Tag Archives: temptation

Sermon: Jesus Overcomes Temptation

Temptation is something that we all face. Temptation is something that we all fall to. Temptation is something that we all give in to. Temptation is something that God has done something about. Jesus overcomes temptation — for us.

Jesus being tempted in the wilderness for 40 days followed on the heels of His baptism. His baptism and the subsequent fasting and temptation was the beginning of His public ministry as the Father in heaven audibly spoke of His Son and who He was. “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” These were the words spoken for all to hear at Jesus baptism as the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove. These words of commendation were heard by John the Baptist, and all the other witnesses to Jesus’ baptism. These words were also heard by the devil and all the demons who seek to do the will of the deceiver. In these words, game on was called in the cosmic battle between the all powerful good and the ever nagging evil.

Certainly Satan is aware of God’s pleasure with His only begotten Son. Satan wants to see if he can cause some displeasure to the father and comes to Jesus in the midst of his 40 day fast and we have recorded for us three times he tempts Him. In the first temptation we find a likely hold for satan to wedge into. This man Jesus has been 40 days without food and He is hungry. Here is a clue about Jesus humanity we do well to lay hold of. Jesus was not using His divinity to overcome temptation. If this were the case, Jesus would not hunger but in Luke 4:2 it tells us that at the end of 40 days, Jesus was hungry. Jesus was not using his divine nature attributes to fast or to overcome temptation, he did it for us as a human.

So the first temptation is towards this empty human stomach. Satan comes to Jesus and says, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” This is an obvious temptation to fill the stomach that is growling for food but it is so much more that is being poked at here. The devil is tempting Jesus to doubt that God will provide for His physical needs.

The devil tried to plant doubt in Jesus’ mind.  God has forgotten you.  He is willing to let you die of hunger.  Back when you were baptized, He said that you were His beloved son, but did He really mean it? After all, what loving father would allow his son to wander around hungry in the wilderness? His promises mean nothing to you. Your concern is for bread; forget about God’s Word. Take matters into your own hands.  Don’t rely on God. If you really are the Son of God, God would want you to have bread, wouldn’t He? The devil hoped that thoughts like these would win out in Jesus’ mind when he said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3) Our perfect Jesus would not be undone.

This temptation is still around today. The devil would love us to be convinced that the world has everything we need. That bread and money and status and relationships provide all we need and if we have them in the way we want we will find full and final fulfillment. And we give in to this temptation. We give up trust in God to trust in ourselves to do whatever we can to get whatever we feel we need. We abandon our vows in marriage to satisfy lusts. We fudge the numbers a bit to make the bottom line better for us. We fib in our relationships to make ourselves seem better for others in our lives. The temptation to turn from God’s provision is ever in front of us and we flee from our faith and fall into believing that we can get what we really need on our own. This we do, but not Jesus – Jesus overcomes temptation.

In the next temptation the devil takes and shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment and says, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory for it has been delivered to me, and  I will give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Here a clue that we would do well to pay attention to is given. The devil says “it has been delivered to me” and in this we are reminded of the wretched result of the fall into sin. Adam and Eve turned from God to find what they felt they needed and in doing so the world fell into Satan’s lap. Satan would love Jesus to believe that because the world has fallen it is no longer within the care and concern of the creator. This is false. And Jesus knows it. Satan wants Jesus to turn His back on the father’s plan to save the world and to instead take a place in Satan’s limited reign. Hey Jesus, let’s make peace now, you don’t have to go through the shame and suffering of the cross, I will make peace with you now if you just worship me just once. Can’t we just get along to make this happen?

This temptation is still around today. The devil readily tells us that we can be at peace with all people. All we need do is surrender our faithfulness to God’s Word.  So what if not everyone agrees with the Bible one hundred per cent. The important thing is that we all get along, right? As long as we make this a better world where everyone is happy, we’re all good, right?  That’s the important thing … worshipping the true god is not really that important. The temptation to abandon God’s word for an idea of momentary peace is ever in front of us and we turn from God seeking a limited love that really isn’t a love of others or of God but a love of self. This we do, but not Jesus – Jesus overcomes temptation.

Finally, the devil comes to Jesus quoting scripture. He took Jesus to Jerusalem and put him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’” The devil quotes scripture but only part of scripture. He takes a psalm which proclaims God’s promise of protection and makes it into a psalm of permission – permission to do whatever you want. That’s not what God was saying in Psalm 91. But this is what Satan wanted Jesus to buy into.

This temptation is still around today, we pick and choose what words of God we will listen to and which words we will throw away. Even though Jesus told the disciples to teach all that He commanded, we can only learn so much … and we decide what is enough.  In doing this we forget that telling God that we don’t need any more of His word is the same as telling Him that we don’t need any more of Him. We make ourselves god by editing God’s word of life by finding words that support our way of life or words that make the most sense and leave the rest of His words in a grey area.  This we do, but not Jesus – Jesus overcomes temptation.

The young and young at heart among us are tempted by the flesh – tempted to satisfy the earthly urges we carry whether for filling our stomachs or for satisfying our lusts or by finding earthly comfort, as age causes the novelty of fleshly fulfillment to fall away we are tempted to believe that our standing in the world is of utmost importance and greed and deception seem likely means to deliver us to safety. Those granted a strength of faith by God to rise above and to withstand some of the temptations of the world may be tempted to believe that it is because of their strength of will and resolve that temptation is overcome. We can be tempted to believe that we are able on our own to deliver ourselves from evil. However these attacks may come, we know without a doubt that we all face temptations and we know from experience and from scriptures light, that we cannot face them faithfully alone.

Dear friends in Christ, we are not led into temptation alone. We pray in the Lord’s prayer, lead us not into temptation, and we know that this prayer is being answered. We may sometimes despair feeling the Lord has led us into temptation, but the prayer that Jesus teaches us to pray is a prayer that we would not be led to temptation alone and left to deal with it on our own.

Thanks be to God he does not leave us unarmed for the battle. The first step toward winning in any battle is to realize the reality and the scope of the war that is being waged. To deny temptations exist is to give in to them. We cannot live as if the devil is far away from us leaving us to only wrestle with our minds and by our own strength to overcome temptations. Saying they are not real or not powerful does not make temptations go away or help us overcome them. Overcoming one temptation can leave us to be tempted to believe that it is by our own reason or strength that we have overcome them. Then the tempters attack is no longer to draw us to pervert the world around us but rather to pervertedly believe that we have overcome on our own. The foothold of the temptor becomes even stronger and the attack becomes even more nuanced and dangerous when our faith is placed on our doing rather than in all that is done for us.

Jesus faces temptation perfectly for us. The temptation to doubt God’s provision. The temptation to get along to feel strong. The temptation to pick and choose from God’s word to meet our ends. All these temptations and more, Jesus faced perfectly for us and overcame for us.

We regularly fall to the devil’s lies, but Jesus never did.  Jesus fought back with a strategy that is available to all of us.  He quoted from the Word of God.  Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4) from Deuteronomy 8.  Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:8) from Deuteronomy 6.  Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12) also from Deuteronomy 6.  God’s Word is the weapon Jesus used to stop the devil.  It is the weapon God has given us.  How sad it is that we often doubt this weapon and fail to use it as we should. Jesus used a strategy for fighting temptation that is available to us. But in perfectly overcoming temptation, Jesus gives us more than just a strategy. He gives us Himself.

Today’s Gospel tells us that when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13) This means that the devil did not depart forever, but only until an opportune time.  The devil tempted Jesus over and over again.  He did not quit until Jesus was dead.

Even while Jesus was on the cross, we hear the devil speak through his servants saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matthew 27:40) There is that phrase of doubt once again: “If you are the Son of God …” Even at the cross, the devil still tried to sow seeds of doubt.  Even as Jesus died, He fought off the temptation with the word of God.  His last words were a psalm: “Into your hand I commit my spirit. (Psalm 31:5)

Even on the cross Jesus did not and had not given into temptation. We so often fall to the devil’s lies, but Jesus never did.  Jesus withstood the devil’s temptation for us, in our place.  He is our champion.  He never sinned.  He stayed on the hard road to the cross. And on that cross he took everything from us.

Eventually, the World was given to Jesus again, but not through compromise.  Jesus fulfilled every promise God made.  Jesus withstood the devil himself in the wilderness of hunger.  He endured temptation even to the cross.  Jesus never wavered.  In the end, Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil.  He rose from the dead. He bought us back with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death that we might be His own and live under Him in His Eternal Kingdom.

In Him is the strength to overcome temptation because He has done it perfectly, so too in the eyes of God have we perfectly overcome temptation. We have more than a strategy. We have a new life. We have Jesus. There is no record of our failures to withstand temptation as we are in Christ. On the cross, Jesus took every sin of yours — every time you have abandoned you marriage vows, every number fudged, every relationship fibbed, every false peace sought by compromising God’s word, every ignoring of God’s word — has been taken by the perfect one to the grave. And now His perfection is ours and there is nothing that can keep us from the Father because He has given us everything we need to be with Him.

With His victory on the cross, Jesus earned forgiveness for us. And on the cross he gives us everything he did. His perfect withstanding temptation becomes ours as if we perfectly always overcame temptation. … And because of the cross we have everything that Jesus was. The Holy Spirit brings forgiveness to us and along with it a perfect record in the eyes of God as He works faith in us through Word and Sacrament. And moving forward we have the perfect one with us so that we do not have to use our own thoughts and resources to overcome temptation. No, Jesus overcomes temptation. Every temptation He faced and by the Power of the Holy Spirit, every temptation we face will be overcome by Jesus.

Until we live in eternity with Jesus free from temptation, Jesus overcomes temptation.

In His name. Amen


Sermon: Baptized Into Temptation

Mark 1:13 καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.

From the baptism of John to the temptation of Satan. God’s Spirit drove Christ. At the river Jordan, Jesus of Galilee was baptized by John. Here was one not needing baptism, descending into the murky waters. His perfection and primacy are demonstrated in the rending of the heavens. The heavens are torn open. Ripped at the descent of a dove and the voice of a Father’s approval. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

From this moment the Son of Man, the sinless spotless lamb begins His ministry. His ministry culminates in another rendering of a heavens. The Historian Josephus tells us that there was a beautiful tapestry “inscribed with all the heavenly spectacle.” This large curtain hung in the temple of jerusalem and in Mark 15:38 we see the work of God, the ministry of Christ in the rending of this fabric heavens. The curtain is torn open. Ripped is the barrier that separated man from God as on the cross, that which separates us from God was removed.

From the moment you passed through the waters of baptism, where God gives you the benefits of this rending of the heavens, you have the benefit of hearing the voice of God declare, “you are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” It comes in the words that go like this, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The separation between you and God is removed as you are His.

Christ comes up from the waters of the Jordan at His baptism, the Father and the Spirit appear with him and Christ is immediately driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. There He is tempted by Satan for 40 days. He was with beasts and He was ministered to by angels.

Baptism and temptation don’t seem to go together very well. From the waters of washing to the pressure of temptation. The life of Christ doesn’t demonstrate much separation and neither do our lives. As baptized believers one might think that we are delivered from temptation, but I would suggest that evidence in my life is the opposite. The more I lean on my baptismal grace, the more I realize the temptations around me. Temptations and pressures come at us in a variety of ways. Our daily lives are filled with struggles that make our days difficult and threaten to cloud our view of Jesus.

Children face the difficulties of growing up, making decisions, finding friends, listening to parents. Teenagers face the temptations of living for God when the world loudly encourages a life lived for pleasure and self alone. Singles struggle to find their way in a culture that promotes and caters to families and those in relationships. Parents are tempted to take shortcuts in raising children and to forget that Christ is the center. The older generation among us may be tempted in the midst of loneliness and feeling that life is no longer important or worth living.

Temptations abound in this broken world where sin crouches at every door. Life as a child of God is not lived free from temptation. We are not baptized out of temptation. We are baptized in a world of temptation. We are baptized for temptation because in our baptism we find our source of strength to overcome temptation.

Christ faced temptation and perfectly overcame it for you. Jesus, the perfect one who pleases God was born in the likeness of you and me. He is one of us to save us. He endured what you and I endure. He was tempted as we are tempted. He faced the real pressures of a real person in this real world.


This small scene in Mark is a glimpse into a large scale onslaught that Christ faced. All of the harsh realities of the wilderness tested the human limits of mind, body and soul. This was a hostile environment where loneliness is oppressive, hunger and thirst are constant companions. The beasts and the angels are all he has for company.

The wilderness in these two verses was not the extent of the temptation of our Lord. Throughout his ministry,  he was burdened by the pressures of ministry as he left his family, was rejected by the town that raised him, he was allured by the praises of crowds who didn’t get it. The wilderness temptation was only a prelude to a deluge of temptation that assailed our lord on his road to the cross.

The first recipients of Mark’s Gospel knew about a life of temptation. Their lives were constant facing pressures to abandon their faith. For some their lives ended in martyrdom. Neros burning of Rome in 64 ad was blamed on the Christians leading to the arrest and condemnation to death of many believers. Talk about temptation they were persecuted for their faith by being clothed in the skins of wild animals only to be torn to pieces by wild dogs. Jesus dwelling with the wild beasts probably had a different ring to it for them than it did for us. Some of the Christians were covered with tar and set on fire to light Neros courtyards and gardens at night.

And what about today? Christians in the Middle East are being killed by Islamic militants. We don’t face death but Christians who are in the world of academics are often considered to be committing academic suicide when they confess a Christian worldview. Our careers and livelihoods are not on the line but we are tempted to quietly live out our faith hoping it will not offend those around us, lest we have to defend our faith. As baptized children of God we are tempted.

Jesus never promised this would be easy. Life with him is a treacherous existence. Parents who baptize their children without looking at the implications of a life with Christ are often playing into Satan’s hands. Same with confirmation. To take a vow and then take a break is only inviting a complacency that could lead to destruction. Our faith is more than a formula, it is a formation. It is a lifetime of walking with the one who walked perfectly for us.

Satan’s cunning invitations trick us all the time. The evidence of our following his deceptive voice is all around us. Husbands and wives cast their marital commitments aside believing the grasses are greener on the other side of the fence. Individuals wallow in self pity because they are convinced bad things only happen to them. Many are fooled into thinking that drugs, alcohol, and sexual satisfaction will solve or help forget serious problems.

What about you? Where is your temptation? Do you know the strength to overcome temptations lies outside of you? D you sometimes feel as if you have been baptized into temptation? Do you know the strength to overcome is found in the one who was baptized and driven into temptation? What you need in your temptations is the one who overcame temptation, living perfectly for you. Died undeservedly for you. And rose triumphant for you.

Our savior withstood the temptation. He did not crumple when faced with the pressures and temptations of this broken world. He endured perfectly so that he could fix it. And fix it he did. By tearing the curtain, the heavenly looking drapery that separated man from God was removed. By tearing the flesh with the piercing of the nails and the spear in the side. Your sins were punished as God tore his sight away from the filth on the cross. The temptations that you have succomed to have lost their power. The accusing luring of the devil cannot take you from that which was won there on the cross for you.

God has seen you in your need. He has seen you like a bent and broken reed. He has promised not to break you. He restores you by sending His son who proclaimed and claims the Gospel for you. The kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe. This is for you a reality. Your repentance and your faith mean gospel for you. Good news for you. Your temptations will come but Jesus has won. So when satan points his finger at you and calls you a failure you can point to the cross and show him where it’s been put. Failures are ended there.

When satan directs his temptations your way, remember your bapstim. Remember you are cleansed and renewed and strengthened by them. His work is washed out as you are in Christ.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who was running across a field on a beautiful day. Suddenly he fell into an old abandoned mine shaft. Down at the bottom the shaft became very narrow and he was wedged in. He couldn’t free himself from the cold, damp, dark, and tight space. Desperate he shouted for help. People came to the top of the mine shaft and reassured him “everything will be all right. we will get you out. God will take care of you…”

None of those well meaning words could free the boy. It was only when they tied a strong rope to a strong man and lowered him into the shaft that the boy knew he was being helped. The mans strong hands grasped the boy’s shoulders and held tight as the two were pulled back to the top of the shaft.

This is what God has done for you. He doesn’t simply coach you from a distance speaking words of encouragement and direction. He doesn’t simply speak calming ineffective words. He has come and grabbed you by the shoulders wrenching you from the predicament of sin. You are rescued from certain demise. Your situation is made right by Him.

Yet still we are facing temptation and we are waiting that final deliverance from this valley. Christ’s return will be a great and glorious, you-won’t-miss-it reality. And on that day with Christ finally and fully satan’s voice will no longer reach us.

Take heart. You are not left alone in this struggle. You are baptized. You are clothed with Christ. God has put Him on you and He is your strength. His goodness is yours.

May you be strong in Him today.