First Sunday in Lent 2016 – Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness
If you are under the age of 18 and living at home, here is the very first thing to remember about lent.
Go home today and pick up your socks.
Now, you may think that picking up your socks has nothing at all to do with lent,
But I assure you that going home and picking up your socks is at the very heart of the battle between good of evil, and here’s why.
The very first thing that Jesus does in the very first book of the Bible is create order.
Scripture says that things are a mess. It is וּהּבֹּ֫וּ וּהתֹּ֫, it is formless and void.
But Jesus comes and Jesus speaks. “Let there be light….
And water and sky and stars and land and sea…
And plants and animals and birds and fish and Adam and Eve.
So the very first thing that Jesus does in the very first book of the Bible is pick up everybody’s socks.
The very first thing God does is create order.
Life is really this simple: chaos is the mark of things evil, and order is the mark of things divine. Chaos is the mark of things evil, and order is the mark of things divine.
Check the gospel for today. Jesus starts lent with everything in good order.
He was born of the Virgin Mary,
He was presented in the temple,
He obeyed his mommy and his daddy,
He was baptized in the Jordan river
He embraced the words of his heavenly Father
He followed the Holy Spirit, even when the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness. That is order.
Now he has been fasting for forty days and forty nights.
And as you know, in the Church, fasting is a classic way to encourage order.
From forever, it has been a way to order body, mind, soul, and spirit.
Now, all of that order today is just too much for Satan to bear, just as it was too much for him to bear in the Garden of Eden.
When he slithered up to Adam and Eve, and lured them into scattering their socks everywhere.
Disordering what was a beautiful, wonderful, holy, divine thing. The most beautiful place that God had built.
Fast forward today in the wilderness.
The devil offers Jesus the very same thing he offered Adam and Eve in Eden.
The devil offers Jesus a shortcut.
It’s not a bad way to go if you are a tempter.
After all, you and I are practical people.
And if we can save a little time or spare ourselves just a little bit of pain
We will do it. You and I, by nature, we like shortcuts.
It always starts so well.
We’ve been baptized at the font.
We are pulled out of chaos, and we are set into order
The order of creation, and the order of the church.
We are made sons and daughters of the King, and it could not be better!
We are set on our way home to paradise.
We embrace our heavenly Father’s words
We follow the Holy Spirit’s lead.
But then comes the wilderness.
We go back outside these doors and back into a world where things are mean and sinful and dishonest and unjust,
And we suffer.
And then, when we grow tired of suffering,
We like Adam and Eve, are teased by this notion that we could find a better word and a better way.
We are always teased by this notion that we could be better gods than God.
Because in the midst of suffering, it may seem like this Divine Order is stealing our freedom or spoiling our fun.
And somehow, it’s so appealing to have our socks all over the floor.
And this is what the devil suggests to Jesus today.
God is here to ruin your fun, to steal your success, God is here to waste your life.
But I can offer you a great shortcut!
I can ease your pain.
I can get you to where you want to go – much more quickly, much more safely, and in a way that is much more happy.
So here is the devil’s best deal:
If you want bread and strength, break the order of your fast.
If you want power and glory, break the 1st commandment and worship me.
If you want to be a popular, miraculous, successful Messiah, tempt God and jump from the top of the temple.
Whether you see it or not, there’s comfort in this story.
You may remember one thing that Scripture has taught us about evil is that evil always overreaches.
Satan always overestimates his own capacity.
And so he does it here again today, and that’s how you can be certain that he will lose.
You might think about it this way.
Once, when someone came to me, troubled by a sin that was repetitive and addictive, I wrote this person a prescription.
I gave this person an image for their eyes, a word for their lips, and a cross for their hands.
It’s very difficult to be sinning, especially with something repetitive and addictive, when your eyes are busy, your lips are busy, and your hands are busy, with the things of God.
It’s classic care of the soul stuff.
It is a way to order life. It puts the eyes and mouth and hand in order, and that helps you through temptation.
Now watch what happens with the devil when he comes to Jesus.
He tries the same thing in his own perverted way.
He actually gives Jesus an image for his eyes. He shows Jesus the glory of the world that God has created and he sets that against the backdrop of the cosmos.
The devil actually gives Jesus a Scripture (an out of context Scripture) for his lips: “His angels will bear you up.”
And that, then, reminds Jesus of two more: “Man doesn’t live by bread alone, and you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”
And finally, the devil actually gives Jesus a cross for his hand.
Jesus is so repulsed at the notion of disordering his life, of breaking his fast, of tempting God, of worshiping Satan,
All that is so reprehensible, so evil, so unthinkable
That Jesus turns and sets his face toward Jerusalem and follows the word of his Father and the way of his Holy Spirit, and it takes Him to the cross, where nails go through his hands.
This is, perhaps, why Luther says that Satan sometimes does God’s best work. When Satan overreaches, he sets himself up for destruction.
And now Jesus, with an image and a word, and a crucifix chooses not to save Himself, but to go to Golgotha and save all of us who would take the shortcut.
It is the triumph of good over evil, it is the triumph of order over chaos.
So go home and pick up your socks.
Not because your socks are a demonic threat, but because that tells a story: a story about the beauty of creation and divine order, a story about the pain of chaos, a story about the temptation to take shortcuts, and make ourselves God.
It tells us about the blessing of our Father’s words, the joy of the Spirit’s way.
It can be for you an image, born from the Word, nailed to the cross this
And most of all, a reminder of the love that sends Jesus to the cross this lent for all of you.
Forgiving you, and soothing you, and healing you, and leading you, all the way back home to Eden.
Special thanks to Rev. Dr. Scott Bruzek, who, in addition to being my chief pastoral and preaching mentor, is the inspiration for so much of my Lenten preaching, particularly this and the Ash Wednesday sermon.