“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”
Still dripping wet from His baptism in the Jordan river where the “Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove” and His Father reminded Him, “You are my Son, with you I am well pleased,” the Spirit leads Him into a place where the voice of the Father is NOT HEARD and the BODILY FORM of the SPIRIT does not rest upon Him and the questions all begin with “If you are the Son of God.”
It’s a question of identity. DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?
It’s a question that you and I are challenged to answer every day. In your baptism, the Spirit of God descended on you and the Father declared, “You are my child and with you I am well-pleased,” and Jesus Christ took you into Himself and covered you with His righteousness so completely that you have died with Christ while you’re still alive and you have already been raised with Christ before you’ve been buried.
And not in here but out there, in the wilderness, so many questions begin with “if you are a child of God…”
We all know what ‘temptation’ is. It’s the lure and enticement to think or act or speak in a way that requires you to deny WHO YOU ARE in Christ. Or to put it in the negative, it’s the lure and enticement to NOT THINK, or NOT ACT, or NOT SPEAK UP that requires us to deny WHO YOU ARE in Christ.
If you don’t know what ‘temptation’ is, it’s probably because you’ve forgotten WHO YOU ARE. “If you are a child of God…”
There’s this thing about time and the repetition of evil over time that doesn’t make it any less evil, you just get used to it. Hiking the A.T., I sleep in the shelters at night. These shelters are great for keeping the rain off of you but they’re full of mice and in the middle of the night you feel them running across your sleeping bag and sometimes right over your face and in the beginning it used to really creep me out but anymore its not big deal, it just takes some getting used to it.
Maybe there are some temptations that still really creep you out but for the most part, we gotten used to them and now they hardly bother us. Just watch some old Mary Tyler Moore shows or Gunsmoke episodes and you’ll see what I mean.
And maybe there are some temptations that we’re simply never going to get used to and they still creep us out and we want nothing to do with them. The devil suggests ‘adultery.’ And we say, ‘no, never!’ So he says, ‘alright, never mind adultery, how about just coveting your neighbor’s spouse, and we say, okay, but not adultery.’
He suggests, ‘stealing.’ And we say, ‘no, I’d never do that.’ So he says, ‘okay, never mind stealing, how about skipping your daily devotions, or Sunday worship’? And we say, ‘that’s okay, but not stealing.” And it’s all the same to him as long as we deny WHO WE ARE in Christ.
And because I’m not sure WHO I AM, I hesitate to even get into the ring and fight. I’m not sure what I’m fighting for and even who I’m fighting against or even who fights for me. So when the bell rings, I just go down because I don’t want to get hurt, just like Adam did in the Garden of Eden when what he should have done was to jump in between his wife and the serpent and say, ‘OVER MY DEAD BODY.’
Isn’t that just what Luther had us sing, ‘With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected…” So why fight? It’s safer just to play dead. Except that after awhile, we FORGET WHO WE ARE and we really are dead.
But sometimes we have stood our ground and actually resisted ‘TEMPTATION’ because, by God, we know WHO WE ARE in Christ… and even while we celebrated our little victory, we were failing some where else.
If we’re really, really tough, we may stand in there and take a hit or two or even three. But then the devil says, ‘REALLY, HOW LONG DO YOU WANT TO KEEP DOING THIS? Because I can keep this up for as long as it takes… for as long as it takes for you to “curse God and die” or FORGET WHO YOU ARE in Christ.’
The point is if you just go down, you never know how hard it is to stand and fight. It’s only the person who won’t go down who knows how hard the opponent’s punch really is.
In His great love for YOU, YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, WHOSE CHILD YOU ARE, could not stand to see you abused by the bully from hell. And so He sent His Son. Not to cheer you on or be your coach, but to enter the ring and fight for you. “But FOR US fights the valiant one, whom God Himself elected.”
“The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness… to be tempted by the devil.” The Spirit led Jesus into the ring and HE WOULDN’T GO DOWN. He took every punch the devil could throw at Him – for 40 days in the wilderness – but it could have been for 40 years in the wilderness where Israel went down time after time.
“If you are the Son of God…” It’s a question of identity. “JESUS, DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?” Because HE KNOWS WHO HE IS, He never gets used to my sin and it ALL appalls Him and it ALL disgusts Him.
And the devil tempted Him, repeatedly, ‘really, how long do you want to do this Jesus? How long do you want to endure the hunger when look, right here is all the bread you can eat. All you have to do is forget who you are.” And Jesus said, ‘I am who I am.’
The devil said, ‘Jesus, be reasonable. I’m only interested in your well-being. Have you thought about what it will be like when all these fools whom You think you’re fighting for deny you and abandon you? Have you thought about what it will feel like when they flog you to the bone and when the hammer strikes those nails through your hands and feet? Jesus, even your dear Father who called you His beloved Son will turn His back on you and forsake you.’
St. Luke reports, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him UNTIL AN OPPORTUNE TIME.” As He hung from the cross in the wilderness between heaven and earth, the OPPORTUNE TIME came, and it started all over again.
“He saved others, let him save himself IF HE IS THE CHRIST OF GOD, HIS CHOSEN ONE.” (Lk.23:45).
“IF HE IS THE KING OF ISRAEL let Him come down from the cross and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now if He desires Him.” (Mat.27:42-43) “For it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands hey will bear you up lest you strike you foot against a stone
And as He hung suspended in the wilderness between heaven and earth, Satan whispered in His ear, “really Jesus, how long do you want to do this? This is too much. You’re going too far with this. You know you can stop this anytime you want.
“And the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then will worship me, it will all be yours.”
And Jesus said, “NO.” “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” by my Father. (Mat.28:18) “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27)
He knows WHO HE IS. He is the Son of God and Son of Man and YOUR SAVIOR, who loves you with His life AND with His death and stands in the ring between you and the devil and says, “over my dead body.”
And this is why everyone who knows WHO HE IS and who knows WHO THEY ARE in Him, stands up and fights against the temptations that surround us. His love for me empowers me to endure a little darkness without running and even take a punch or two without folding.
Even if we go down we want to go down fighting. Even if we fall in the fight, “He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters,’ just as “God is not ashamed to be called ‘our God.’” (Heb. 2:11; 11:16). And if we are knocked down, we repent, and He knows how to raise us up again with His forgiveness and mercy and grace even as His Father raised Him from the dead.
It’s not that, if we know WHO HE IS and WHO WE ARE in Him, we will not fall. We’ll loose a lot more than we win.
But even one win is worth the suffering and pain because it’s a foretaste of the final victory that has already been won.
But even when we loose, we will not stay down because He lifts us up again and again and again, until finally, the bell will sound and so much than just ‘another round’ will be over.