hardships of 40 days in the middle of nowhere…with no supplies…no food…I guess today’s story shows us that Jesus might just make a pretty decent Survivor contestant.

Today, as we do on the first Sunday of Lent every year, we feature the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness…40 days…and Luke tells us that this wasn’t simply 40 days of fasting followed by 3 quick temptations…rather Luke tells us that the entire 40 days was filled with temptations…Jesus is out there alone for whatever reason…and Satan puts him through the ringer…and I’ve often wondered if there were moments during that time when Jesus asked the question “Will I survive this?”

(pause) If you’re the son of God…turn these stones to bread. (pause) All the kingdoms of the world…I can give them to you…and all the glory that comes with it…if you’ll worship me. (pause) If you’re the son of God, throw yourself down from the temple…and he’ll send his angels to protect you. (pause)

We’re familiar with the 3 temptations aren’t we… we know how they go…and we know how Jesus resists…by quoting scripture… though interestingly enough…Satan uses the same tactic on him. (pause)

But what interests me a little more is the way that things keep ramping up. With every passing temptation, Satan turns the screws a little bit more…taking up the intensity…and perhaps…the cost…Turn these stones into bread…You’re hungry…I can see that…in this first temptation…Satan uses physical need…something that we’ll all fall to…and as human Jesus was prone to this physical need as well…but the temptation is not in the hunger…the temptation is to use the power of God that lies with him…to twist God’s creation…that’s the cost here…it may seem minimal…it’ll only cost a couple of stones…and yet, to do so…that would mean that God’s creation isn’t good enough for him. (pause)

Well what about temptation number two?  Satan shows off the kingdoms of the world…and reveals that, for the time being anyway, he holds dominion in this world…and he can give the power to anyone he chooses…and all Jesus has to do is ask. (Pause) So what’s the temptation here? Seems to be the desire for power…or advancement or glory here on earth…and we can probably relate to that can’t we?  But then what’s the cost here? Well once again, it seems to be the idea that what God intended us to be, isn’t good enough…that we want more than what we already have…that our pride craves the power that this world can offer…instead of being content with what we are given. (pause)

Well now what about number 3? When Satan hauls Jesus off to Jerusalem and sets him on the top of the temple…Hey son of God…jump off…because if you are REALLY who you say you are…then God’s not let anything happen to you…If he REALLY loves you like you say, then he’ll protect you…go ahead…prove it.

What’s the cost? Seems to be forcing God’s hand…demanding divine intervention to prove something…and ironically, it would simply be proving something that not only Jesus already knows…but that Satan already knows as well…and so what good would that do? (pause)

These are the temptations that Jesus faces while he’s in the wilderness, just trying to physically survive…and its funny how Satan targets us when we’re weak just as Jesus was weak with hunger…but then he hits us when we’re strong…like when Jesus resisted the previous temptation… he’s a crafty one…he doesn’t just tempt us when we seem susceptible…he’s tempting us all the time…and if we look at the rest of Jesus’ ministry…the rest of the story right up until his death…the temptation continues…its even in the same form…it just comes from a slightly different source.

Turn these stones into bread…meet the physical need that humanity shares…temptation number 1…now think of what happened after Jesus fed a crowd of 5000 people with a few loaves and fish…they kept hounding him…so much so that he scolded them saying “you’re not following because of the sign…but because you ate your fill and now you’re hungry again…Jesus…meet our need. (pause)

All the kingdoms of the world I will give to you…take the power of the world…temptation number 2…and now think of the Jewish notion of the Messiah…the great earthly ruler who would reestablish the throne of Israel…who would cast out the Romans and place Judah at the head of all nations…Jesus…take power…and elevate us with you. (pause)

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down…use your divine influence to save yourself…temptation number 3…which if you recall, happens in Jerusalem…the same place where Jesus hangs from a cross and hears people taunting “If you are the Messiah save yourself…come down from there…if you are able.” (pause)

Its been suggested that these three temptations were only foreshadowing to the temptations that Jesus would constantly face during his ministry…right up to the moment when he dies on the cross…and there might just be some merit to that if we consider it…what’s a little odd about this suggestion, is that it seems to turn the temptation of Christ into a parable of sorts…and while I don’t think that the 40 days in the wilderness was a made up story to prove a point, the notion does give us something to think about.

Because if it was a parable…then we need to ask ourselves the normal parable question of who are we?  Initially, we might think that we fit in with Jesus…because in our day to day lives we face temptation…but then as we see Jesus overcome temptation after temptation…and we know that we would never survive it…I think that rules us out of the Jesus connection pretty quickly…

And so…who’s left? Who’s the only other character there during the 40 days? (pause) The temptor…So just what is that telling us? Well, maybe on one hand it reminds us that we can be the source of temptation, both for others as well as for ourselves…and maybe in anther manner of thinking we’re just like those who tempted Jesus during his ministry…feed us…take the earthly power and share it with us…or prove to us that you are God. Prove to us that you are who you say you are. (pause)
Maybe there’s a little bit of truth here…maybe we see that the one that Jesus had to overcome is us…and while that might give us just a bit of pause to consider…isn’t it true that God became human and entered into our flawed reality to overcome that which we are powerless to overcome on our own?

Didn’t Jesus live and die and rise again to overcome the power of sin and death that resides within each and every one of us? Didn’t Jesus come to overpower that which we are unable to survive on our own? That darkness that resides right here…that darkness that we love and cling to…and yet hate it and hide it at the same time…we tuck it away, down deep inside us where no one can see it.

That is what Jesus came to overcome…that darkness that will continue to gather through this season of Lent…centering around Jesus until the moment that our darkness kills him.

We walk through this dark season right up to the cross, recognizing that Jesus could have saved himself…he could have let this cup pass…that he could have ended it…but that he loves us so much that he did it anyway…even though our temptations and our brokenness is too much for him to survive…because sin…brings…death.

But God…goes…farther…When Good Friday rolls around we’ll remember, once again…that Jesus died…because that work of God…that work of Christ…it is already finished…and Easter has already happened…and Christ has already walked out that tomb…it has already happened…and the good news that we find on this dark day, here at the beginning of this dark season…is that the temptations that Satan throws our direction now…have already been overcome. Yes we still feel it…and yes we need to acknowledge it…that’s what this season is about…about recognizing that temptation is not something that I will survive…but thanks to the love of God, shown for each us through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that temptation, has already been overcome.

I may be the problem…but God, has already given the solution. Amen.

Words Have Power 3-5-17

In this sermon, based on Matthew 4:1-11, I explore the temptation of Christ, and the power that is held in the different names used in the story.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Names are important…and far more than we realize…names have the tendency to mean something. (pause) For some of you long time attenders, this might sound a little familiar as I’ve shared it before…but I am fascinated by the meaning of names…and the idea that what we are called might mean something more than “the sound that comes out of my mouth to identify that person over there.”

Sometimes when I think about the names that parents have given to their children, I realize that both sides of the coin are in play. Some people just like the sound of a name and that’s why they choose it. Others pick names for their kids based on the meaning…based on what the name itself is supposed to indicate. And thinking along these lines, I did a little personal research into my own identity.

My given name is Scott Allen Dalen. Scott is a descriptor meaning literally from Scotland. Allen means either rock or handsome. And Dalen comes from Dale which is a clearing in the woods. So my name…Scott Allen Dalen means that I am a handsome rock in the midst of a clearing in the Scottish woods…Fascinating…If you’re curious about what your name might mean…a quick google search will tell you volumes. (pause)

Now I bring up names, because there are a lot of them being thrown around in today’s gospel lesson. It’s a familiar one…the temptation of Christ…one that we hear about every single year at this time…as the 40 days that Jesus is in the wilderness enduring various temptations seems quite reminiscent of the 40 dark days of the season of Lent, stretching out before us until the culmination with Christ dying on the cross just before Easter.

But before I jump into today’s story, a bit of logistics…the end of chapter 3 features the baptism of Jesus…and in the final two verses of that story, which we actually heard 2 months back at the beginning of Epiphany, the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus, and the voice of God the Father identifies him as his own beloved son. (pause) And now, here as we pick up the story…the newly baptized Jesus is led by that same Spirit which just came upon him, out deeper into the wilderness.

We hear that Jesus fasts over the course of 40 days…and then…boom…Satan shows up and here comes the temptation. We hear about three of them…as the intensity and the apparent cost continues to ramp up. If you’re the son of God, command these stones to become bread. I know you’re hungry, you haven’t eaten in weeks…best to sacrifice this tiny bit of God’s creation in order to meet your physical need.

But Jesus isn’t havin it…and he quotes some scripture back at the devil…temptation number 1 being overcome…the tempter tries again…and he switches up his tactic…Hmmm Jesus quoted scripture…maybe I’ll do the same.  And he wiskes Jesus off to the top of the temple and tosses an obscure psalm at him.  If you are the son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written that God will send his angels to catch you and you’ll be unharmed…Might as well be saying “Hey, if you are who you say you are” or maybe “If what God has said about you is true” then why don’t you prove it. (pause) But Jesus tosses scripture back on that one as well…You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. (Pause)
Well fine…let’s try one more…and the devil thinks to himself…it seems that Jesus is trying to reconcile the world…to gather them all together under his banner…so lets try appealing to this mission…and so Jesus finds himself on a mountain looking at all the kingdoms of the world…and the promise that all of them will be given to him…if he’ll only forsake the first commandment, turning his back on God to worship the father of lies.  But once more, Jesus isn’t having it. Because the power of the world…which is the power that the devil has some control over…that’s not what God has in mind…and Jesus knows it, and so once more…scripture in the face of temptation…and finally this time, Jesus calls that wiley old liar by name. Away with you Satan. (long pause)

Now if you’ve been paying attention…maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been throwing a lot of names around…especially one that anyone familiar with Saturday Night Live in the early 90’s would find familiar…who remembers Dana Carvey playing the church lady? (in the voice) Maybe…Satan?

Its interesting, how many different names are given out to that old bugger in this brief story…He’s called the devil…at one point the tempter…and finally Jesus calls him Satan…about the only name we’re missing at this point is Lucifer and we’d have all the bases covered wouldn’t we? (pause)
But now remember…names have meaning right? And each one of these does too.  Now to call him the tempter…that’s pretty much on the nose…pretty self explanatory…and as we’re hearing about the temptation of Christ, that’s a fitting one…so having acknowledged that one, we’ll leave it alone.

Next is the name that we hear the most, both in this passage, and I think probably within our regular day to day conversation whenever we find ourselves on the topic of evil or sin or temptation…and that name is the devil…now this name means the accuser or the liar, which might just be fitting…because we hear in this passage how he’s twisting scripture…how he’s lying about what he can give Jesus…so that one’s pretty fitting.

But the final one is perhaps the most important. Satan. Now Satan means the adversary…the one who is standing in opposition of what God is up to…and so calling the devil Satan…well that’s pretty spot on isn’t it…because clearly Old Scratch is working pretty hard in opposition of the mission that Jesus is up to…to bring about reconciliation between God and humanity…to repair the breach caused by the dark powers of sin and death…those powers that are present all the time in our existence, but perhaps seem even stronger now in this dark season of Lent…that season that will ultimately culminate in the death of Jesus to atone for the of all humanity.

And it would seem that Satan believes that if he can just trip up Jesus…even this one time…then he wins…and he’ll remain in power…he’ll hold onto whatever twisted authority has been granted to him…and that’s why he’s tempting Christ. (pause)

Now here’s the thing on that. We hear today, that once the third temptation is finished, Jesus tells Satan off…and Satan has to listen, which makes sense because Jesus is God the Son…and as much as he hates it, Satan knows who’s boss…but its also important to realize that temptation itself didn’t end here. It was ever present right up to the instant that Jesus breathed his last and died while he was hanging there on that cross.

And we see a lot of similarities between the temptation story here today and the passion coming up in 40 days. Today Jesus is hungry and is tempted….on the cross he’s thirsty.  Today he’s lifted up in Jerusalem, and on Good Friday he’s lifted up just outside the city, only that time he’s nailed to a piece of wood. Today, the devil offers him political authority, to draw all nations under his power…and on the cross he draws all people to himself…

And there’s one more similarity…in both cases…on both ends of this season…Jesus is mocked because of his name…because of his identity. If you are the Messiah, come down from there…save yourself if you can. If you’re the Messiah, prove it. (pause)  And today…if you are the Son of God…prove it. (pause)

Keep in mind that the temptation of Christ begins as soon as his baptism is over…as soon as he has been named as God’s son. We might do well to remember that in our lives, that our baptism doesn’t excuse us from temptation, only that it cleanses us from the resulting sin. (pause) But the truth of this whole situation, regardless of Satan twisting it or not…is that Jesus IS the Son of God…and because of this, his words ARE true.

And I’m drawn to the one name that Jesus gives to his tormentor today…Satan…adversary…one who is opposed to what God knows must happen…and Jesus calls one other person the very same thing later on in the gospel. At a certain point, Jesus has told his disciples that he would be betrayed and killed…and Peter rebukes him for it…and as a result, Jesus calls Peter…Satan…adversary…one who is opposed to what Jesus knows must happen.

Now if Peter can get in the way…Jesus’ most trusted disciple…the one that he will eventually place in charge of the church, I find myself wondering, do we get in the way? Or perhaps more importantly, what do we allow to get in the way?

In short, I’m posing the question, what tempts you? What lies get whispered in your ear that draw your attention away? What physical needs come up that draw us away…what desires…or maybe what insecurities?

Satan tries to trip Jesus by making him question if what God had said about him was true. If you are the son of God, prove it. Did God really say that about you? (pause) And I fear we come under the same attack…Does God truly forgive you? Does God really love you? Are you good enough…I know the truth…just like you do…and if everyone else knew, they’d never accept you. (pause)
Those are the lies that the adversary…the deceiver…the liar, whispers in our ears…and he’s a crafty one…but no matter what he tells us, he can’t overcome what God the Son has said about us…that we are made heirs of the promise…and that if the son calls you free then you are free indeed. (pause)

Let me make one important thing clear. When we hear the story of Jesus’ enduring temptation and overcoming it…this is not some moral obligation for us to follow. This is not giving us an example to live up to…its not telling us that if we simply pray hard enough, or quote enough scripture…or are pious enough that we can overcome temptation…so don’t think that. Because our human broken WILL fail us every time.

Rather, let this story be a reminder that names have power…and if you don’t believe what I’ve already said, remember that when Jesus calls him by name, calls Satan what he is…and then tells him to leave…Satan has to listen…because what Jesus says…Goes. And Jesus tells you…he promises you…that you have joined with him as an heir to the promise of the kingdom of Heaven.  You are a beloved Child of God…and nothing can take that away…not any failing on your part…not any lies that the devil throws your direction. You have that name and nothing, not even you…can get in the way of that being true. Amen