…healed and restored by Scripture and by Sacrament and by fellowship with your fellow Christians and examine where you are being tempted and tell the devil to do one because he’s not welcome in your life.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, please sit.
Our second reading today talks once again about our hearts to our lips and our lips to our hearts. Hearts. And so we continue in the same vein as we have in the last few weeks, considering what a right relationship with God in our hearts and our souls look and how the relationship between our hearts and our souls and our outward actions our lips. Connect. Today, Jesus is tested as he decides to start his Ministry. And that’s a really important point in picking up this piece of scripture this week.
Just before this piece of scripture, we have the genealogy of Jesus Christ, which comes immediately after, in Luke, his baptism. And the genealogy starts with ‘as Jesus started his Ministry’. So the first thing that happens when Jesus decides to start his Ministry is that he is tempted by the devil. It’s a major milestone in his life. And so he is taken out into the desert, into the wilderness.
And when we say desert, it immediately conjures up in our mind a picture, doesn’t it? Sand and barren. I don’t know about you, but to me it’s the Sahara Desert with dunes going into the distance. But actually, if we look at the wilderness that Jesus went into, the place, it’s called Jeshimmon. It’s an area of about 35 miles by 15 miles and it sits between the central plain in Judea and the Dead Sea.
It’s Rocky, it’s incredibly inhospitable. There are high cliffs, big drops, and the heat is so much that it will Cook the insides of you. It is not a good place to be. And of course we are reading this in Lent because we are considering what our own wildernesses are.
I’m sure our Lent are not quite the same wilderness as the rocks and the stones and the inhospitable heat as the desert that Jesus was called into. But we really must consider what our own wilderness, what our own desert is. Not as an actual desert, but Lent should be hard. Lent should be difficult.
Yes, it’s a time of spiritual refreshment and that refreshment comes after the cross on Good Friday. The refreshment comes after the cross on Good Friday. It comes on Easter Sunday. That’s an important thing to remember, to consider the harshness of our Lent. And is it hard enough?
But once we’re in the desert, once we’re in the wilderness, then we have some temptations of Jesus by the devil. And that has some parallels for us. So let’s take them apart. Let’s look at how Jesus was tempted. The first thing to remember is that Jesus was not tempted as we are tempted because we are not Jesus.
The devil isn’t going to stand in front of us and say, turn these rocks into food because we can’t. But Jesus did. That’s the insidious nature of evil. When the devil stands in front of us and tempts us. He tempts us with something he knows that we can do, and he knows that we want to do.
And so we can’t disconnect the temptation of Jesus and say, well, you know, I can’t turn bread, I can’t turn stone into bread. The point is that the devil will tempt you with the things that you can do that is unique to each and every one of us. So let’s look at Jesus temptations.
The first stones into bread.You and I can’t do that. Jesus can. The devil knows it, and he’s testing him with something that he can do.
Actual bread, actual food, and what that means for his Ministry. What the devil is saying to Jesus is that you can bribe people. Your power is so awesome. Your power is so amazing that you can provide people at the start of your Ministry, remember that at the start of your Ministry, you can use your power that God has given you to bribe people.
You can give them things so that they will follow you. This is easy for you. And there is the first temptation, the temptation to find an easy way to do something.
Jesus sees the folly in this because bribing people to follow you is not really inviting people to follow you, is it? And so where does Jesus turn for his defense against the devil? He turns to Scripture. No one will ever find life in material things. The devil tempts him.
He gives him an easy way out. And Jesus resists using Scripture.
The second temptation. This time, this time, the devil offers Jesus the world and everything in it. If he worships him, if he worships evil, he’s offering Jesus an easy way to win people.
Yet again, a compromise. The devil already has people at his beck and call. He already has people in his grip. And what he’s saying to Jesus is, if you compromise with me, then I will give you these people. Jesus sees the trap in this temptation.
And once again to defend against the devil where does he turn? To scripture! And he says to the devil ‘God is God, right is right and wrong is wrong. There can be no compromise in the war on evil’.
The third temptation, a sensational show in the heart of Jerusalem. Fall from the parapet and the Angels will save you. They will sweep in and stop you from being hurt. What a show that would be. People will come flocking to see you.
No, Jesus replies, and once again replies with, you know the answer now, Scripture! ‘You must not make senseless experiments with the power of God’.
In each temptation, Jesus even Jesus, submits to God and submits to Scripture. And he uses scripture as a defense against evil.
If you take nothing else from today’s sermon, if you take nothing else from the start of Lent, take that when you are tempted, when the devil comes at you, open your Bible and defend yourself with scripture, just as Jesus did in that moment of temptation.
All right, let’s look at how those temptations can affect us here as individuals, but also as a Church, as a group of people who are going out into Hayes to bring people to know Jesus.
So we need to think in those two different ways.
The first temptation, we could bribe people to come to know Jesus. No, no. Our life as Christians is not to do good things, to change the world. It is to make new people of Christ who, because they follow Jesus, do good things that bring heaven to Earth.
Do you see the difference in those two things? If we run the food bank because we want people to come to Church, we’ve got it wrong. But if because we love Jesus and Jesus loves us, we are compelled to run the food bank, that’s a sign of a healthy Christian community. It must always be that way round. That is how people discover the love of Jesus, because otherwise people will discover the love of running the food bank.
People will discover the love of doing flowers, but they won’t discover the love of Jesus. That has to come first.
The second temptation – compromising with evil. We as Christians are not people of grey. We don’t operate in the Gray.
We operate, as C. S. Lewis said in the black and white. We are not called to go, ‘mmmm maybe that is okay’.
We are called to say this is right and this is wrong. The constant temptation is to compromise with the world in order to get more people through the door. And it is a big temptation, isn’t it? The temptation is to compromise with the world and to compromise with evil because we want people to like us as individuals. But any compromise with evil will ultimately fail.
Why? Because God is God, right is right and wrong ir wrong.
The third temptation sensation a show – perhaps the biggest temptation for me because I love a show. Sensation. It causes a big splash, and it does work. If you cause a sensation, it does work, but it only works for a short time.
It is a transparent faith. It is a transparent journey. It provides amusement in a world that is driven by sensation. But our faith our faith as Christians is slow. Our faith as Christians is small.
Our faith as Christians is putting one in front of the other, doing the good thing after the good thing. And when we stumble, picking each other up so that we can once again take those small steps, our faith exists deep in our heart and our souls. And that small, tiny faith is sufficient to shine through so strongly that it will bring other people to Jesus.
So then Lent, we have to think about where we are being tempted as a Church, as a community and as individuals. What is the Devil’s unique temptation for each and every one of us.
Is it money? Is it desire? Is it power?
Are we being bribed by the world? Is it through compromise? Making those small compromises that I talked about last week? Is it through sensation? Is it waiting to see the next big exciting thing?
Only you can answer that and that’s what Lent is for. To consider what that may be and defend against it. Do as Jesus did, turn to Scripture, submit to God and start your Ministry anew walking as Jesus did from that point onwards towards the cross. Walk towards the cross with Jesus knowing your temptation, turning your back on it with Scripture in your heart and mind because you know what comes next – the glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Brothers and sisters go home this week renewed, healed, restored by coming together here this Sunday renewed, healed and restored by Scripture and by Sacrament and by fellowship with your fellow Christians and examine where you are being tempted and tell the devil to do one because he’s not welcome in your life.