SCRIPTURES: Ps. 91; Dt. 26:1-11; Rom. 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil… Jesus answered him, “It is written…”
The devil is a divider. He always has been. By his crafty temptation of Adam and Eve he divided them first from God’s Word, which they rejected and disobeyed, and then from God and from one another. This division was passed on to their children. By envy and selfishness Satan divided Cain from his brother, Abel, and Cain killed his brother. Murder is Satan’s work. Over the millennia the devil has led people to listen to themselves and not to God, and so to invent religions and worship that end up separating them from the true God, the good and merciful Creator and Savior, and also from one another.
- Islam began in the 7th century A.D. as one man, Mohammed, revealed teachings – the Quran – he said Allah had given to him alone. They were to rule over all other writings.
- Created out of Islam, the Baha’i religion was begun in the 19th century by Baha’ U’llah, who declared himself to be the MADHI, the final prophet sent from God to whom the people must listen. His writings, declared to be from God, were to rule over all other writings.
- Mormonism was created by Joseph Smith in the 19th century. Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel, who led him to golden plates with writing that only he could translate. The translation – the Book of Mormon – was to rule over all other writings.
How crafty is the devil! He not only promotes hatred and murder; he uses even that which should unite us with God and with one another – worship, religion, words from God – and by it separates us from God and from one another.
This is the enemy who confronts Jesus, and right after Jesus was baptized and declared by God to be His Son whom He loves. With the love of His Father and the blessed presence of the Holy Spirit filling Him, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness and into a confrontation with the devil, the divider and murderer and corruptor of worship. Why? Why would His loving Father not prevent this? Why would God the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into this? Why did Jesus, the Son of God, allow this? A Missouri Synod theologian, and our Synod’s first President, C.F.W. Walther, said of this:
- If Christ had not wanted it, Satan would not have appeared before Him, tempted Him, and attacked Him. But Christ here did not fight for Himself. Instead, He fought as a surety, as a third party, as a substitute for the entire human race.
By sin, all people sold themselves to Satan, becoming servants and subjects of his kingdom. Therefore, when Christ wanted to redeem men and save them, He came, as the true owner of all people’s souls, to conquer Satan, to destroy his kingdom, to remove his plunder from him, to free us from his dark power, and to lead us into the kingdom of eternal glory. Christ did this mainly by His bloody death of atonement on the cross for all the sins of the world. By this, the head of the snake was totally crushed and all people were completely redeemed. The battle in our text [Luke 4] was the beginning. It was the first engagement that had to be fought by the Prince of our salvation to trample Satan under His feet and to deal the first deadly wounds to him…
How wonderful! The Son of God in almighty power had once cast Satan out of heaven, but here on earth, He let Himself be attacked by him, let Himself be led around, sneered at, and ridiculed. He did not conquer Satan, as He very well could have, by one word of His omnipotence, but by the written Word of God…” (Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 758)
Jesus stands before Satan while weak and lowly; just like us. But, He defeats him, for He has God’s written Word, the very same Word that you and I have in our pews and in our homes, the mighty Word that we are blessed to hear week after week. Christ confirms the truth and power of God’s Word by entrusting Himself to it and conquering Satan with it, and only with it. We have the strength and victory we need in our hands!
It is no wonder that to this day the devil exerts great effort to attack God’s Word and to divide those who hold to it. He attacks and murders, and then seeks to divide and conquer.
He was doing his work last December in Newtown, using a disturbed man – perhaps possessing that man – and by him murdering 20 innocent children and their teachers. And now, he is at work after Newtown, seeking to divide us from one another in our Synod, and to divide us from our fellow citizens who need our Savior.
You know what I’m talking about. How much anger and confusion and division there has been since LC-MS President Harrison asked Pastor Morris of Christ the King in Newtown to apologize for participating with other clergy, Christian and non-Christian, in a community prayer vigil that was held two days after the shootings. Our unity with one another is threatened. So is our witness in our communities.
I understand the anger. I understand the confusion. I know how bad this makes us look. But, I also know this:
- Pres. Harrison is not an uncaring ogre and bureaucrat, but a man who cares for God’s pastors, God’s people, and God’s Word. He has apologized for handling this poorly. Accept his own apology and extend to him your forgiveness and compassion. If you are unwilling to do so, you are letting Satan do his work of division. I can tell you that Pastor Morris and Pres. Harrison are not divided. They speak together often.
- What ultimately matters is not that people believe in God and are religious. Satan spreads that idea. God wants right faith and worship. “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve,’” says Jesus. Only the one true God is to be worshiped. Last week we heard this God say of Jesus, “This is My Son, My chosen One; listen to Him.” Forgiveness and salvation are through Jesus Christ alone.
This is an unpopular message in our multicultural and multi-religious world. Holding to it and proclaiming it bring opposition: sometimes from the world; sometimes from our own hearts, which desire peace and unity; and always from the devil. But, let us learn from what another Missouri Synod theologian, Pastor Rob Morris, said in his letter of apology to the Synod:
- “Many have expressed their thoughts of how difficult it must be to administer Christ’s grace and truth in such a situation [as Newtown after the shootings], but I have a little different take. It is indeed an unspeakably difficult situation – emotions are raw, energy reserves are spent, fear and mistrust are far too easy, and all of us are faced with circumstances for which no amount of training or preparation could be sufficient. And yet, the only thing that makes ministering under these circumstances possible is Christ’s grace and truth. All else is a false hope, a hollow comfort. Thus, it was a gift of God, even within these dark and tear-filled times, to announce the certainty of Christ’s birth, our God-With-Us, not only 2000 years ago, but within each of us through our baptism. The certainty of Christ’s resurrection and our adoption into Him through His Word and Sacrament is the only possible message of hope and peace within these dark times, both in Newtown and around the world.”
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory over every sin, over every temptation and assault of the devil, and over every evil in this life and world, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!