The First Sunday in Lent
Pastor George Pejakovich
Luke 4:1-13

IN THE THREE YEAR CYCLE OF THE LECTIONARY, WE START OFF EACH LENT WITH THE ACCOUNT OF THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS IN THE WILDERNESS BY SATAN. THIS IS A WAY OF GETTING US BACK TO THE BASIS OF OUR FAITH, AND SETTING US UP FOR OUR LENTEN JOURNEY. THE SEASON OF LENT HAS LONG BEEN THE TIME OF INSTRUCTING CONVERTS IN THE FAITH AND PREPARING THEM FOR THEIR BAPTISM AT EASTER. THE BAPTISM OF JESUS HAS ALREADY HAPPENED, AND IS THE BACKGROUND FOR WHAT HAPPENS IN THE WILDERNESS. AT HIS BAPTISM, GOD HAS DECLARED THAT JESUS IS HIS SON, THE BELOVED ONE. AT OUR BAPTISM, GOD, BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, DECLARES THAT WE ARE HIS SONS AND DAUGHTERS AND TIES OUR BAPTISM TO THAT OF JESUS. WHAT HAPPENS IN THE WILDERNESS IS NOT SO MUCH THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS, BUT THE TESTING OF JESUS BY SATAN AS TO WHAT KIND OF SON OF GOD JESUS WILL BE; AND OUR JOURNEY DURING THE TIME OF LENT FOCUSES ON WHAT KIND OF SON OR DAUGHTER WE OUGHT TO BE.

IN ANCIENT ISRAEL, THE KING WAS OFTEN CALLED THE SON OF GOD, SINCE THE SON REPRESENTS THE FATHER. SOME KINGS OF ISRAEL WERE FINE REPRESENTATIONS OF THE FATHER, WHILE MANY WERE ABJECT FAILURES, OFTEN LEADING THE PEOPLE ASTRAY FROM THE LIFE GOD WANTED THEM TO LIVE. HERE, IN THE WILDERNESS, JESUS IS THE WHOLE OF ISRAEL MANIFESTED IN ONE PERSON, SO HIS TESTING IS IN MUCH THE SAME WAY SATAN TESTED ISRAEL, WHICH ISRAEL FAILED. THE FORTY DAYS RECALL THE FORTY DAYS AND NIGHTS OF RAIN IN THE TIME OF NOAH, THE FORTY DAYS THAT MOSES FASTED ON MOUNT SIANAI RECEIVING THE LAW OF GOD, AND THE FORTY YEARS ISRAEL SPENT IN THE WILDERNESS BEFORE ENTERING THE LAND OF PROMISE. AT THE END OF HIS FORTY DAYS OF FASTING, SATAN CAME TO JESUS WHEN HE WAS AT HIS WEAKEST AND TESTED GOD’S SON.

WE TEND TO READ THIS EXCHANGE AS IF SATAN IS QUESTIONING WHEATHER OR NOT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD. NOT SO; SATAN KNOWS WHO JESUS IS, SINCE IT WAS REVEALED AT HIS BAPTISM. THE QUESTIONS SATAN ASKS SHOULD BE PROPERLY READ AS “SINCE YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD.” THE FIRST TEST IS PERSONAL; “SINCE YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, COMMAND THIS STONE TO BECOME A LOAF OF BREAD.” BASICALLY SATAN WAS SAYING, ‘LOOK, YOU’RE WEAK AND HUNGRY, SO HELP YOURSELF WITH A LITTLE OF YOUR MIRACULOUS POWER.” THE TEST IS WHEATHER JESUS WILL ACT FOR HIS OWN BENEFIT OR RELY SOLELY ON GOD. JESUS REPLIES WITH A QUOTE FROM DEUTERONOMY WHEN THE ISRAELITES GRUMBLED OVER THE LACK OF BREAD IN THE WILDERNESS; “MAN DOES NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE.” WHEN ISRAEL GOT THAT, MANNA CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN.

THE SECOND TEST IS POLITICAL, WHEN SATAN TAKES JESUS UP TO SHOW HIM ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD IN AN INSTANT, AND PROMISES TO GIVE HIM POWER AND AUTHORITY OVER ALL HE CONTROLS IF JESUS WOULD WORSHIP HIM. THE GREAT LIE IS THAT SATAN ACTS AS IF EVERYTHING BELONGS TO HIM, AND TRIES TO CONVINCE OTHERS THAT WORLDLY POWER IS THE END IN ITSELF. AGAIN JESUS RESPONDS FROM THE SCRIPTURES, QUOTING A PORTION OF THE SHEMA, “YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE ONLY GOD.”

THE THIRD TEST IS THAT OF WHEATHER JESUS REALLY TRUSTS GOD. HE TAKES JESUS TO THE TOP OF TEMPLE MOUNT, AND CITES SCRIPTURE THAT PROMISES GOD WILL PROTECT THOSE HE LOVES. HE TRIES TO GET JESUS TO THROW HIMSELF OFF THE TEMPLE SO THAT THE ANGELS MIGHT CATCH HIM. THIS IS TO INSTILL DOUBT IN JESUS AS TO WHEATHER HE CAN TRUST GOD TO PROTECT HIM WHEN HE FINALLY COMES TO JERUSALEM. JESUS DISMISSES THIS ATTEMPT TO INSTILL DOUBT IN GOD WITH ANOTHER QUOTE FROM DEUTERONOMY, “DO NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.” WITH THAT, THIS TIME OF TESTING IS OVER, BUT THERE WILL BE MORE TO COME.

THE SON OF GOD WILL DO NOTHING TO BENEFIT HIMSELF, BUT, WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT, WILL FEED THOUSANDS OF THE PEOPLE WITH FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISH. THE SON OF GOD WILL NOT SEEK WORLDLY KINGSHIP AND POWER OVER OTHERS, BUT WILL USE THE POWER OF GOD TO HEAL THE SICK, THE LAME, AND THE BLIND, AND CONTINUOUSLY STAND AGAINST THOSE WHO OPPRESS THE SHEEP OF THE LORD. THE SON OF GOD WILL NOT TEST HIS TRUST IN THE FATHER BY THROWING HIMSELF OFF THE HEIGHTS OF THE TEMPLE, BUT WILL MAINTAIN HIS TRUST IN HIS FATHER EVEN FROM THE HEIGHT OF A ROMAN CROSS. THIS IS THE KIND OF SON HE IS, AND THIS IS WHY THE FATHER SAYS, “THIS IS MY SON, THE BELOVED, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”

THIS IS THE KIND OF SON OR DAUGHTER WE ASPIRE TO BE; TO DAILY GROW TO BE MORE AND MORE LIKE JESUS. THROUGH OUR BAPTISMS WE ARE TIED TO HIS BAPTISM, THROUGH HIS OBEDIENCE TO THE FATHER BY HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS, AND BY OUR FAITH IN HIS FAITH IN THE FATHER, WE ARE SAVED FROM SIN AND DEATH. BY HIS RESURRECTION, OUR FUTURE ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD IS ASSURED, YET WE MUST STILL LIVE IN THE WILDERNESS WHERE OUR TESTING CONTINUES. IN THIS TIME OF LENT, WE LOOK DIRECTLY IN THE FACE OF THE TESTER BY LOOKING INSIDE OF OUR SPIRITS DAILY TO SEE WHAT KIND OF SON OR DAUGHTER WE ARE, AND HOW WE MAY BETTER GROW TO BE LIKE JESUS. WE RELY ON THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO HELP US SEE THAT IT IS NOT ABOUT BREAD, ABOUT PROVIDING FOR OUR SELVES, BUT ON PROVIDING FOR OTHERS IN NEED WHICH IS THE WILL OF GOD. IT IS NOT ABOUT SEEKING POWER AND AUTHORITY OVER OTHERS, BUT TO SERVE OTHERS IN MEEKNESS AND HUMILITY WHILE STANDING AGAINST ALL THAT WOULD OPPRESS AND HURT GOD’S PEOPLE. IT IS NOT ABOUT TRUSTING IN OURSELVES, BUT TRUSTING ONLY IN GOD, EVEN TO WHATEVER CROSS AWAITS US.

THE LENTEN JOURNEY IS THE WALK ON THE ROAD TO BEING LIKE JESUS, THE SON OF GOD IN WHOM HE IS WELL PLEASED.

THE GOAL OF OUR LIVES, ESPECIALLY IN THIS LENTEN SEASON, SHOULD ALWAYS BE, “I WANT TO BE LIKE JESUS,” SO OUR FATHER WILL BE WELL PLEASED WITH HIS SONS AND DAUGHTERS. AMEN