Posted on Mar 10, 2019 by Pastor Dave Whetter
Now, just before the start of our story today, Luke had told of Jesus’ baptism. Luke said that while Jesus was praying right after his baptism, “the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:21-22) and then, much like we heard in the Transfiguration story from last week, God spoke, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." (3:22). It is right after this that our story begins today, and Luke goes on to say, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,” (4:1).
What a beautiful image! Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. Don’t you just want to take time to imagine that image of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit? Don’t you want to experience that yourself? What an incredible feeling that must have been! But, as usual, Luke doesn’t let us stay in this beautiful moment very long. No sooner does Luke tell us how Jesus was filled by the Holy Spirit than he says, and then Jesus “was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished” (4:1-2). What? Why would the Holy Spirit do such a thing?
Well, did you notice how the devil started his temptations? “The devil said to [Jesus], 'If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread' ” (Luke 4:3). The devil seems to imply that that he knows better as to what it means to be God’s Son. The devil was challenging Jesus’ very identity. “If you are the Son of God, then you should do…" In this first temptation, Satan not only questioned Jesus’ identity, he implied that Jesus could avoid the hard work that lie ahead of him. As the Son of God, you don’t need to work hard. By refusing to turn bread into stone, Jesus admits that his work will be difficult, but he knows that he will be fed in his ministry; he will be fed by the Word of God.
But when Satan couldn’t tempt Jesus away from God with his first ploy, he continued. He showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all the power that Satan could line up for him. Satan was saying to Jesus, I have all this and if you are going to succeed you will need me. Isn’t this what the world tells us? How many times have you heard, “We can’t do that; it will cost too much.” “That’s too much for us, we’re too small." "Maybe we could do that if we had more people." "It’s the same people who do everything.” All too often we look at our own human limits and we assume that the same limits apply to God. Satan wanted Jesus, and us today, to believe that the forces against us are too much and we can’t succeed following God and God’s ways. But Jesus knows better, and he refuses to worship Satan.
But, Satan continues, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here …” because God will protect you. (4:9). Satan wanted to point out to Jesus the vast expanse that existed between God and God’s people. Satan wanted Jesus to say to God, prove to me that you will do what you have said. But, again, Jesus refused Satan.
Now, I think I know what you are probably thinking, “Sure, Jesus could resist the devil, he was God.” But I don’t think that is the case. Jesus was able to resist Satan because he was clear on who he was. He was God’s and God, throughout all of the scriptures, even all the way back at the beginning has promised that we are hers. God has promised to walk with us in the good and bad times. God has promised to forgive us when we confess our sin. God has promised us an abundant and eternal life, and in return all God asks of us is that we believe it and we stay faithful.
Jesus was able to stand firm in the face of the temptations of the world because he knew his identity came from God, not from the world. Remember what God said, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Jesus didn’t allow the devil, or anyone else throughout his ministry, to redefine who he was. They tried to tell him he was a miracle worker and they wanted more and he said no. They tried to claim him as an earthly king and he said no. They tried to proclaim him a rebel and they tried to force him to stop and he said no. Why? Because he knew who he was and he loved who he was.
Doesn’t the world always try to define who we are? All too often we buy into the labels we are given: business person, manager, parents, investors, sports player, singer, politician …, but the truth is our identify is not in those things; our identity, our strength… all comes from God. You are God’s child and in you God is well pleased. This story today is about knowing who you are and loving who you are. God has made you unique, and you have been blessed with gifts that you have been created to share with this world. Claim those gifts; use those gifts and love who you are. Stop letting the devil, that is the world, tell you who you are. Today we are being challenged to start claiming yourself as God’s child and to know that because you are God’s you can change the world.
As we begin our 40-day journey to the cross, to live as God expects us to live, we must remember to start with, we must love who we are and not let the world limit the greatness God has placed within us.
My daughter and son-in-law have a very close friend who is a quadriplegic. As a teenager, he was out late one night and while driving home, he fell asleep at the wheel. When he woke up, he was in a hospital bed and he could not move. Everyone felt sorry for him. Everyone began to tell him everything he would be able to do. Well, he didn’t believe them. He went on to graduate college and became a successful businessman. He formed a basketball league for quadriplegics and has traveled all over playing ball and giving speeches. He met an incredible woman who loved him for who he was and they now have two children. He can’t hold his children without help, but don’t you dare tell him he can’t do something. Yes, he has limitations, but he loves who he is and he refuses to be held back by the limitations of the world around him.
We, too, are weak and we have limitations, but in our baptisms we, too, were given the identity of God’s children. We, too, were filled with the Holy Spirit. And, like Jesus, our baptisms won’t protect us from the temptation of this world, but we have all we need to not allow those temptations to lure us away from God.
I don’t remember where I heard this, but I’ve heard it said that you never know what you can do until you decide to stand up and try. All too often we are told that “it’s useless.” All too often we are told that our issues/problems are "too big.” But, today we are challenged to not give up. Today we are challenged to love who we are because we are God’s.
It is a long journey to the cross. You will be tempted daily to give up, to stop focusing on the cross, to throw in the towel, but don’t give up. Trust God’s promise and God’s word, for as we heard St. Paul say to the Romans today, “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ” (Romans 10:13). Amen.