Invocavit Sunday (Lent 1)| Matthew 4:1-11| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| February 26, 2023
When God commanded Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, He sent him to Pharoah saying, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”’” (Exodus 4:22-23) And after ten destructive plagues upon Egypt, Israel did escape from Egypt, passing through the Red Sea, which St. Paul called being “baptized into Moses” (1 Corinthians 10:2). Israel, God’s son, then wandered in the wilderness for forty years. However, Israel did not live up to the title of God’s son. He was unfaithful. He did not live on God’s Word alone, but grumbled for food, saying it would have been better to be slaves in Egypt with food than to die in the wilderness. In other words, Israel would rather eat bread than be God’s son. Israel tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not” (Exodus 17:7), when they thirsted for water. And Israel did not worship the LORD God or serve Him only, but they ran after the Baal’s of the nations around them, even worshiping a golden calf! God was displeased with Israel and scattered him in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:5).
Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God the Father, His only Son from eternity. He too was called out of Egypt after His family fled the murderous Herod (Matthew 2:15). Jesus too was baptized in water, at which time God the Father declared from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) And Jesus too was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit of God to be tempted by Satan for forty days. Israel, God’s firstborn son failed to prove himself a son. Instead, he was only a type of the Son who was to come, Jesus Christ.
When Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days, Satan tempted Him in a similar manner to how he tempted Israel. He tried to get Jesus to care for the needs of His body instead of the care for His soul. Yet, Jesus answered Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) This shows Jesus’ perfect faith. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17). For a son to be faithful, he must listen and pay attention to the word of his father. Jesus is perfectly faithful. He knows that it is by the Word of the LORD that we eat all our food, are clothed, and rest our heads. God sent Him into the wilderness to fast. Jesus does not need to prove that He is God’s Son. He trusts that God will feed Him at the proper time. This is a great lesson for us. How often do we ignore God’s Word, putting it aside to deal with the “more important” things of this life. But no. We’re wrong. Your job, food, clothing, spouse, children, everything you have is given to you by God. He answers your prayers. To forsake His Word in order to pursue these things is to deny that God gives us the things we need. That is an act of unbelief.
Next, Satan tries to prove to Jesus that he too knows God’s Word. He uses Psalm 91, which promises the aid of angels to God’s children, to get Jesus to test God by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple. Yet, that passage is not meant to get God’s children to live recklessly, but rather to trust that God will protect them with His angels as they live out their faith. Satan omits the important line, “to guard you in all your ways,” which makes clear that angels should not be taken advantage of so that we may test God. Yet, Jesus again responds with Holy Scripture, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
It is God’s prerogative to test us. He tests our faith in order to strengthen our faith, so that we cling closer to Him and trust His promises. Yet, we must never test God. We test God in order to manipulate His Word and avoid accepting the truth. This is done by all false teachers, who manipulate the Word of God in order to fit their own opinions. Scripture has been abundantly clear from the beginning and Christians have always acknowledged its clear words regarding marriage and chastity, that Jesus is the only way to heaven, that Scripture cannot be broken.
Yet, Christians continue to follow after preachers and teachers who claim that Scripture does not really say what it has always said. And lo and behold, these discoveries always seem to fall in line with the current trends. It is exactly as St. Paul said, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) If you are following a new teaching about sexuality, marriage, salvation, or any other teaching contrary to the pure words of Scripture, then you are not following the voice of God, but your own passions. You should repent and not test the LORD God. You must not put your own words in God’s mouth.
Finally, Satan tempts Jesus with the kingdoms and glory of the world, promising that he would give them all to Jesus if he would only fall down and worship him. At first thought, this seems like such an easy temptation to overcome. Who on earth would worship Satan? And why would someone think that Satan could give you anything? Yet, people fall away from the only saving Christian faith for this very temptation every day. Young people acquire new wisdom when they go off to college, assuming that they’ve figured out in a short time what most people can’t learn in a lifetime. So, they forsake God’s Word. They stop going to church. Although they’ve discovered new types of sins, they neglect going to receive the forgiveness of sins or strengthening their faith in Christ with His Sacrament. Young and old Christians chase after money, careers, sex, doing exactly what Satan tells them to do, although they do not recognize it as such. They bow down to Satan spiritually as they chase the glories of this dying world at the expense of God’s sweet forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ His Son.
Yet, Jesus once again proves Himself to be the Good Son. He quotes Scripture, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” (Deuteronomy 6:13) This gets to the heart of faith. Why live by God’s Word alone? Why not test God? Why not worship and serve anything or one else but God? Because He is your God, your Creator, your Provider, your Protecter, Redeemer, and Savior. He alone gives you life. He alone forgives your sins. He alone can rescue you from death and hell. Satan lies, promising to give you a little of what God has already promised to give you in full: Joy and eternal life.
So, Israel is a bad son. He doesn’t live up to his title. And what’s worse for us, we learn from Jesus’ example that we’re not good sons either! It is not a hypothetical whether we would withstand Satan’s temptation in the wilderness. We fall to Satan’s lies every day in this valley of the shadow of death! God’s Word is often not on our mind. When we decide to do something, we ask ourselves whether we want to or can do it. We don’t ask if it is God’s will! We test God by listening to liars, and like teenagers driving a car on empty, we see how long we can go in the faith without hearing and meditating on God’s Word. Although we hate to admit it, we serve the gods of this world, who offer us glory instead of devoting ourselves to God and serving Him.
So, what good is it to us that Jesus is the Good Son? How can we bad sons rejoice in the victory of the Good Son? Why does it matter that Jesus overcame the temptation of Satan? Because He is our Champion! Jesus was not tempted for His own sake, but for our sake, so that we might become sons of God.
Jesus is not God’s Son simply as an honorary title. Jesus is God’s Son from eternity. He shares in the same substance and nature of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. These three persons are one God, distinct persons, yet indivisible in essence. When Jesus prayed His high priestly prayer before His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, He prayed to His Father, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5)
Before the universe was created out of nothing, before God made human flesh out of dust, before God endowed man with an immortal soul, Christ was the Son of God. He does not need to strive with Satan to prove His divinity. He didn’t need to earn His Sonship. Yet, the Son of God took on our human flesh and in human flesh, He strove with Satan and won. He did what Adam and Eve failed to do. He did what Israel failed to do. He did what each and every one of us has failed to do. He remained sinless in human flesh while being tempted by Satan himself.
And Jesus conquered Satan in human flesh, so that He might give us the victory over Satan and declare us to be sons of God. St. Paul writes to the Galatians in chapter 4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Jesus did what we could not do, so that He could make us what we could not make ourselves. Jesus in human flesh conquered Satan and kept God’s Law. And He did not fail the test, even as Satan’s minions tested Him, crying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:40) God’s Son remained on that cross in human flesh until every one of our sins was paid for. Jesus is our champion. Jesus gives us the victory. (1 Corinthians 15:17) And we receive this victory through faith, when we believe in what Jesus has done for us, as St. Paul writes, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26)
The title devil means slanderer. The devil slanders us, questioning whether we are God’s children. We point to our Baptism into Christ and the victory Christ won for us over Satan in the wilderness and say, “Christ is righteous, and therefore, so am I.” Satan means adversary. When Satan opposes us, we can say to him, “Christ Jesus defeated you, and I am clothed in Christ. Begone Satan!”
Through faith, Jesus’ victory over Satan is our victory over Satan. Jesus’ death on the cross is our death on the cross. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is our resurrection from the dead. And so, through faith in Christ, we are God’s children, heirs of His Kingdom Amen.