First Sunday in Lent

First Sunday in Lent
February 14, 2016
Rev. Mark M. Vickers

Luke 4:1-13 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]” 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]” 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

When I was a younger lad and enjoyed watching the funny things on TV, The Little Rascals was one of my favorite shows to watch. The antics of Alfalfa, Spanky, Darla, Buckwheat, and Petey the dog! Their “almost silent film acting” was as close to slapstick comedy as I was born near. The funny one liners, the black and white filming, and the near racial and social lines that were crossed always brought a level of thought to me that challenged my thinking and my philosophy of life. 

Yet, the one liners that prevailed were words of enlightenment and courage and most of all humor. I borrowed my title for my sermon this morning from one of those “one liners”. Buckwheat, the token “black” child of the group, and Alfalfa, the straight laced “white” child of the group (always wearing a tie, hair slicked back), were skipping school and headed to the fishing hole. Alfalfa and Spanky had left the school property early and encountered Buckwheat on the path to the pond. Buckwheat, sitting on the park bench eating his lunch was asked by Alfalfa to “come and go fishing with us.” Buckwheat, usually the one in trouble and mischievous, looked at both Alfalfa and Spanky and uttered these infamous words, “Satan, get behind me, and don’t push!” 

Buckwheat yielded to the temptation of skipping school and going to the fishing hole! However, Buckwheat gave the credit to Satan!—to the Evil One. He didn’t give in to the fact that he was the one yielding to temptation! He was putting the blame on Satan.  

How often do we, especially during Lent, put that load on Satan? How often do we place the yielding to temptation on the other person? When we entered into our Lenten journey on Ash 

Wednesday, or even today, we must look at how we handle temptation. We must look at how we place our “responsible blame” when we yield to that temptation. Or, how do we react when we don’t yield to that temptation and remain faithful to the call and the plea to be a Lenten Christian on the journey to the cross? 

This morning we have the epitome of the “temptation” texts! This morning we have Jesus, just in the crux of his earthly ministry, having been pulled into the position of temptation by Satan and lured into the wilderness! 

Sound familiar? The wilderness? Another Jewish/Old Testament scenario? The wilderness? What a unique incident. This is a unique incident because so often times we are focused on the temptations of our life being those things that are “bad” for us. In this case, the temptations Jesus encountered were temptations of the “good.” Just think about it for a moment. He was tempted with food. “Turn this stone into bread” was the temptation—not an evil temptation, but rather a temptation that yielded itself to the necessary provision of feeding Jesus’ hunger after being in the wilderness. It was a temptation that was seen as an enticement of something less than the best. In our Lenten journey or for that matter, in our Christian life, we are challenged as Jesus is challenged, not to view that extra piece of chocolate or that extra scoop of ice cream, but rather to see if these “good” things can lure Jesus and us from a focus on God’s will or can lure believers into following a more comfortable Messiah. 

We see this in the other two temptations as well. In promising Jesus the Kingdoms of the world the invitation to rule over the Roman Empire was a slap in the face for Jesus, in that total Kingdom rule was what God so desired. In the third temptation, Jesus refuses to lose his faith and refuses to jump off the temple but goes to the cross with life confidence that God’s will for life will trump the world’s desire to execute him! Thus temptation by those things less than the best have a strong pull on our hearts and our lives. 

Therefore, we are challenged to the world in a new way. Through a life full of temptation we are challenged during Lent to the world and the way we live in the world in a new way. In a textual story that has no witnesses, we as Christians in the world become the witnesses to a Christ that refuses the temptations of all. We live in the realm of a God-given universe, where the Gospel writer of Luke has tied the direct lineage of Jesus to God in the prescription of “If you are God’s Son”—then we have a clearer understanding of God’s Kingdom in which we live. However, if we do our work diligently in the scriptures, we see that the Greek translation implies not the “if” but translates, “Since you are God’s Son,” an acclamation of the lineage and Christology of Jesus. 

It is through this text that Luke encourages and makes claim that evil will NOT rule over Jesus. Therefore God’s saving purpose was meant for the whole world and not for having control over us. Therefore we have a God worth returning to in our times of temptations! One commentator refers to the claim, “God alone is the tempter defeater!”

I pray we lean hard on this claim during Lent and focus on the fact that God through Jesus is our tempter defeater! Buckwheat, even in his lame claim to ask Satan to get behind him and not do what Satan does best, lays claim on the fact that something bigger is going to lead his life! Now, he falls to the temptation to fish, but I feel that he falls to that temptation because he laid claim to the wrong governing official. He laid his claim upon Satan, not on Christ. So, who in our lives must be the governing claim during our Lenten journey? Christ! Christ ,who has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life full of temptation and to disregard these temptations in order to lay claim to the Messiahship and fact that He is the Son of God!

As we journey through Lent, may your life be empowered to resist these claims of temptations and lay your heart on the promise that Jesus is the Son of God and will journey along side of you to Easter morning and beyond!

Amen and Amen!