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1st Sunday of Lent

Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Ed Wardle is a Scottish TV producer, director, cameraman, and adventurer.  It was his lifetime dream to live all alone in the wild for 3 months, living off the land and surviving.  So a couple of years ago he was dropped off in the Yukon Territory of Northern Canada with as much food as he could carry, a camera, a gun just in case, etc.  His intention was to film a documentary discovering what it was like to live all alone in the wild.  But he found out pretty quickly how difficult it was to find food, he began to use up most of his rations, he lived in constant fear of the wild animals, and the solitude and loneliness just about caused him to lose his mind- he would talk to himself and cry.  Finally, he used an emergency phone and was rescued after only 7 weeks.  He had lost about 28 pounds and his heart rate had fell to 30 beats a minute.[1]  He couldn’t finish what he wanted to do.

I don’t know what it would be like to try to survive in the wilderness as Mr. Wardle did.  But I do know that our Savior did just that.  Like Mr. Wardle, Jesus was completely alone, no humans to associate with, only wild animals, and he did not eat for 40 days and nights.  Yet, unlike Mr. Wardle, our Savior’s struggle was far, far more intense.  Not only did Jesus struggle all alone, He also struggled against the temptations of the devil.  Jesus’ struggle wasn’t for vain glory, or to see if it could be done, or for popularity, His struggle was… for you!  Jesus struggled against the devil’s temptations for you!  YOUR SAVIOR STRUGGLES FOR YOU!  So let us (1) watch His battle and (2) hear His news.

(1) Jesus began his public ministry in Israel at His baptism.  It was there when the Father spoke commending Jesus, His Son, and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove on Him.  Now we might think Jesus would immediately get to work preaching and teaching, but He doesn’t.  What happens?  “At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert.”  Notice that Jesus does not put himself in temptation’s way, rather as He went out to the desert He did so according to God’s will and He gladly went along with it.  You see, Jesus came to disarm the prince of this world, to come in tie up the strong man and take his spoils.  He came not to flee from the devil, but to defeat him.  “And he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.”  Satan seizes an opportunity, in utter wickedness and evil he thinks he may be able to destroy humanity’s connection with God by bringing down the Redeemer.  Satan is the enemy of people.  Jesus was “with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”  The wilderness Jesus is in probably more resembles what we may think of as a desert.  Being in the wilderness is one thing, add to that the heat, the hunger, and the only company He had were wild animals, perhaps snakes, foxes, jackals, leopards, hyenas, maybe lions.

But why?  Why is Jesus here in the desert being tempted in total isolation?  Jesus came in order to be tempted in every way that we humans are tempted, except with one exception, He never fell, He never gave into temptation.  Yes, His temptations were just as real and intense as temptations we may feel, but He never gave in.  It’s like the two ways of going grocery shopping.  If you go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, you can make all kinds of bad purchases simply because you’re hungry and not strong enough to resist the temptations.  Or you can shop when you’re full and those temptations of food are mastered and you don’t fall.  We are constantly faced with many temptations and fall, Jesus was faced with all of them, but He was full with God’s Word and never fell once.

There’s another way to look at the reason why Jesus is even here being tempted in the first place.  Why is Jesus actually and severely being tempted by the devil?  Why is Jesus alone and in danger and weak?  Is it not because of us?  It’s for all the times when we’ve given in to temptations, indulged our sinful flesh, willingly gave in “just this once” to a temptation, you see, it’s because of us and our sins that our Savior suffered, put Himself in a position to be truly and actually under Satan’s bony finger.  And isn’t that the glory of all of this?  Jesus didn’t have to be here, He didn’t have to be in the desert being tempted, He didn’t have to come to this sinful and corrupt earth in the first place.  Jesus had everything from eternity, what more could he possibly have?  He had the praises of the angels, and what more could we sinful people ever add to his infinite glory?  The answer?  Absolutely nothing.  So, if we couldn’t add anything to the Lord, why’d he do it?  Why suffer?  Why be tempted?  Why go hungry?  Why willingly go into the hands of sinful men?  Why be crucified on a cross?  Why?  The only explanation could ever be: grace!  The love of God you’ll never be able to figure out!  The love of God that will take an eternity to understand!  And yet still today this love is spit upon, laughed at, made fun of, Jesus is thought to be a big joke, a trivial matter, the “wise and learned” of our world mock God’s love and they mock anyone who believes it.  In their rejection they choose the fallen angel/ the destroyer/ the devil as their guide in life and end up with his doom as their future.  Let us not be like them.  Let us rather see the struggle of our Savior, see how He won our battle for us in our place and let us continue in the struggle.  We too have a struggle, a battle we undergo every day all around us.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but agains the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12).  So how do we struggle?  The devil’s temptations are all around us: flashing images on our computer screen, surrounding us with filthy language, getting us to crave things God hasn’t allowed us to have.  So how do we battle?  We put on the full armor of God so we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes.  We ready ourselves with God’s Word and we look for our strength in our Savior who struggled for us and since He did, “because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18).   Not only did OUR SAVIOR STRUGGLE FOR US but He helps us by letting us (1) watch the battle He won and He further helps us by letting us hear His news.

(2) We’re told that after John was put in prison “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.”  From Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness this is about a year or more later.  Jesus went around in Galilee, the northern part of Israel, as a herald from God, or as God’s ambassador, bringing to people a message straight from God’s own very heart.  What was his message?  “The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!’”  Jesus made it clear that God’s kingdom is near.  What does that mean?  God’s kingdom is wherever God rules with his power and grace.  God’s kingdom is God’s doing something that affects people who have alienated themselves from him by their sin.   God’s kingdom is near because Jesus has come on the scene with the gospel in a very clear way and the next act of God is the end of all things.  So, Jesus’ message is absolutely vital.  And what does He say?  “Repent and believe the good news.”  What Jesus looks for is repentance, contrition, confession, which means acknowledging sin, being sorry for it and secondly “believing the good news” or trusting in the Gospel for salvation, redemption, and peace.

Both this repentance over sin and trust in God’s forgiveness are a constant, daily, regular thing in the life of a Christian.  It’s just like someone needs first to acknowledge that they are sick and need some help before they’ll take the medicine to make them healthy.  A person who doesn’t acknowledge that they’re sick won’t take a medicine to treat the sickness they don’t think they have.  In a similar way, sin is the fatal sickness we all have and we have to first admit our sin-sickness and then trust in the cure God has provided, the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Yet we often struggle to hear the news Jesus has to tell us.  None of us like to admit our sinfulness, confess, repent, be sorry over our sins.  Repenting of our sins forces us to admit we were wrong, admit we deserve death, admit we ought to be cast out of God’s sight forever!  So, often we try to convince ourselves we aren’t that bad and don’t need to repent.  If that’s the case then the devil is making some major inroads into our lives.  Don’t be fooled we are constant victims of the devil’s schemes, devices, and tricks.  If he can get you to believe a lie, he’ll do it.  If he can get you to look at sin lightly, he’ll do it.  If he can make inroads in your life, he will.  How?  Well, who do you invite into your home when you turn on the t.v., pop in a movie, click on the internet browser?  What garbage is the devil getting you to swallow?  What news fills your ears?  The latest gossip, lies, filthy language?  YOUR SAVIOR STRUGGLES FOR YOU!  He wants you to hear His news!  “Repent!”  He says.  Acknowledge your sins, be sorry for them, and stop them!  That’s His news of repentance.  But that’s not all of His news.

His news also includes, “Believe the good news!”  This is the message Jesus came to bring and it’s the message of Lent: Hear the good news!  Jesus came to struggle against the devil for you!  Jesus came to struggle through bitter sufferings and death to take away your sins completely!  Jesus came to struggle on this earth so you might have an eternity free of all struggles and pains and temptations!  And Jesus continues to struggle that news into your heart to believe it and enjoy it!

Yes we still face struggles on this earth.  We struggle to make ends meet, we struggle to get our work done, we struggle to stay healthy.  But finally, there are only 2 struggles in this life.  The struggle inside of God’s kingdom and the struggle outside.  Which one will it be?  The struggle outside of God’s kingdom has the devil as guide and his dreadful fate for a future.  The struggle inside?  Through repentance of sins and faith in the Savior every day is a struggle against the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh.  You struggle not to fall into Satan’s traps and lies and deceptions.  You struggle to continually confess your sins and unworthiness before God and rely on God for salvation.  But in this struggle you’re not alone.  You struggle with the strength of your Savior who goes with you!  He builds you up and helps you as One who has met every temptation and never fallen!  You struggle with the support of God’s own angels who protect and serve you constantly!

No you don’t have to live out in the wilderness like Mr. Wardle to learn what it’s like to struggle.  You struggle every day against the devil.  But you have the support and the strength you need by seeing how YOUR SAVIOR STRUGGLED FOR YOU, winning your battle in your place and telling you the good news of forgiveness and salvation in Him!  Amen.