SERMON FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, 2-22-2015
MATTHEW 4:1-11
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He is hungry. He hasn’t eaten for forty days and forty nights. In His hunger and physical weakness, the devil comes like a venomous snake to strike at vulnerable prey.


Jesus is tempted, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” The devil used food as a means of deception against the first man. Adam was told by God not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they would die. The devil told Eve, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve ate from the forbidden tree, but the sin is rightly charged to Adam.


Yes, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to good and evil. Yet, in this act, they sinned against God. That day death entered the world. Death was not part of the God’s will or His creation. What God created was created to last forever. However, the devil rebelled and infected a perfect creation and now death is a reality for all of humanity.


The devil uses deception with lies and empty promises. He deceives us to believe that a simple action will grant us a great benefit. The eyes of Adam and Eve were opened. They were able to see good and evil. What the devil did not tell them is that their relationship with God would be compromised.

SERMON FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, 2-22-2015
MATTHEW 4:1-11
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He is hungry. He hasn’t eaten for forty days and forty nights. In His hunger and physical weakness, the devil comes like a venomous snake to strike at vulnerable prey.


Jesus is tempted, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” The devil used food as a means of deception against the first man. Adam was told by God not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they would die. The devil told Eve, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve ate from the forbidden tree, but the sin is rightly charged to Adam.


Yes, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to good and evil. Yet, in this act, they sinned against God. That day death entered the world. Death was not part of the God’s will or His creation. What God created was created to last forever. However, the devil rebelled and infected a perfect creation and now death is a reality for all of humanity.


The devil uses deception with lies and empty promises. He deceives us to believe that a simple action will grant us a great benefit. The eyes of Adam and Eve were opened. They were able to see good and evil. What the devil did not tell them is that their relationship with God would be compromised.


The devil came to Jesus with the same trick. The devil knew Jesus could easily turn stones into bread. Even in His state of hunger and weakness. For Jesus to turn stones into bread was as easy as Eve grabbing fruit from the forbidden tree. Since the beginning of God’s creation, the devil has seen people fall into sin. He never lost in tempting every man and woman in sin. The devil truly believed he could lead Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, into the same consequence of sin.


The devil’s second and third temptations were just as deceptively sweet and tempting as the first one. The devil brought Jesus “on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” The devil was twisting the Word of God. He was quoting a Psalm and omitted “to guard you in all your ways.” This Psalm speaks of God’s protection from dangers that approach the righteous, not testing God to see if He will really do what Scripture promises!


The devil wanted Jesus to test whether God’s power is available to protect and save him. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, fell into this temptation of testing God. They were thirsty and without water. God had already provided them Manna for food. Yet, they failed to trust God and began to grumble to Moses. Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” The Israelites were testing the availability of God’s power and whether He would protect and save them.


The third and final temptation is directly connected to the first commandment; “You shall have no other gods.” After showing Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, [from] a very high mountain,” the devil “said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’” The devil was tempting Jesus to worship him as an easy out. “Worship me and I will give you all that you can imagine.” Jesus was tired, weak, and hungry. His Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” and then the Holy Spirit led him into a desolate desert. The devil’s temptation was everything that many believed the Messiah would grant himself: an earthly monarch and earthly pleasures. This temptation avoided, “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, [and] hunger.” The devil’s way of sin would lead Jesus into a way of immense fleshly pleasures and desires. To sin is to bow down at the feet of Satan. For Jesus, this would have been a way to avoid the cross.


The devil tempts us with what He cannot provide. Jesus knew the devil did not have “all the kingdoms of the world” to give. Those belong to God. Jesus knew the devil’s way did not avoid afflictions and hardships as promised. The devil’s way leads to afflictions and hardships in sin, which keeps us separate from God. This is different than the afflictions and hardships we face because of faith in Christ. The consequence of sin is brought on by our own sinful condition. We have no one to blame but ourselves; whereas the trials and tribulations brought by God are in love. Many times we are unable to understand God’s ways, but we are called to trust Him. God brings trials and tribulations to the Christian, as He brought these to His only Son. In our Epistle reading, Paul speaks of these things leading to great endurance. The book of James echoes Paul, “Count it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”


Each one of us has fallen into these temptations. We are daily tempted to turn stones into bread. We look for the shortcuts of life and pursue them selfishly. We are tempted to cheat on our taxes, exaggerate on our resumes, disregard people’s feelings for selfish gain, or some other way to gain an advantage. We daily fall into sin. Overtime, in our attempt to turn stones into bread every shortcut comes with a cost. Every bite of a forbidden fruit compromises a relationship elsewhere. What we try to gain from avoiding afflictions and hardships, we lose in relationships.


When we sin against God, we hurt our relationships with each other. The devil saw Adam and Eve blame each other after they sinned against God. The devil saw the Israelites test God and blame Him and Moses. Now, the devil sees our sins hurting those around us; friends and family. Like Jesus, we are tired, weak, and hungry. Life often is a desolate desert that leaves us feeling abandoned. In our weak state of being, we continue to be affected by fruit from the forbidden tree. We justify our actions and deny the ramifications of our behavior. Still, it’s death that is a constant reminder of what’s to come.


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the good news is that salvation is found in the wilderness. There is one that has not eaten from the forbidden tree. He lived a perfect life. The devil was unable to tempt him into sin. The epic battle that took place in the wilderness was the devil’s first loss. Jesus never fell into sin, but was placed on a tree and died a forbidden death. There He bruised the devil’s head. He hung on the cross and appeared to have nothing, but He possessed everything! He was the only One without sin and did not deserve death. The devil tempted Him again on the cross, “Let him save himself, if he is the Son of God, and let him come down from the cross!” But Jesus did not look for shortcuts. He did not turn stones into bread to avoid the cross. Instead, in the moment of temptation, He protected us and remained on the cross. He perfectly served His Father for our sake by dying for us. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!”


In our Baptism we partake in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our sins have been forgiven because Jesus shed His blood for us. We have been covered with Jesus and His perfect life. The account of His life free of sin is now our life. Our relationship with God, that was destroyed, is new in the forgiveness found in Christ. Now, through the Son of God, we are children of God. We have been washed clean of our sins by the blood of Christ who gives “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, [and] genuine love.” We have been made new in Christ “by truthful speech, and the power of God.” In His coming judgment, He sees us as His children and He will announce to us, “This is my beloved son or daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” We have received the grace of God in the waters of our Baptism through His Son.


In the wilderness of life, the Son of Gods calls us to Himself. In our weakness, He speaks the strength of God’s Word. In our tiredness, He gives us rest. In our hunger, we receive Christ as eternal bread. In our thirst, we are covered by the waters of Baptism. We have been given a well in our wilderness. A well “full of grace and truth; it never fails no matter how much we draw from it.” In Christ, our wilderness is turned into a garden. In Christ, the devil has been defeated. In Christ, we have been made new before God. What God creates is created to last forever. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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