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

 


AS A PART OF THE SENIOR SEMINAR ON PREACHING I TEACH AT BKSM, WE WATCH A DVD OF A TESTIMONIAL TO FREDERICK BOEKNER, A MAN WHO HAD A SEMINAL INFLUENCE ON EPISCOPAL PREACHING. DISTINGUISHED PREACHERS COMMENTED ON HIS WORKS, AND HELD A DISCUSSION ON HOW TO MAKE THE GOSPEL COME ALIVE THROUGH PHYSICAL IMAGERY. THE IDEA OF THE SENSE OF SMELL CAME UP, AND ONE OF THE PANELISTS WONDERED WHAT TEMPTATION SMELLED LIKE. THE CANON OF THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL SAID, “I THINK TEMPTATION WOULD SMELL LIKE A 30 DOLLAR STEAK.” FAR BE IT FROM ME TO DISAGREE WITH THE CANON, BUT I HAVE HAD A 30 DOLLAR STEAK AND WAS NOT IMPRESSED. TEMPTATION, I BELIEVE, IS NOT SO MUCH BEING DRAWN TO SOMETHING, RATHER IT IS BEING DRAWN AWAY FROM SOMETHING. OUR GOSPEL FOR THIS FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT ILLUSTRATES THIS CLEARLY.

FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, JESUS GOES INTO THE WILDERNESS FOR FORTY DAYS OF PRAYER AND FASTING. THE FORTY DAYS ARE SIGNIFICANT, AS THEY RECALL THE FORTY YEARS OF ISRAEL’S TIME IN THE WILDERNESS PREPARING THEM FOR ENTERING THE PROMISED LAND; IN HIS DAYS OF FASTING, JESUS HERE, IN THE WILDERNESS, 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 SINAI RECEIVING THE LAW OF GOD, AND THE FORTY YEARS ISRAEL SPENT IN THE WILDERNESS BEFORE ENTERING THE LAND OF PROMISE. DURING HIS FORTY DAYS OF FASTING, SATAN CAME TO JESUS WHEN HE WAS AT HIS WEAKEST AND TESTED GOD’S SON.

THE WORD “TEMPTED” CAN ALSO BE READ AS “TESTED;” TO SEE WHETHER JESUS WILL HOLD FIRM IN HIS MISSION, OR BE DRAWN AWAY TO SOMETHING ELSE. IN EACH CASE, THE DEVIL BEGINS IN OUR TRANSLATION WITH, “IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD.” THIS SHOULD REALLY BE READ AS, “SINCE YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD,” BECAUSE THE DEVIL KNOWS EXACTLY WHO JESUS IS; IT WAS ANNOUNCED BY GOD AT JESUS’ BAPTISM.

THE FIRST TEST IS TO SEE IF JESUS WILL CONTINUE TO RELY COMPLETELY IN HIS TRUST IN THE FATHER, OR IF HE WILL ACT FOR HIS OWN BENEFIT. THE DEVIL USES JESUS’ FASTING HUNGER TO DRAW HIM AWAY FROM GOD BY USING HIS MIRACULOUS POWER TO FEED HIMSELF. JESUS’ RESPONSE THAT, IT IS WRITTEN “ONE DOES NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE,” IS ONLY THE FIRST PART OF WHAT IS WRITTEN. THE REST IS,” BUT BY EVERY WORD WHICH COMES FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.”

THE SECOND TEST IS TO SEE IF JESUS CAN BE DRAWN AWAY FROM HIS COMMITMENT TO THE COMING CROSS. THE DEVIL OFFERS JESUS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE PAIN AND HORROR TO COME BY SHOWING HIM ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD AND SAYING THAT ALL THIS CAN BE YOURS. ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS WORSHIP ME INSTEAD OF GOD. AGAIN, JESUS ANSWERED HIM FROM SCRIPTURE; “WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE ONLY HIM.”

THE THIRD AND FINAL TEST IS TO DRAW JESUS AWAY FROM HIS CERTAINTY THAT GOD, HIS FATHER, LOVES HIM. HE DOES THIS BY TRYING TO GET JESUS TO PROVE GOD LOVES HIM BY THROWING HIMSELF OFF THE PINNACLE OF THE TEMPLE, SINCE JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD, GOD WON’T LET HIM HURT HIMSELF, AND THE ANGELS WILL SAVE HIM. TO TEST GOD’S LOVE IS TO DOUBT GOD’S LOVE, WHICH IS WHAT JESUS MEANS WHEN HE SAYS, “DO NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.”

TEMPTATION IS NOT JUST BEING DRAWN TO SOMETHING, IT IS BEING DRAWN AWAY FROM THAT TO WHICH WE MUST HOLD FAST. WE ARE TO LOVE THE LORD OUR GOD WITH ALL OUR HEART, OR MIND, OUR STRENGTH, AND OUR SOUL, AND THAT MEANS A LIFE CENTERED IN GOD; A LIFE THAT CAN BE LIVED ONLY BY BEING FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD. ANYTHING THAT DRAWS US AWAY FROM THAT IN ANY WAY IS A TESTING WHICH IS NOT FROM GOD, BUT FROM THE ADVERSARY, AND IS AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.

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’S LOVE, EVEN TO WHATEVER CROSS AWAITS US.

WHEN WE PRAY, “LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL,” WE KNOW THAT GOD DOES NOT LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION. WHAT WE ARE REALLY PRAYING IS THAT GOD GIVE US THE STRENGTH OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT TO RESIST ALL THOSE THINGS WHICH WOULD DRAW US AWAY FROM HIM, AND, BY HIS SPIRIT, WE WOULD BE DELIVERED FROM EVIL. FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, WE CAN WALK THIS WILDERNESS OF LENT, EVEN THROUGH THE SHADOWS OF HOLY WEEK, KNOWING THAT GOD’S LOVING SPIRIT HOLDS OUT TO US THE PROMISE OF THE DAY OF RESURRECTION TO COME. KNOWING THE LOVE OF GOD, WE CAN ENDURE ANY TEST, AND HOLD FIRMLY TO THE LOVE AND PROMISE OF GOD. AS DID JESUS, OUR BROTHER, OU SAVIOR, AND OUR LORD.
AMEN