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The First Sunday in Lent - February 26, 2023

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

[Genesis 3:1] Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

[Matthew 4:1-11] Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God…”


The Victory Is Won

““If you are the Son of God…” “If.” “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to be bread.” “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” “If.”

“Did God really say…” “Did God really say you may not eat of any tree in the Garden?”

“Did God really say that?” “Would God really say that?” “It’s in Scripture.” “But couldn’t that be man’s opinion? Does that really apply today? Did God really say?”

​Eve answers the devil’s craftily worded and deceitful question - “Did God really say…” - and ends up in a dialogue that goes down a rabbit trail away from anything God had said. God really had said not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - Eve says so herself - yet, to eat from it now appears to be the wiser course…

​Even in our mind, we might wonder, “What could be wrong with knowledge? What was God trying to hold back from us?” Yet, to know something isn’t just to know about it but to be intimately acquainted with it.

​Adam and Eve are created in a state of righteousness, purity, and innocence. To become intimately acquainted with evil - “knowledge of good and evil - is not an improvement.

​But the devil takes Eve down the rabbit trail of “did God really say…” “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

​What should’ve brought pleasure - what should’ve brought wisdom - what should have opened their eyes, enlightening them - it did open their eyes… to sin and shame, to a darkened reality.

​Now, in their new found human wisdom they are afraid of the voice of God, flee from Him - they flee from knowledge of God, from being intimately acquainted with Him. They seek to make their own covering - of fig leaves - a more painful covering to clothe self-wrought shame.

​Not just high up elites - not just world or social leaders - not just the “experts” - but also every person has a human wisdom they see best fit to follow which comes after giving heed to that question, “Did God really say…”

​Some call theirs education. Others call theirs ‘common sense’. Each has their own news station and radio commentators. Neither is wisdom.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” [Psalm 111:10]

​On one side, man casts off God’s Word. On the other side, man speaks man’s wisdom in the name of God’s Word. And most will have some agreement with God’s Word up to a point.

​Whether its a conversation about politics or a mom and dad giving advice to their children, at some point our human wisdom seems superior, in our minds, to God’s Word. And when God’s Word is interjected to correct our course, we respond with “Did God really say…”

​There isn’t a sure way offered in this world to our right or to our left - and (for you adult children) even mom and dad’s wisdom and common sense need to be evaluated, and sometimes even corrected, by the Word of God your Father. Sometimes, today’s full-grown errors began as seedling errors in generations past.

​God is our God - that’s more than anything someone or something else can be to us. God is our Creator - He is our Savior - He is our Helper and Comforter. His love is beyond all measure. His Word is the sure and certain good thing for us. And there is no other place to have His Word except in Holy Scripture.

​The devil first tempted us by calling into question what God really said to us and whether or not it was really good - “Did God really say…” In our Gospel today, the devil tempts our Lord Jesus by calling into question His identity in relation to God His Father. If you are the Son of God…” “If.”

​That little word “if” is so destructive. “If you are a child of God” then why is x, y, and z happening to you? The devil, the world, and my sinful nature will use every bad thing that’s going on - and every bad thing I’ve ever done - to call to mind that question, “If”. “If He loves me…” “If He really exists…” “If I’m really His…”

​This “if” goes along with “did He really say…” But brothers and sisters, God did say. In your Baptism, God did say, “You are mine.” You are His. You were called by name. In His Gospel, God says, “You are forgiven.” You are forgiven. He has declared it. God has called Himself your Father, making you His child.

​Jesus overcame the tempting voice of the evil one. He knew, even hungry in that wilderness, the word God spoke to Him in His baptism in the Jordan river - “You are My beloved Son. With You I am well pleased” [Mark 1:11]. He believed His Father’s words, not the devil’s “if”.  

​Jesus believes God’s Word. The devil flees. Yet, three years later, while Jesus hangs upon the cross, that same “if” is repeated once again, one last time. And Jesus again prevails.

“If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross…” “He saved others; he cannot save himself… He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.” [Matthew 27:40-43]

​Jesus is victorious over this temptation. To be the Son of God is to stay on the cross - to die there for and in the place of God’s future children, you and me, and for the whole world. And He stayed on that cross in faith that God would raise Him on the third day.

​Jesus is victorious over the evil one’s “if” and “did God really say…”

​In your birth from Adam and Eve, their failure in the face of temptation defined you. In your Baptism, Jesus’ victory over temptation now defines you and determines your future course.

​The temptations of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh still assault us, but they don’t get the victory over us. Jesus has won the victory over temptation, and His victory is yours. Though there are many battles, the war is already won. You are victors in Christ already. Soon this flesh will be gone. What Jesus has accomplished is all that will be left.

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” [1 John 4:4]. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”[Matthew 24:35]. “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” [1 John 5:4].

​You are baptized to be those people who believe God’s Word - both His Law and His Promises, His commandments and His Gospel of forgiveness - the whole of Scripture. All these things God really has said and those who believe them have the victory. Amen.  

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