It’s a devastating scene this morning. The devil in the form of a serpent snarls at Eve. He spits venom and lies straight from hell at her. Did God really say? He spewed. You will not surely die. He lied. Satan attacks God’s Word. Tempts them toward unbelief in God. Tempts Eve to suspect that in some way God was dishonest and withholding good things from them.
The devil defiles the woman with lies while Adam idly stands by and watches. It’s not his finest moment. He was called to love her, bring God’s Word to her, lay down his life for her, defend her from every danger. But just look at him. His knees are knocking.
The crunch of that fruit brought about pain, death, and hell. The result of their sin was the corruption of their nature, self-centeredness, shame, and separation from the God of love.
Adam, where are you? What happened to you? What a perfect opportunity to confess his sins. What a perfect opportunity to repent and flee to God for mercy! But no. Adam blames the wife whom God gave him and in so doing blames God for his sin. Eve follows his lead and blames the devil.
Adam was tempted and he failed. And so through one man’s death entered in and so passed to all men because all sinned.
The temptation for us is to be armchair quarterbacks in this tragic story. Oh, what a quivering pathetic lot Adam was, we say. What a failure.
But as we start a new season of Lent, I ask you, how are you responding to the enticements of the devil, the world, and your sinful nature. How are you doing with temptation?
Lead us not into temptation. What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.
The word temptation comes from a Latin root that refers to stretching out, or putting material under tension in order to find out how strong it is. When you put someone to the test you want to see what he is really made of. So what are you made of? How are you doing with temptation?
How is your pride? Compare the time – the sheer amount of hours – you’ve spent confessing your sins to the time you’ve spent being critical of others, spewing poison, and slandering reputations.
Children, when parents discipline you out of great love do you snarl back at them and curse them like the devil himself? Married men, when a woman at work shows special interest in you, does your heart leap and does your mind wander off into lust and impurity?
For those of you who are single. How are you doing when tempted? Are you patient, disciplined, and chaste, always believing in your heart that God is good and kind to you? Or do you mistrust God, and think he is holding out of you.
When debt stacks up, and finances become uncertain, do you give up hope? Are you consumed with worry?
What are you made of? With all the temptation thrown your way - what sort of Christian soldier have you been? What sort of fight did you bring to the devil?
Or did you throw in the towel? What a failure. Weak and wobbly sinners, every last one of us.
But this morning, don’t despair and don’t lose hope. Our holy Gospel today brings good news for spiritual wimps and pathetic losers. Because we see our champion. The Spirit of God pushes Jesus up a mountain to do for you what you could not do for yourself. What Adam could not do. What Israel would not do. To succeed and fight where you have completely failed.
Satan again and again shakes your confidence in God, your knees become wobbly and weak, you gave into despair. But Look at Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” That is to say, “If your God is so great, why would he let you languish like this?” But where you would rely on your own resources he comes back only with the God’s Word. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” In other words, God and his promises are more than enough.
Satan attacks again “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down from the top of the temple…Surely he’ll save you. So just jump and trust. He’s promised to send angels!” Satan is tempting Jesus to look for proof that the Father loves him, but this is no different than unbelief. Jesus fires back “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
And then the final temptation: “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.” But Jesus knows the mission. He knows the Father’s plan for him to suffer for you, to die, and shatter the jaws of hell for you, by rising from the dead. So Jesus fires away and shuts the devil’s mouth “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”
For spiritual losers and wimps there is good news for you. Jesus fights for you. Your sins, your failures, your losses to Satan, would be placed upon him.
At his Baptism he was declared to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. As the scapegoat he was driven into the wilderness to carry your sins all away – to go toe to toe with Satan – to fight to the death – his death upon the cross.
This was the promise given to Adam and Eve in our reading this morning. The Seed to crush the serpents head. To utterly break the tyranny of death by rising on the third day. To announce forgiveness and strength to weak and wobbly disciples.
God clothed Adam and Eve with skins to cover their shame but now he clothes you with the righteousness of his own Son. His obedience is your obedience. His righteousness is your righteousness. His victory over the devil and temptation is your victory over the devil and temptation. After all, he didn’t go out into the wilderness to fight for himself. He fought for you.
He fought for spiritual wimps and losers. And that’s good news for everyone. Because your victory lies with Christ and Christ alone. Your strength is in coming to terms with the reality that you are no match for the devil. But the Lord certainly is. You are weak but he is strong.
In the wilderness he hungered so you could come to his church, and eat and drink to your hearts content. Life giving food and a chalice running over with blood that forgives, pardons, and strengthens you. He went to a desert, a dry place, so you might be brought to where there is Baptismal water that that revives and restores.
This morning join ranks again in the victory march to the altar. A place where angels descend and devils retreat. Declare that God is your mighty fortress. Declare that victory has been won. Declare that Satan’s kingdom has been laid siege and know that one little word can fell him. In the name of Jesus.