Saturday, March 8, 2014

The First Sunday in Lent

The Sunday of the Temptation

For 40 days, Goliath, a fierce and murderous giant of the Philistines, comes out to slay the people of Israel. Saul and all the Israelites shook in their sandles, knees wobbled in fear at the very sight of Him.

Only a young Shepherd boy from Bethlehem is up for the challenge. This shepherd, and keeper of sheep walks boldly into enemy territory armed only with the Words and promises of God. And this Shepherd from Bethlehem takes his sling and hurls a stone between the giants black eyes. This hellish giant falls to the ground and the holy people of God erupt and shout for victory. The shepherd boy of Bethlehem runs to the dead giant and finishes him off by lopping off his ugly head with a sword.  He holds his tropthy high and the Israelites cry out even louder songs of victory. David leads the people in a procession and carries the severed bullies head to Jerusalem to proclaim the victory that God had won. All the people began to say, "who is this man, and whose son is he?" He is destined of course to be King of Israel.

This morning we see another battle taking place. Jesus is anointed to be a different sort of king in the waters of the Jordan River. He is still dipping wet as the Spirit leads him to the front lines of hell to do battle against another tyrant – another bully who will not leave God’s people alone – Satan himself. And another shepherd from Bethlehem steps forward to challenge the hellish giant.  Just like Goliath who waged war for 40 days, the greater Goliath Satan, unleased spiritual warfare upon the Son of God for 40 days and 40 nights. He hurled everything he had and shot all his fiery darts at Jesus.  “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. If you are the Son of God, save yourself.”  The devil finally snarled and took him to the top of the mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, saying “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Jesus, armed only with the weapons and armor of God’s Word, fired right back at him, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  When tempted, Jesus took out his sling and fired back, saying “Again it is written, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” When the devil offered him power and riches and glory for himself, Jesus reached back and slung the rock of God’s Word between the devils beady eyes, and he hit the dust. “It is written. You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

Up on top of another high mountain Jesus will crush the head of the giant serpent as promised in Genesis chapter 3.  In the same way that David carried the severed head of Goliath to Jerusalem, now we see Jesus severe the giants head by the sword of his holy cross.  A shepherd from Bethlehem is God’s Son and our mighty king – a Crucified King.  A shepherd warrior king who goes out to battle Satan and puts his belly on the dust, as promised by God in the beginning.

God fights for you and wins. He knows what spiritual losers we are. Like Saul and the Israelites he knows how wobbly and weak you can be in the face of danger.  Our Lord knows that we can be a bunch of spiritual wimps. He knows how wobbly we are in our faith.  When it comes to battling the devil you have not put up much of a fight.  And barely even a whimper. When Satan speaks you listen. When Satan tempts you, you give in. When tempted to give up on God, you are all too eager to take a few weeks off from church or to give up on prayer and study of God’s Word altogether.  

Repent. You have never been the fighting type. But rejoice for there is one who fights for you. When you caved into temptation, Jesus didn’t give in. When you refused to speak God’s Word Jesus spoke it for you.  When you retreated, Jesus held his ground. Jesus fights for wobbly, weak kneed sinners. Jesus fights for the likes of you. He is tempted for you, endures for you. Suffers for you, dies for you.  He rises victoriously from the jaws of death for you.

Satan is cast out and demons are destroyed by His rising.  And today he speaks words of forgiveness and healing to you. He arms you with His Word and Spirit.  He strengthens you with a victory meal of his holy body and blood.    

The Lord is your shepherd who leads you beside the still waters of baptism. He restores your soul. Ye, thou you walk through the wilderness and in the valley of shadow of death you will fear no evil. His cross comforts you. Goliath is dead and his head is lopped off. Satan is cast down to hell and you no longer belong to him. You belong to God.  You belong to your shepherd king from Bethlehem who is the Son of God. The one promised before the foundation of the world. You belong to Jesus.

He has done all things well for you. You can stare down death, hell and Satan himself knowing that for those in Christ the battle has already been won.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.   

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