Invocavit, the First Sunday in Lent: Listening to Christ

The Temptation of Jesus
Satan tempts Jesus on the pinnacle of the temple, on a mountain, and in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). From Martin Luther’s Church Postils (sermons), published in 1550.

Lessons: Genesis 3:1-12, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, Matthew 4:1-11
Hymns: LSB 561, 656, 422, 724, 743, 424

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

      What’s the point of being a Christian? Why go through the work of getting ready for church each Sunday and Wednesdays for Lent, read Bible stories to our children, take time for prayer, trust in a God we cannot see face-to-face, and give Him some of our hard-earned income and our stretched-so-thin time? Many have asked these types of questions, and then walk away from the Christian faith. Many figure it simply isn’t worth all that trouble. And many figure they can be a Christian without church attendance, offerings, or even prayer.

      An important aspect of teaching the Christian faith, along with the importance of remaining a Christian, is to describe life as it would be without sin. When we see that kind of world which God originally created and He desires that we have, we will long for that blessed sin-free life and we will cling to Christ so that we may obtain that blissful life at the Resurrection. We will want to be Christian, no matter how hard it may seem to be.

      When God created all things in just six days, He saw His creation and said it was good. The only missing part of His perfect creation was a helpmeet for Adam, and so God created Eve for him. He taught them to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the Earth and subdue it.

      Nothing was missing from God’s perfectly created world. It was a comfortable place without sin. Work was the delight of man. Raising children involved no pain. There was no need for hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes for no one got sick or injured. No one would grow old and die, for they were without sin. It was only good.

      Then Satan found a captive audience with Eve. He begins by questioning God, “Did God really say it? Is it true that you shall not eat of any tree in the Garden? You see, despite His Word, something is missing from your life. He is withholding something from you!” Adam, standing by, gets lured in. Failing at his patriarchal responsibility to protect his family, he left his wife in Satan’s crosshairs. Satan temps her even further, “You won’t die if you eat of that one tree. In fact, you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Due to Satan’s subtleness, Eve didn’t realize that she was placing herself as judge over God and His Word. She began to trust her own, God-created senses over God Himself. God’s creation suddenly figured it could know more and judge better than God the Creator. Eve saw the fruit looked just fine, and she ate. She gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then their eyes were opened. They saw their nakedness. They sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When they heard God, they hid from Him. How quickly they fell from grace!

      From this narrative, we learn Satan is a liar who dresses his lies up to seem plausible and tries to make us feel we can judge God. But Jesus said of the Devil, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Today, many are hoodwinked by Satan’s sweet-sounding lies. They buy into the notion that since the New Testament is almost 2000 years old and the Old Testament is even older, it must be out-of-date and unsuitable for those of us living in the 21st century. We are tempted to rewrite things to match our day, instead of trying to match Scripture. We must, as God’s sheep who listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd, reject these false teachings. We must cling to Scripture alone, for it alone has the words of eternal life. Anything contradicting the Bible is of a different spirit and must be rejected.

      Satan lied when he said, “You will be like God.” Remember, Adam and Eve were already made in the image and likeness of God. They were holy, they could see God as He is, and they could be in His very presence. But the Devil made them think they were lacking something—that God withheld something important from them. He told Eve about this concept known as evil. She didn’t understand it, for she had not experienced evil. Now she desired it, so that she could be like God. But God is not evil. Instead, by eating of the fruit and learning what evil is, she lost her image and likeness of God, and she became like Satan—evil and rebellious against God.

      When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they brought the world into sin. Everything became corrupt. With sin comes death. They saw their nakedness and tried to cover their reproductive organs. It was a futile attempt to be like God. You see, their reproductive parts prove they can never be like God, creating out of nothing. No person can author life alone. It takes two people, along with God’s blessing. Unlike God, we are not the source of our own being. We are created by God in our mother’s wombs. We have belly buttons to show that our existence comes from outside of us. Truly, God has granted to women the highest honor of bearing children—something far greater, more important, and more blessed than the works that any man can do. Yet, children need their father and mother who are joined in holy matrimony. By grace, we are blessed to be received as God’s children.

      Indeed, it is a privilege to be called children of God. In fact, Jesus used children as models for faith. This completely flies in the face of what the wisdom of our age considers to be truly significant. People think they are significant based on what they have done with their lives—how educated they are, how good they are at sports, how much money they have. In other words, they derive their significance from looking at their own self. It is inward gazing, if not narcissistic.

      But God teaches us that we are significant because of the way we came to be. God created us. He created the universe for us. He redeemed us through His Son. The Holy Spirit calls us to faith by the Holy Gospel. We are adopted by Baptism into God’s family as His children. This demonstrates our incalculable significance!

      In our day, we hear of news reports of men having children or women having children without the natural relationship with a man. But no man can have a child. She’s a woman, who has rejected God’s clear word, “Male and female He created them.” Many think it is brave to go against God’s Word in matters related to human sexuality. They think it is brave to abort what they figure are unwanted children. They think it is brave to reassign their God-given sex. But all of this is futility and vanity. It is not the fruitfulness that God teaches.

      It is also futility and vanity to avoid our God-given vocations. God instructed Adam to work, even though it will cause him to sweat, and the ground will produce thorns and thistles. God instructed Eve to bear children, even though her pain in childbearing is multiplied. We seek to dull the pain we experience from serving God and our neighbor. We avoid our vocations and distract ourselves. Some resort to drugs or alcohol. Others escape in video games. Many turn to pornography. As we seek to avoid pain, we bring to ourselves greater destruction, harming ourselves and those whom God has placed in our lives to serve. Repent.  

      Despite falling so quickly from perfection, God promised Adam and Eve a Savior. When He spoke to the serpent, He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heal” (Genesis 3:15). This is known as the first Gospel. Adam and Eve heard it. God promised to send a Child into this world who would defeat the Devil. This Child is her Seed, meaning He is born of a virgin. This is the first time God promised to send His Son to save mankind.

      And He did just that. Jesus came into this world to redeem us from all sin. He did so by the way of the cross. He paid the impossible debt of our sin through the shedding of His innocent blood. The wrath of God is appeased through the all-sufficient sacrifice of our Savior.

      While Eve was lured to a tree by which Satan tempted her, Jesus carried a tree—a wooden cross to Golgotha. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, bringing sin and death to the entire world. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath, down to its very dregs, to release us of our bondage to sin. And we now eat and drink the fruit of our Lord’s sacrificial payment in Holy Communion, bringing us life. We eat Christ’s Body and drink His Blood, not to incur guilt or suffer wrath, but to receive forgiveness and every blessing from God.

      The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the feast that is to come. Receiving this Sacrament is pure joy. It is given to us by grace. It is a meal in which we are joined to Christ and to our brothers and sisters communing with us and to our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in the Faith and now rest from their labors.

      When Jesus comes again in glory on the Last Day, He will make all things new. His creation will be restored to perfection. We will dwell with Him without the temptation to sin. All will be good. Death will no longer be possible. Sin will be gone. There will be no corruption or decay. We will never again try to take God’s place or pretend we know something more than He does. And we will dwell with our merciful Lord to all eternity with our perfected, resurrected bodies. Our joys will never end.

      So what is the point of being a Christian? Is it worth the sacrifice of some of our time and possessions? Absolutely. For we really lose nothing when we give back to God what He has first given us, nor do we lose a thing when we are in God’s House. Instead, we are gaining everything—adoption as sons of God, knowledge of Christ, and the forgiveness of all sins. What blessings we have in Him! Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen