Luke 4:1-13 by Rev. Jim Stickney

St. Alban’s Church Deuteronomy 26: 1 – 11
March 6, 2022 Psalm 91
First Sunday in Lent Romans 10: 8b – 13
Pastor Jim Stickney Luke 4: 1 – 13

“Come quickly to help us, who are assaulted by many temptations”
When I was a novice in seminary, we inherited a tradition very rich in names,
including a name for a high hill which was planted with grape vines.
During harvest season, we would trudge up the sides of this hill, time and again,
carrying back buckets of grapes, until we reached the crest, where we rested.
The view from the top was amazing, and we called the hilltop “Tibi dabo,”
from two Latin words meaning “I will give to you.” The reference was
to the Gospel passage we heard this morning, in which the devil tempts Jesus
by saying: “To you will I give their glory and all this authority.”
I’m actually getting a little ahead of myself in this sermon — I should tell you
that I’m preaching on temptation, and how our struggles with temptation
can be helped by the example of Jesus, by looking at the ways He was tempted.
“Come quickly to help us, who are assaulted by many temptations”
The Gospels display a refreshing honesty about Jesus being tempted as we are.
They place these temptations squarely at the start of Jesus’ ministry —
after his Baptism by John, but before any miracles, or parables, or signs of healing.
It’s as if Jesus needed to confirm the astounding experience of his Baptism,
when the heavens were ripped open and God’s spirit descended on him —
so right after the Baptism Jesus spends some time [40 days] in deserted places.
Although Matthew and Luke speak of three temptations right after Jesus’ fasting,
that’s probably a summary statement — Jesus must have been tempted
throughout his ministry to misuse his power and to take the easy way out.
First, If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.
On one level, this temptation is matched to a person who’s ending a long fast.
The devil tempts Jesus to do something rather trivial with divine power.
Notice here that not one Gospel miracle was done to take care of Jesus’ own needs.
Right there, we are challenged not to put our own hungers in first place.
But there’s another, more subtle part of this temptation: the little word “if.”

“If you are the Son of God” — If you are really the child of a loving God —
Prove to me, the diabolic voice sneers, that any of you are perfect followers of Jesus!
What a trap that is, trying to prove (to the enemy of our human nature)
that we are really daughters and sons of God. We need to realize that nothing we do
can ever demonstrate (to any hostile spirit) that we are flawless and perfect.
Whenever you encounter a temptation to doubt that you’re made in God’s image,
don’t look to your own work to justify yourself, but rather to God’s work.
On our own, we’ll be full of “ifs” and “not enoughs.” Let our trust be in God.
“Come quickly to help us, who are assaulted by many temptations”
The second temptation puts us back on this conceptual mountain top
with the tempter ordering Jesus to worship him, to obtain worldly riches and power.
Jesus quotes Scripture (for the second time) to reply to this temptation:
“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” How might this apply to us?
Are there other gods clamoring for our worship and allegiance?
We know about the obvious false gods of money and status and fleeting fame.
But I remember, back in Gulliver’s Travels, about the tiny Lilliputians.
They observed that before Gulliver did anything important, he took out his watch.
He did this so much, they concluded that Gulliver’s watch must be his god.
Now, unlike Adam & Eve, Jesus doesn’t reply directly to the tempter’s words.
Jesus simply quotes Scripture. So Jesus doesn’t engage the tempter to challenge
that demonic, false statement, that “all glory and authority belongs to me (the devil).”
Sadly, many Christians have gone along with the devil on this point, believing
that Satan is the ruler of this world, just because he says so. That’s simply a damn lie!
The devil doesn’t own anything! The entire world belongs to God — and to us,
insofar as we are faithful stewards of the good and abundant blessings of this world.
“Come quickly to help us, who are assaulted by many temptations”
Lastly, we come to the temptation to jump off the pinnacle of the temple —
a desperate and rather pathetic invitation. But it does introduce a new twist,
in that the devil quotes Holy Scripture for evil purposes. Sadly many Christians
follow this demonic example, by turning Bible verses into arrows and barbs
with which they can fight with other Christians about who is more faithful & holy.

You might recall the lines from Psalm 91 which we sang after the first reading,
about the angels protecting you, that you not dash your foot against a stone.
Jesus is not about to “put the Lord your God to the test,” and the devil departs,
we are told, until an opportune time — an ominous note, a foreshadowing
of what Jesus says later on in Luke’s Gospel [22: 53]. When he is arrested, Jesus says:
“This is your hour and the power of darkness.”
We are assaulted by many temptations, but even when we feel we’re at our worst,
we know the Son of God was tempted just as we are: and so we pray:
“Come quickly to help us, who are assaulted by many temptations”