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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz


Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 1st Sunday in Lent, Matthew 4:1-11. There we read these words:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And 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, "‘Man shall 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 set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said 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, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, ‘You shall 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 glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’" Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

We begin in Jesus’ name, AMEN

It’s "opposite day" in our Gospel lesson today. The first Adam got a lush garden with all sorts of fruit trees; the second Adam(Jesus) got the wilderness and scarcity. The first Adam’s menu said "all you can eat;" the second Adam(Jesus) fasted for forty days and forty nights. The first Adam had Eve as a companion, because it is not good to be alone; the second Adam(Jesus) was alone.

Well, almost: Satan was there in the wilderness, just like he was in Eden. In fact, while it looked like opposite day from Eden in every other way, here’s what Eden and the wilderness had in common. Satan was there, doing his usual act of tempting. His temptations had led to the world being turned from Garden into wilderness in the first place. He’s still around in the Gospel lesson, and he was pretty much using the same thing that had worked so well the first time.

When Satan approached Eve, he put her focus on the one thing she couldn’t have: fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

She could be full and satisfied every day, all the time, from all the other available food; so he pointed her to the forbidden fruit: "Does it really have to be this way, Eve? Why not eat from that tree, too? Why don’t you look after yourself?" Eve, who had everything, gave in to temptation. She repeated God’s command first, but then she broke it anyway.

On opposite day in the wilderness, circumstances were far different: Jesus had fasted for forty days. He was hungry, but it was a chosen hunger. Food was scarce in the wilderness, but that was no problem for Jesus: as the Son of God, He can turn stones into bread with a Word.

So the tempter came and reminded Him: "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." In other words, "It doesn’t have to be this way, and You know it. You’re the Son of God—what are You hungry for? Why don’t You look after Yourself?" Jesus responded, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.."

Like Eve, He quoted the Word against the devil; unlike Eve, He was not going to give in. It’s opposite day.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

When Satan tempted Eve, he said, "‘You will not surely die. if you eat the forbidden fruit." It was a lie; but then, Satan is always a liar. In effect, he whispered to her, "You’ve got nothing to lose, everything to gain. Why do you think so little of yourself? You’re Eve, aren’t you? Do what you want."

On opposite day, Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said, "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, lest you strike your foot against a stone.."

How crafty of the devil to quote Scripture at Jesus, just twisted to serve his ends. In other words, "You will not surely die. Why do You think so little of Yourself? You’re the Son of God, and the Son of God can’t die. Prove it: show everybody that You can take care of Yourself. You’re Jesus, after all. You won’t die as the sinless Son of God…ever."

Jesus responded, "Again it is written, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.." Where Eve will not deny herself what she wants, Jesus does. It was opposite day.

When Satan tempted Eve, he said of the forbidden fruit, "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." In other words, "You could be so much more—you could be like God. Why stay in the place that God has put you if you can be and have so much more?"

In our Gospel lesson, Satan showed Jesus the all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, then said, "All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me." In other words, "You’re the Son of God. You shouldn’t be hungry in the desert with Your eyes set on a silly cross. You could be so much more—You’re not just like God, but You are God. It’s just that Your Father’s plan is holding You back. Why stay in the place that He’s put You if You can be so much more?"

Eve wanted more than everything God gave her and ended up with worse than nothing. Jesus denied Himself everything to accomplish His Father’s will. It was opposite day.

Throughout the entire temptation in the wilderness, the first Adam stood by in sinful silence. You barely hear about him in the account of that temptation. God had given him His command, His Word to preach; instead, the first Adam shut up and fell into sin.

The Second Adam(Jesus), suffered the hardships brought upon by the fall of the first, kept speaking God’s Word and doesn’t sin, because "Man shall not live by bread alone, but [man shall live] by every word that comes from the mouth of God." It was opposite day.

But why? Remember when the temptation of Christ in the wilderness took place: right after His baptism. Remember how strange the idea of baptizing Jesus was to John, how the Baptist tried to prevent it: his baptism was a baptism of repentance for sinners, and Jesus wasn’t sinful.

So why did Jesus demand to be baptized? To take His place among sinners. In baptism, their sins were washed off of them. At His baptism, their sins were washed onto Him. From His baptism on, Jesus. path was clear: He was on His way to death on the cross, bearing the sin of the world as His burden. That’s where the opposites began: sinners go into the water and come out forgiven. Jesus went into the water and came out marked as the Sinner condemned.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

Don’t forget: when Jesus underwent baptism, God the Father declared, "This is My Son, in whom I am well-pleased." This was the plan for salvation.

Jesus took His place among sinners, just like you and me, in the Jordan River, He endured the wilderness— the poverty and the hunger, the thorns and thistles—that you deserved for your sin. Because mankind had everything and lost it all, Jesus gave up everything in order to gain back everything for you. Because you could not resist temptation, He did it for you. Because you deserved death for sin, He died to give you life.

Admit it. You’re tempted all the time, and the devil uses the same old, tired script. It’s quite the accusation that you still fall for the same old temptations. It may be a different time and place and object of temptation, but it still comes back to this. The devil whispers, "Does it really have to be this way? Shouldn’t you really take care of yourself?

"Why do you think so little of yourself, that you deprive yourself of what you want? You’re you after all. Do what you want." "You could be so much more—Why stay where God has put you, confined you if you can be and have so much more?"

Think 4th Commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother," which commands honor toward parents and all authorities. Satan tempts: "Why do you do what authority figures say? Don.t you know better than they do? You could be so much more if you just looked after yourself and did what you want. Ignore the curfew. Sabotage your boss. Make fun of your teacher. Keep your tax payment for yourself. Why do you let them keep you in that little box?"

Think 5th Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." Satan tempts: "Why do you think so little of yourself when others hurt you and insult you? Why not strike back? Why not plot revenge? Why not bear grudges and delight when they get hurt? Why deprive yourself of the satisfaction of their discomfort? Does it really have to be this way?"

Think 6th Commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Satan tempts: "Did God really say that you shouldn’t fill your mind with whatever you want? Is it really fair that He says to flee lust? Does it really have to be this way, where intimacy is reserved for marriage? Shouldn’t you be making the decision? It’s your body, after all. Do what you want."

Think 7th Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," and throw in the 9th and 10th against coveting. The devil tempts: "Is it really fair that your neighbor has better stuff than you do? Don’t you deserve to have better employees than your competition? Why do you deprive yourself of stuff that the company won’t miss and isn’t using anyway? Why aren’t you looking after yourself better?"

Think 8th Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." The devil whispers, "Are you serious with this thought of just taking the insults of others, of turning the other cheek? Don’t you deserve better than that? If you don’t defend yourself, who will? You’re you: you’re not like that lowlife who’s slandered you— shouldn’t you give him a taste of his own medicine?"

I haven’t yet mentioned the first three commandments, but that’s the devil’s real target. With every temptation, he asks, "Did God really say?", and with every sin he’s got you following your will rather than God’s.

Every time he tempts you with "You’re you, and you deserve better," he’s got you valuing your own name over the Lord’s name. And with every temptation, Satan says, "Do what you want. That way, you will be like God." That is why Jesus is in the wilderness.

Opposite day is for you. You deserve to be deprived God’s gifts and blessings, Jesus was deprived even of bread in the wilderness.....for you.

You deserve accusations and condemnation for your sin, read through the accounts of Jesus. suffering, and marvel that He took all the accusations and doesn’t defend Himself, for you. You deserve death for your sin, for imagining yourself to be like God; the Son of God, Jesus Christ, under no illusions, went to the cross and stayed on the cross to die....for you.

That’s opposite of how it ought to be. But that is the Gospel. Never, ever think that forgiveness came cheap. It is free to you, but only because Jesus paid the price. You grow cranky and feel cheated if you miss a meal: Jesus fasted and endured the hunger you deserve.

You live a life with lots of nice things and covet more: the King of kings went to the cross without home or possessions, to give you the treasures of heaven. You are easily tempted to do whatever makes your eyes or your body happy: the sinless Son of God endured scourging, nails and cross on His body in your place.

Forgiveness did not come cheap. But it came and continues to come to you because that is God’s will. It’s opposite day.

Christ is risen. AMEN

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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