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Lent 1 Invocabit
March 9, 2014 A+D
St. Matthew 4:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the Army, Soldiers have to memorize a creed, a formula to live and operate by whether in training or in war. In this Soldiers’ Creed as it is called, there is a part called the Warrior Ethos. It’s the central point of the creed, it’s a description of what the warrior is. Part of this ethos reads: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” It’s an ideal that each Soldier pledges himself to. They pound it into their training, so that when the chaos of war hits, they have something to cling to and give them direction. If your buddy is wounded, you don’t leave him behind. But, it is an ideal, because in the very midst of chaos, you don’t have control of the situation. There is the reality that the enemy dictates your actions and reactions. There is the reality that human error can cause you to unintentionally or unwillfully leave a fallen comrade on the battlefield. That’s why there come to be prisoners of war.
After His Baptism, our Lord is cast out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit in order to do battle with the devil. That’s what temptation is–it’s battle. It’s part of the war against the devil the world, and sinful nature. Scripture is very clear on this topic—every Christian is engaged in a spiritual battle against sin. In the midst of His humility, our Lord subjects himself to a battle that is not His. As a man, He entered into earthly combat and subjected himself to the rules of war that we were subjected to by our sin. It’s not His battle; He did not sin. We were mortally wounded and dead in our trespasses upon this battlefield, yet God did not want to leave us behind. We had abandoned God in our sin, yet He sought us out in order to call us comrade, and take us off the battlefield and give us life. It was in the wilderness after His Baptism that Jesus overtly faces off with our enemy. It’s beneath God to battle with Satan because the Creator is infinitely above His creation. Satan has no weapon against Him. Yet our Lord, as God in the flesh, stoops to allow Satan to tempt Him—in order to rescue us.
Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus, in the midst of temptation, does not depart from the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, the weapon that Satan cannot overcome (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12). The father of lies tries to seduce Jesus into laying aside His flesh to satiate His hunger, to “prove” his divinity, to get the world back without dying for it. But our Lord and champion stands by the sure Word of God and remains focused on the cross. He will not set aside His flesh. He will go in His body to the cross and be crucified and allow himself to be killed.
In the midst of temptation, it’s one thing to know what right is. It’s another thing entirely to do it. Jesus is not like Adam and Eve. Even though they knew what God said and understood what God meant, they followed their selfish desire to grasp what God had not given to them. They set aside God’s Word and twisted it in order to do what they wanted.
The devil perverts and twists God’s Word to his plan and purpose. The devil quotes Scripture to our Lord, but uses it in a self-serving, warped way. our Lord does not balk. He replies with the Word and refuses to be moved by shifty arguments.
Jesus is not like you. You know the Ten Commandments. You know God’s Word and what it means. Whether you were taught it as a child or have learned it as an adult, it’s clear to you. “You shall have no other gods.” “You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain.” “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy.” You know that turning away from God’s sure Word is setting yourself in the place of God. You know that when you don’t pray as you ought, it’s using God’s name in vain. You know that by hearing God’s Word only out of habit, day-dreaming while it’s read and preached, and not rejoicing to hear and study it more, you’re profaning the Sabbath. Yet when faced with a temptation, you squint and pretend that there is gray area and wiggle room around God’s sure Word. Even when you know clearly what God would have you do in a particular situation, your pride and selfishness tempt you to think only of yourself. You battle with your weak flesh fighting and struggling to keep yourself from falling into heinous, evil sins, sins that would make your mother or wife cry, and your children or friends disgusted. You don’t think they’re that bad? Go ahead a say your thoughts out loud. Listen, actually hear, to what’s bouncing around in your head. (Thank God for father confessors).
This is the nature of the battle in your weak and fallen flesh. When the devil draws you into battle, you have three options. You can give in and succumb to the temptation. This option leaves your faith and salvation in jeopardy—the wages of sin is death. Or you can struggle and fight. This option leaves you wounded and struggling with yourself against your own flesh—it’s what you are called, as a Christian, to do, but it is a losing battle. And third, related to the second, you can repent. You can give up reliance on your own weapons and fall at Jesus feet, acknowledging that the only way out of this war is through His death and resurrection. You can acknowledge that you have fallen in battle and need someone to take you off the field. You are not a great warrior, but the one who fights for you is.
I don’t know the exact history of how this came to be, but Psalm 91, our Introit for today, and the one that the devil quotes to Jesus in his temptation to throw himself off the temple, is called the Warrior’s Psalm in the military. There are medallions to wear on your dog tags, bandannas to wear on your head with this Psalm inscribed on them. The devil meant it to lead our Lord into temptation—to tempt God.
But our heavenly Warrior will not be tempted by false glory. He is willing to suffer all, even humiliation and assaults on His pride in order to save you. The reality is that no Soldier in the Army can live up to the Soldiers’ Creed. Some pretend as if they do. But there is only one person in the history of the world that has gone completely out of His way and been in complete control of the war to rescue a fallen comrade. He is your refuge and fortress; your God in whom you trust. He will deliver you from your losing battle with sin, your false pride, your broken promises, your evil thoughts, and even death.
Your champion has trampled the young lion and dragon under His feet for you. He will deliver you from this world and grant you long life with Him in heaven.
We have a creed in the Christian Church by which we live and work. It starts with “I believe.” It’s the Christian ethos. You were baptized into it. It’s who you are. It’s who Your Father made you to be. You believe that you cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ your Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has call you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified, and kept you in the true faith. It’s here that He daily and richly forgives you all your sins. And you can put all your hope in the fact that on the last day He will you raise you and give eternal life you in Christ.
Come comrade, your Warrior has food to sustain you in the battle.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
Rev. Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana