If You Have A Tempter, You Need A Savior
It happened so quickly. Year after year I walk our catechism class through the book of Genesis. And, every year, what shocks me, is how quickly Adam and Eve fall and fail. You’re at day six. And everything is good—and not just good; they are very good. And so soon, so shortly after that everything falls apart. Adam and Eve sin and then are enslaved by sin. Why did it happen so soon and so quickly? One of the answers to that question is that every moment and every second, Satan was there to tempt Adam and Eve. And Satan has amazing skills and strength in that area. And so, as we look back at Genesis, chapter 3, what we learn is that if you have a tempter, you need a Savior. And here, this morning, in these words in Matthew 4, we see what that Savior looks like: “1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”” (Matthew 4:1–3 NIV11-GKE)
Moment after moment, from the time we are conceived we have a sinful nature and Satan to tempt us. Since we have a Tempter, we need a Savior. And look at the Savior our Father in heaven gives to us. He gives to us a human to be tempted and tested in our place. These words take us to the beginning to Jesus’ earthly ministry. He is anointed in the Jordan River to be our Prophet, Priest and King. And then what happens? Jesus is brought up into the desert by the Holy Spirit.1 And there he goes without food for 40 days. And so, it should not surprise us then when we hear that Jesus was hungry. And look then at how the Tempter works and acts. He goes after Jesus where he is weak. Human beings have bodies. We have hunger. We have hormones. Before the fall into sin, God made Adam and Eve with yearnings and desires. But what’s the problem? At the fall and now after, the Tempter uses these yearnings and desires against us. And very often it’s not that difficult for the Tempter to tempt us because, as humans with sinful natures, we want to be tempted. And there’s a horrible progression that we find our lives. A person wants and desires something good and natural. Then the Tempter goes to work. We then cross the bridge from yearning to coveting. Then, finally, we end up hating our bodies instead of sin. So, for example, a person is hungry. So he puts a frozen pizza into the oven. Instead of eating a healthy amount, he eats the whole pizza. And afterwards, when his stomach is letting him know that he went too far, he hates what he has done. And instead of hating the Tempter and his own sinful nature, he hates the body that God gave him. It’s true when it comes to hunger. And it’s true when it comes to hormones too. Jesus says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 NIV) And so, a guy sees a woman. What happens first is that he notices her beauty and appreciates it. But then what happens? He crosses the border. Appreciation turns to lust. And finally, what happens. Instead of hating the Tempter and his own sinful nature, he hates the body that God gave him.
If you have a Tempter, then you need a Savior. And look at the Savior you have: “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”” (Matthew 4:4 NIV11-GKE) For 40 days Jesus was hungry. But notice how Jesus was different than we are. Jesus was tempted and tested by the Tempter. But his hunger didn’t enslave himself. And he didn’t hate his own body. Instead he clung to the promises of God’s word completely. And that, my friends is such amazing news. Where Eve stretched out her hand and took the fruit because the hunger got the best of her, Jesus did not. And he did this continually, for 40 days, in our place.
If you have a Tempter, you need a Savior. First, you need a Savior from weakness. But, second, you need a Savior from false worship. We read: “5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”” (Matthew 4:5–9 NIV11-GKE)
In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther asked the question, “What does it mean to have a god?” His answer was: Having a god is “who do you thank when times are good” and “who do you trust when times are bad.” It’s that second category that Satan tempts Jesus in in these words. The Tempter invites Jesus to recklessly and carelessly throw himself off the highest point of the temple, because, after all, there are angels. Then the Tempter invites Jesus to bow down to him. Now, from the outside, that might seem as if it’s the weakest temptation. But, most likely, it’s the worst. Before Jesus is lifted up he needs to harmed and humiliated. Before he rises from death he needs to descend into it. How easy it would have been to bow to the Tempter and not have to worry about the cross and Calvary.
Again, see very quickly and clearly the temptation that the Tempter throws in front of Jesus. Whom will Jesus trust? Will Jesus trust his Father to keep him safe from harm with his angels. And even when there are those times will Jesus trust that his Father will keep his word? When Jesus is perfectly aware of his life draining from him and dripping out of him, will his Father be there for him when he dies? Or will he abandon him?
And each of us faces the same temptation. We face the temptation to abuse God’s care and concern for us or to abandon it. Danger is a part of our every day life. But it’s so easy to abuse it, isn’t it? God has sent his angels to watch over us, so we don’t need to worry. We don’t need to worry about how fast we drive. We don’t need to worry about how much we drink. We don’t need to worry, because, after all, the angels need to do something. And then, on the other side, there are those times that God does allow danger to come to us and affect us. And when that happen, we are ever-so-tempted to conclude that if there’s danger at all, even though God has promised to watch over us, we do not trust him.
And so, if you have a Tempter, you need a Savior. And look at the Savior our Father gives us: “10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matthew 4:10–11 NIV11-GKE)
There is such beauty in that word, “alone.” Worship and serve the Lord…alone. That is what our Father commands and demands of us. But, on the one hand, we abuse his protection of us. And on the other hand, we abandon his promises to us. Here in these words we see a perfect human being worship and serve our Father perfectly in our place. And the result is that all the times we have abused the Father’s protection and abandoned his promises are paid for by both the obedience of this perfect Savior in our place. And they are paid for on a cross where Jesus died on Good Friday.
So if you have a Tempter, you need a Savior. And Jesus is your perfect Savior. Our entire lives are a time of being tested by God and tempted by Satan. During this time of the year and throughout your entire life, cling to Jesus. For since you you have a Tempter, know that you also have a Savior. Amen.
1 “ⲁⲛⲏⲭⲑⲏ…ⲩ̇ⲡⲟⲧⲟⲩⲡ̅ⲛ̅ⲥ̅ⲡⲓⲣⲁⲥⲑⲏⲛⲁⲓ” (Matthew 4:1 GNT-WAS)