Ascension Lutheran Church

Calgary, AB

First Sunday in Lent

Matthew 4:1-11

[1] Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. [2] He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. [3] The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
[4] But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
[5] Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, [6] saying 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, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
[7] Jesus said to him, “Again it is 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] and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
[10] Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”
[11] Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

On Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26 this year) we entered the season of Lent. It’s a season marked by the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving, intended to help us grow in our faith and love of God, as well as help us prepare for the Easter.

In our tradition Lent is 40 days long (not counting Sundays)—40 being a very biblical number: the number of days and nights it rained during the Flood, the number of years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, the number of days Elijah fasted on his journey to Mount Horeb, and of course the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness.

This gospel lesson reminds us of the struggle we all have with temptation and when we give into temptation, sin. While we are not advised to argue with temptation (or the tempter) as Jesus did, we should follow his example in relying on the truth of God to recognize the lies of temptation.

This is what Jesus does in each of the temptations recorded in the Gospel. He recognizes them and calls them what they are—lies. The lie that God won’t provide, the lie that God can’t be trusted and so must be tested to earn our faith, the lie that the kingdoms of the world are the devil’s to give. Jesus refutes the lies with the truth of God’s word and rejects them and the tempter outright.

Now we hope to follow Jesus’ example, being mindful of what’s going on in and around us, watching for temptations and when they arise to reject them. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes we will fall into temptation and sin before we even realize what we are doing. Other times we will recognize the temptation for what it is, but for whatever misguided reason give into it. And when we do sin, either intentionally or unintentionally, we are called to confess our sin—not to try and explain, rationalize, or justify it, but to simply own it then give it over to God and in exchange receive his forgiveness and grace, pick ourselves up and try again in the power of God to live the lives he has called us to live.