Matthew 4, 1-11
Three Offers You Can Refuse
Let’s take a deep breath and open our hearts, mind, soul and spirit to receive the message that God has for us this morning. Let’s focus our thoughts on the mystic presence of the Holy One. Let us pray: Lord God, Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, please let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent. The word “lent” means lengthen, as in-the days are getting longer. In the early church, those who were preparing to be baptized used the season of Lent as an opportunity to make themselves ready to be buried to their old way of life and receive the resurrected life of Jesus Christ in baptism. People continue to use the season of Lent as a time to reflect and practice giving something up. By doing so, it allows us to see and appreciate some of the things we so often take for granted, and that real life is made up of more than just material things. My hope for you is that over the 40 days of Lent, that along with giving up something, that you will also add something: open your Bible and see what God has to say to you. You get two tries if you open to Leviticus, but God will speak to you if given a chance. It might even change your life.
My cousin, The Rev. John Ekstedt, wrote in his book, An Arcadian Vision: Giving Form to Faith, that, “Biblical literacy may mean that when God comes to us we won’t know it. When the truth is in front of us, we won’t see it. And the problem with that is that we may make bad decisions about how we live our lives and deal with others. Or worse, we may make no decisions at all and just drift with the mob…People become part of a mob when they have no opinions of their own, no faith, no conviction, and no confidence.” He goes on to say that “…the lesson for today is to seek Biblical literacy as we follow Jesus on His way to the cross. To study God’s word in order to know what the way of the cross means for us and to recognize the person who is making this journey on our behalf. We should encourage each other to be Biblically literate so that our lives can be better on all levels: the level of knowledge, the level of culture, and above all, the level of faith where the face of God can actually be seen.” So, read your Bible (!), and prepare for the work that God has in store for you!
My question for you this morning is: What is worship? I believe worship should honor God, be directed toward God, and include our involvement as our part of being IN and OF God’s creation. This is part of our being truly human; to worship our Creator God as God’s person, and to be God’s hands and feet in a world that needs God’s help. What is worship?
In Deuteronomy 6, we read, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” And, in Matthew 22, Jesus added, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." So, loving God and our neighbor is a large part of worship and is, I believe, the inner meaning of the entire Bible.
We see, in today’s scripture lesson, Jesus dealing with Satan with what is NOT worship. Jesus is given three offers from Satan that he CAN refuse which are economic, political and spiritual in nature. After Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit, and after Jesus spent forty days and nights in the desert, He is approached by the “tempter” who tries to destroy the claim of Jesus of being the Messiah. After forty days of fasting, the need for food by Jesus was understandably serious. Satan tries to destroy the mantle of the
Messiahship of Jesus, by trying to get Jesus to have doubts about who He is and cave in to worldly temptations. The first and second temptations begin with "the tempter" addressing Jesus: We read that, “Jesus was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Well, we know that Jesus is the Son of God, because we have just been spiritual witnesses to His baptism, by John the Baptist, in the Jordan River. Remember what happened after He was baptized?
We read, in Matthew 3: 16-17, that “As soon as Jesus was baptized, heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” So, WE know “who” Jesus is, but apparently the tempter is trying to get Jesus to have doubts about Himself. Satan’s intent may be to cause Jesus to doubt the truth of God's revelation at his baptism. Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down, For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Well, if we were to look up the verse that Satan is
quoting, we would note that Satan actually misquotes verses 11 and 12, from Psalm 91. They really read, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” By misquoting this Psalm to Jesus, I would say that Satan is really walking on thin ice, because it really reads, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely, he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling--even the LORD, who is my refuge--then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
What a remarkable gift of a Psalm. We could speak that in our worship, anytime! So, it’s strike 2 for Satan. He’s challenged Jesus to create food for himself, and He’s challenged Jesus to use His power to save Himself. These amount to economic power and political power, since Satan’s challenge to Jesus to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple was meant to draw attention to Himself as God’s Son. But Jesus doesn’t take the bait. Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
“Lead us not into temptation.” Temptation, our temptation, often results from perceived legitimate needs. You may say, “I need a better paying job, a nicer home, a bigger car, or better health, fortune or friends. Ask yourself if you have needs that are not being met, and are you tempted to satisfy those needs illegitimately, or even illegally? If we put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes, how would we fare?
Finally in desperation, Satan throws logic to the wind. “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of
the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. It’s strike 3 for Satan, and Jesus says, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" Jesus refuses the three offers of economic, political, and spiritual power that Satan offers Him, and comes back to the point that we began our scriptural study today, and that is; what is worship?
In the end, Jesus tells Satan to, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” Jesus is thus known early in His ministry by what He rejects, what He renounces, and what He gives up, rather than what He affirms, accepts, and receives. We can do no less; in our journey with Jesus, we shall also be known by what we are able to say “no” to for Lent. Sacrifice something for Lent, but also add something. Place the sin, bad thoughts, egotism and hate that we harbor at the foot of the cross of Jesus and humbly add the love of Jesus Christ into your heart of hearts. Lent is a good time to let the word of God blossom in your heart. Read your Bible! And pray, without ceasing!
AMEN!? Amen. Let us pray:
Jan Ekstedt MDiv.