Welcome to Lent, a personally beloved season.
It is not so because of the sober tone and doom and gloom, but despite it.
It is so beloved because it is authentic, reflective, and emphasizes Jesus’ humanity.
The Christian Church professes that Jesus is fully divine and fully human, but it is challenging to wrap our minds around and communicate this divine mystery. Therefore, we have consciously or unconsciously decided to evaluate the divinity of Jesus at the expense of his humanity.
Honestly, it is hard as a helpless, worthless, sinful critter to deeply connect with the divine nature of Jesus.
Yet, this morning we witness Jesus within an universal human experience… temptation.
But, was Jesus really tempted?
I have a brief video for us to watch, which explores that question.
But, what is temptation?
Besides the chosen tool of forces opposed to God’s Kingdom to come, it is forged of lies and deceit of fulfillment aimed directly at our self-centered desires (sin).
- Our self-centered desire for indulgent pleasure, whether sexual or not.
- Our self-centered desire for power, authority, and/or control and its abuse.
- Our self-centered desire for significant wealth at the cost of the vulnerable in poverty.
Temptation is the foundation of marketing.
If you consume X, you will be beautiful, powerful, wealthy, etc.
And according to Matthew and Luke, Jesus was tempted with the ageless temptations to abuse power and to have absolute wealth or authority…
But Jesus in his divine, not human, nature is able to resist for he knows the deceit, the lies, and their cost.
The deceit and lies are simple:
- God does not love you.
- People do not love you.
- You are not enough.
- You are worthless.
This deceit and lies distract us from pursuing God’s kingdom come, in order to pursue beauty, fame, fortune, and power.
These temptations may be external and easily spotted…
like a serpent in the garden or a marketing campaign.
These temptations may be external and disguised…
like loved ones who are a bad influence or reinforce the lies that you are not loved, enough, or worthy.
These temptations may be internalized…
like a consist whispering in the ears due to anxiety or otherwise.
Although Matthew’s gospel reads that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, the Gospels of Mark and Luke do not.
And thus, the question. Does God lead us into temptation as a ‘test’?
According to Martin Luther’s Small Catechism instruction on the Lord’s Prayer… NO.
God does not lead us into temptation, but God can help us resist it.
I have a sign in my office that reads:
“God doesn’t give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given”.
Similarly, God does not lead us into temptation, but God helps us resist said temptation.
Our world, in this time and place, are filled with those wicked deceit, lies, and their temptations which oppose God’s Kingdom to come, but God helps us resist it and promises God’s presence even when we give in to it.
God desires us to avoid the distractions that disconnect us from God and neighbor.
God desires that we do not fall to our knees in worship of that which opposes God’s kingdom to come and their promises for all your dreams to come true.
BUT, God instead desires that we seek justice, act with compassion and mercy, and love and serve all especially the vulnerable.
It was Jesus’ example, mission, and ministry.
It is our baptismal commitments.
It is God’s kingdom come now, near, and not yet fulfilled.
May we resist the wicked deceit and lies, especially their temptations,
in order to pursue the Kingdom Come here now, in this time and place. Amen.