St. Matthew 4:1-11
March 1, 2020 A+D
In the Name of the Father and the +Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
My fallen flesh has often felt as though the three-fold renouncing of the devil at Baptism, which gets carried over and repeated at Confirmation and in the reception of new members, to be a bit over the top and redundant.
Do you renounce the devil? Yes, I renounce him. Do you renounce his works? Yes. I renounce them. Do you renounce His ways? Yes, I renounce them.
I am repenting of that opinion. Now more than ever, I think there is the need to name our enemy for many doubt his existence. We ourselves have sometimes been embarrassed of our belief in the supernatural. I also have come to glimpse something of the wisdom in renouncing him entirely. For we are not saying that the devil is a bad person and we renounce him, nonetheless, at the same time we have to admit that the guillotine is a marvel of engineering and very clever. Instead we are saying that we hate the devil. We hate what he works in us, sin, deceit, greed, and lust. We hate his lying words, his fake threats and promises of pleasure.
We renounce him completely, even as we confess, submit to, and embrace God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit completely. We love Him. We love His works. We love His ways. We and our faith are His works. And His Way is His Word.
So it is that immediately after His Baptism, the Spirit expelled Jesus into the wilderness and departed, leaving Him alone with the devil. Forty days after fasting, when Jesus was hungry in a way we have neither ever been nor could survive, the devil came to offer Him a way out. All Jesus had to do was take what was His by right and go on His way. All the bread in the world is His. Why should He be hungry? The angels work for and worship Him. Why shouldn’t they serve Him even then? The Kingdoms of this world enjoy insane luxury. What should He go without?
The devil is clever. Much of what he implies is true. But he fails to understand, or at least to admit, that Jesus takes on these sorrows of His own will. He denies Himself in order to suffer in our place. He is doing what must be done, what love requires. He should not have bread or the service of angels or the luxuries of this world because He who knew no sin is making Himself to be sin and is declared guilty on our behalf. He comes to end the devil’s lies and accusations by absorbing them into Himself unto death.
Jesus thwarts the devil with nothing more than the Word of the prophets. He fights not as God, but as a man. He invokes no Divine privilege or honor. The angelic armies do not come to His aid. He lets Moses do the talking. At last, however, He uses His own voice to send him away. Ten the angels come and minister to Him. Presumably there is bread. Before Easter, comes Good Friday. Before ministration, comes temptation.
This temptation was necessary. Christ, Our Lord, had to be made like us his brothers in every respect in order for us to be rescued and creation restored. By being made like us in every respect, and suffering all that we suffer in this veil of tears, He has become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of His Father for us. As our High Priest, knowing our sorrows and weaknesses, He has made a propitiation in Himself for our sins in order to appease God’s wrath and restore us to Himself. And since He has been made like us, His brothers, in every respect, which includes the fact that He suffered temptation, He is able to help us who are being tempted, and since He overcame temptation, He is also able to show us how to fight against temptation and drive the devil away. We are to follow His example. We are fight against the devil, against temptation, and drive off the devil with the Word of God.
Everyone who hears these Word of God and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope for the word of the Lord remains forever. For it is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It goes for from God’s own mouth and to our ears. It shall not return to Him empty, but shall accomplish that for which He sent it. And every word of God proves true; It is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. It a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Therefore like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.
Repent. For neither the devil nor your sins define you. You renounce them. You are Baptized in water and Word. God’s word is His Way. You are His work. His Name is upon you. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is the Sword of God. He fights for you and alongside you and sends His holy angels to minister to you. There is more to this life than the eyes behold and more than the mind can comprehend. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God and those who abide in it will stand forever.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.