Dear Lenten Pilgrims:
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil… and when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.’” (St. Matthew 4: 1, 3)
Imagine it, if you can. Satan comes to Jesus. He is not afraid to come even to the LORD God Himself to try to get Him to sin. He wants Jesus to forget God, to forget His Father, to forget even who He is and what His mission is.
Jesus, being fully Man as well as fully God, was hungry, and Satan knew it. So he thinks that he will show Jesus a way to get something to eat. Satan wants Jesus to think that His Father has forgotten Him, but that he—the tempter—will actually help Jesus to fulfill His needs. “Here are some stones,” he tells Jesus, “just make bread out of them.” “No,” Jesus answers him, “I will wait until My Father feeds Me. I do not need your help.” And the devil leaves Him. Jesus did not forget His Father or His Father’s Word.
But Satan does not stop. He comes again. He does not give up so easily. Now he comes to Jesus and speaks the very Word of God from Holy Scripture. The devil knows the Bible inside and out. He knows what it says. But he neither loves nor trusts God’s Word. To him, it is a dead letter. He is quite happy to use it for his own purposes, twisting it, making it unrecognizable, and causing people to sin. “The Bible says that God will take care of You,” he tells Jesus. “Therefore, if You hurl yourself down from the highest point of the great temple in Jerusalem, You will not get hurt. Go ahead; Your Father will protect You.” Again, Jesus remembered what God had actually said about trusting in Him, responding, “No, Satan, again you would have Me sin, for I have no right to test God like that.” And again, in the face of God’s true Word, Satan has to depart.
But Satan does not get tired. He comes again. He shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment, with all of the power, pomp, glory, and riches. Satan promises Jesus that all of this temporary, worldly wealth and power is his to give to give to Jesus, if only Jesus will fall down and worship him.
But Jesus remembers the First Commandment—He should because it is His Commandment, after all: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Jesus loved His Father with His whole heart and rebuked the tempter, “Get thee hence, Satan!” In other words, “Be gone! Go away! You have no place or power here!” Worship is for God alone, and so—for the third time—Satan must depart, having failed to entice Jesus to sin.
We are now entering into the holy Lenten season. Lent begins with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. He goes into the wilderness to face the devil and all of his temptations, slings, and arrows in our place. Jesus faces Satan and hell itself for us, conquering them by God’s Word. From there, He sets His face toward Jerusalem to go to the cross for the sin of the world. There the tempter will think—for a moment—that the victory is actually his. But again he is wrong. The victory belongs to Jesus, and therefore to us! The season of Lent causes us to reflect upon the darkness of our sin and the greatness of our Savior. We focus upon Christ’s Passion and move through Lent toward the Holy Week observance of His betrayal, suffering, and death. As a people sick with sin, Lent points us to the One by whose wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).
Like Jesus in the wilderness, we remember God’s Word and trust in it because this is the Word that conveys forgiveness, life, and salvation to us from the cross of Christ. And this is the Word that drives away Satan, the tempter, and all of his lies.
So let us remember God’s Word again this Holy Lententide. Let us hear it and receive it with great humility and thanksgiving. Let us receive Jesus in His body and blood as well. It is important that we discipline ourselves and our families into this “good, right, and salutary” discipline of setting aside time to hear more of the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Steven J. Anderson