“Who Provides?”

Lent 1, Year A, March 1, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

 

Matthew 4:1-11

 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

 

1

 

Prayer.

 

The Word of God is way more mysterious than we give God credit.

 

The Word is God’s literal words.

The Word is God’s truth, given through history, complete with a mixture of direct commands, truth, symbols, metaphors, and myth.

 

There’s more:

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

The Word is Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

There’s even more:

The Word is sacred, Holy Scripture.

The Word is the Bible, which has been shaped by church leaders over the centuries into a collection of books and letters.

The Word of God is translated from one language to another, many times, over thousands of years, in numerous cultural settings and contexts.

The Word of God is as tempting as a juicy apple to take out of context and use to support personal beliefs and biases.

The Word of God can be used as a weapon, or as a means of God’s grace.

 

There is more than any of us can imagine.

 

I humbly dismount my high horse,

And invite you to do the same.

Let us swallow our pride,

Give room for God to speak,

And listen for His whisper.

 

 

Matthew’s Gospel reports that,

Following his baptism,

Jesus was led by the Spirit

Into the wilderness

To be tempted by the devil. (4:1)

 

Because Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit,

I’m inclined to believe his temptation is part of a larger divine plan,

One that we can not fully see or comprehend;

A plan shrouded in mystery,

Which may or may not be fully revealed.

 

Our Creator, through his imminence, presence and intimate love,

Is working for our individual and collective wellbeing.

The Spirit leads Jesus to the wilderness for our wellbeing.

The Temptation of Jesus is the benchmark start to Lent and it serves for our benefit.

 

The setting is wilderness,

We assume just up the hill from where Jesus had been baptized.

Wilderness is a place without sustenance or comfort.

It’s a place of danger; where one can become a victim in a New York minute.

40 days in the wilderness is a long, long time.

Fasting this length of time leaves Jesus uncomfortable and weak.

 

The devil.

Satan, as he is named,

Confronts an uncomfortable and weak Jesus.

The playing field is intentionally set on unequal ground;

Tilted in favor of evil.

 

It doesn’t matter how you interpret the devil,

Whether he is a personified male named Satan,

Sporting horns, wings, and sharpened trident;

Or, whether you understand Matthew’s text to be a symbolic metaphor of evil.

The result is the same:

Every disciple of Jesus must be told the truth, that

Evil is a very real and dangerous threat to God and God’s people.

 

Life and death is held in the balance:

If evil wins, darkness takes over, and we die.

If goodness wins, the light of Jesus Christ shines, and we live!

The conflict is winner take all.

No second place.

No whining.

No excuses.

No victims.

 

The choice is ours:

Fight evil with everything we’ve got, or,

Suffer the consequences.

 

 

With such blatant, open defiance opposing our God,

How are we to fight back against evil and

The attacks of the devil?

 

A weakened, uncomfortable Jesus shows us the way.

 

  1. First, if you’re going to use scripture as a sword,

Use it to slay the devil.

Never us scripture to slay one another.

 

Jesus counters each temptation with

“It is written …”

“It is written …”

“It is written …”

Three times Jesus returns the thrust and parry of the devil

By going back to the foundation of the Word,

Scripture, for his defense and strength.

 

Therefore, beloved fellow sister and brother followers of Jesus,

Learn scripture.

Become scripture’s most dedicated, life-long student.

Study scripture inside and out,

Cover to cover,

Starting with the Gospels:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Just when you or I think we know all there is to know about scripture,

Have a slice of humble pie.

Get back to the Word.

 

The only means of discerning the mind of Christ and the will of God

Is through the study of scripture,

Meditation upon scripture,

Prayer through scripture,

Devotions with scripture.

 

My goal?

To know the Gospel so thoroughly

I become the Gospel.

That’s what John Wesley would call “perfection.”

 

  1. A weak, fasting Jesus shows us the way to confront temptations:

Yield nothing to sin, evil, or the devil.

Nothing.

No compromise.

No negotiation.

Not one inch of God’s kingdom.

Nada. No. Nothing.

Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

 

Compromise is as good as surrender.

Surrender is death.

 

Even in his weakened state,

Jesus refused to yield, and

So, too, should we.

 

Through his stubborn refusal,

Jesus reveals to us how evil truly works in the world.

 

Evil is more dangerous than plutonium.

Evil is as seductive as opioids are to an addict, or booze is to an alcoholic.

Evil is in search of justification to explain away its motives.

Evil makes excuses.

Evil camouflages power, prestige, and wealth as entitlements,

Or, as signs of God’s blessing,

Instead of revealing the naked, ugly truth about sin.

Evil must be aggressively, relentlessly indicted.

 

  1. Jesus shows us the way.

The words and actions of Jesus clearly reveals who provides for our every need.

 

Only the Lord provides.

 

The devil tempts Jesus to “provide for yourself.”

“Command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

To which Jesus replies, “God is my provider.”

We live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (4:3-4)

 

Only the Lord provides.

 

The devil tempts Jesus a second time, “let’s see if God provides.”

“Throw yourself down, … command his angels … on their hands they will bear you up.”

To which Jesus replies “My faith is in the Lord my God”.

“I don’t need to put my faith to the test. (4:6-7)

 

Only the Lord provides.

 

The devil tempts Jesus a third time, “let me provide for you.”

“All the kingdoms of the world I will give you,

if you fall down and worship me.”

Jesus replies, “That’s not going to happen!”

“Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” (4:9-10)

 

Only the Lord provides.

 

We don’t provide for ourselves.

Accept nothing from the devil.

Don’t allow the devil to provide anything for  us.

We are dependent wholly, and utterly upon the Lord, his providence, and his grace.

 

For everything, all good things,

Come from God, and

Will return unto God.

 

 

My concluding thought about

Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by the devil

Jumps forward to the end of Matthew,

Chapter 27, verses 38-45,

When Jesus is crucified between two bandits.

 

At the beginning of Lent

We are given a glimpse of the conclusion of Lent

When Jesus is tempted by two thieves crucified with him,

One hanging at each side, and

The chief priests, scribes and elders

Taunting and tempting him from below.

 

As he hung helplessly on the cross,

With the Temple curtain – the only remaining barrier between heaven and earth – starting to tear,

Jesus felt their spit,

heard their taunts and jeers:

“You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (27:40)

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” (27:42-43)

 

My goodness,

Consider the love Jesus has for you and me

To overcome the temptation to save himself.

 

“Amazing love, how can it be?

That you, my king. would die for me

Amazing love, I know its true

Its my joy to honor you

Amazing love how can it be?

That my king would die for me

Amazing love I know its true

Its my joy to honor you

In all I do

I honor you.”

(“You are My King,” Authentic, by Chris Tomlin, 1998)

 

 

Dearly beloved,

Sisters and brother disciples of Jesus,

Know that evil and sin are very dangerous and real.

Evil and sin threatens our very lives.

Don’t touch the hot oven.

 

Let us

Strengthen ourselves with scripture.

Let us

Never, ever yield to sin or evil.

Let us

Rely completely on God for our every need.

 

And know this also to be true:

God wins,

All the time,

In the battle between good and evil.

God triumphs over the grave.

Resurrection vanquished death.

God wins

Because God loves you.

Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s