As we continue in Luke’s gospel, we cover Luke 19:45-20:17
This is the sermon for the First Sunday in Lent. The sermon text is: Mark 1:12-15. The sermon theme is: Look At The Before And After Picture.
Look At The Before And After Picture
Before and after pictures can be scary. As children grow older and then finish up high school they start to make predictions about themselves. And not only do they make predictions of themselves, but they even publish them in their yearbooks. And I don’t know about you, but I think it would be scary to be named the person “most likely to succeed” when you’re in high school. Because that prediction is great if you actually do succeed. But what if you don’t? What if your life takes a bad detour when you get out of high school? Who wants to be the guy who was voted “most likely to succeed” and then is a failure? Who wants to see that before and after picture? Or we could say the same about the kids who grow up and go off to school. When they were in high school they were exercising and their parents were there to guard their diet and make sure that they ate good food. But when they go away to school, it’s a different story. There’s no one there to say “no” to the bacon and ice cream. And there’s no one to make them exercise. And, if you’re one of those people who put on twenty pounds in those couple of years after high school, then you don’t want to see the before and after picture.
This morning we see a before and after picture that went from good to bad. Before we look at Jesus in the desert we go back to Adam in the garden. There, at the beginning Adam and Eve were in a perfect and pretty garden. They talked with God; they walked with God. Every detail was good and right and perfect. But that was the before picture. We know what happened next. We know how Satan came and tempted them to sin. We remember how they gave into Satan’s lies. We know how true it is that they dragged us down into their sin. And when they sinned, they were driven out of the garden. This before and after picture is vital for us to keep in our minds as we read these words from Mark’s gospel this morning: “12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” (Mark 1:12–13 NIV)
Adam and Ever were thrown out of the garden because of their sin. And, as we come into this world we just as much outside of God’s garden and his kingdom. So what was the Lord’s solution to us being thrown out of the garden? The Holy Spirit throws Jesus out into the wilderness.1 And he stays there for forty days with the animals that are wild and not friendly. And what is Jesus doing there for those forty days? Day after day, minute after minute, Jesus is being tempted by Satan. For the first man let us down. He failed. And he dragged us into sin and unbelief along with himself. There had to be a second man that could be tested and tempted and not give in. So the Holy Spirit throws our Savior out into the desert. But the throws a willing Savior into the desert. Jesus is willing to be tempted every day and in every way in your behalf.
And that makes us ask the question, “how long would you last?” How long would you last if you were thrown out there in the desert, alone, with Satan attacking you with temptations day after day? How long? Think of all those sinful desires and thoughts that travel through your brain day after day—the lies, the lusts, the unjustified anger, the cowardice, the laziness. And imagine that you actually made it the first day in the desert, not giving into sin. Would you really make it the other 39? To be bold and blunt, there really isn’t much point in using our imagination is there, because we know how long we would last against Satan. It would be an embarrassing before and after picture. We couldn’t even last seconds against him, let alone days.
But look at your Savior. Every day, and every moment of the day for 40 days he was tempted and tested. And at the end of those days it was Satan who gave up and left the battle, not Jesus. This event in Jesus’ life is a beautiful example of his active obedience. In his active obedience Jesus obeyed the ten commandments for us, in our place because we could not. And the result is that when God looks at us he sees his Son’s faithfulness instead of our failure.
Look at the before and after picture. In these opening words our Savior invites us to look at the before and after picture of sin. But in the words which follow we look at a different before and after picture: “14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”” (Mark 1:14–15 NIV)
In these two verses we see another before and after picture. It’s the before and after the gospel picture. Before the gospel came to us what did our lives look like? Before the gospel we hated God and loved sin. But then what happened? God shared his word with us. And through that message of salvation he performed a miracle in us. We have faith in him. Now instead of hating the Triune God, we love him. And instead of loving our sin, we hate it.
But in these words we find an irony. Jesus invites us to have faith in the gospel. The irony is that it’s the gospel that creates faith in us. And what it creates is a beautiful before and after picture. And Jesus ever-so-clearly shows us what that looks like. First, before God converted us through his word we were unable to repent. We were unable to see sin as evil. We were unable to turn to God. But after the gospel we are able to continually see sin as evil and continually turn from it. Second, before God came to us with his word were unable to believe in him. But now we know who the true God is. We know of a loving Spirit who sent our faithful Savior into the desert to be tempted in our place because our gracious Father commanded it. Not only do we trust this fact, we continually trust this fact.
Now do you see why it’s both so beautiful and so important to see these before and after pictures—before and after sin—before and after the gospel? Since there is the before and after picture of sin, we need a Savior who could be tested and tempted for days and never give in. And in Christ, that’s what we have. But we also needed the gospel to give us a faith so that can repent. And every day on this side of heaven, that’s what our life looks like. Long ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. And do you remember the first one? He wrote, “Our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, in saying ‘repent’ meant that the entire life a believer be repentance.” Where do you think Luther got that thought from? What passage in the bible is he quoting? He’s quoting the words of Jesus here. For Luther knew what many forget. He knew that that the New Testament was written in Greek. And when Jesus says “repent” and “believe” they are both present imperatives. The meaning behind the present imperative is to continue to do something. What a precious gift it is to continue to repent, isn’t it? Every morning and every night, what a gift it is to see our sin through the light of God’s word and hate it. What at gift it is is to repent of that sin day after day. What a gift it is to believe in Jesus not just today, but day after day after day, continually.
And so, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, since we see the before and after picture, that now we are able to continually repent, now we are able to continually believe, let us do so. Especially now, as we find ourselves in the beginning of Lent. Let us repent of our sin and rejoice that Jesus was tempted every day for forty days and never gave in. He won forgiveness for us there in the desert and he gives it to us in his word. Look at and cherish these before and after pictures—before and after the fall—and before and after the gospel. Amen.
1 “ἐκβάλλει” (Mark 1:12 NA28-T)
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