Jesus Battles for Us, in Us!

The First Sunday in Lent  (Invocabit)–6 March 2022

Matthew 4:1–11

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 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.’ ” 

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”  8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  10 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.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (ESV)

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Today, God’s Word tells us of a most amazing battle.

Jesus has just been baptized. 

Heaven had opened over Jesus, with the Holy Spirit descending upon Him

and His Father proclaiming this Man His Beloved Son.

And now, hell is opening up beneath Jesus 

and rushing upon Him with all the devil’s rage.

Once, the Son of God had thrown Satan out of heaven.

Now, here on earth, the Son of God allows Himself to be attacked by Satan.

He who is eternal Light struggles against the spirit of darkness.

The eternal Truth versus the father of lies.

The Most Holy One versus the spirit of uncleanness.

The King of heaven versus the tyrant of hell.

What an amazing struggle.

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Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This skirmish was no accident.

This skirmish was arranged by God Himself.

This skirmish occurred according to God’s eternal, gracious counsel.

And Christ, of His own free will, now fulfilled it.

Had Jesus not wanted it, Satan could not have appeared before Him,

let alone dare tempt and assail Him.

Jesus did not wage this war for Himself.

Jesus battled as the Mediator and the Substitute of the whole human race.

Through sin, we all sold ourselves to Satan.

We all became his servants and subjects of his kingdom.

But Satan is merely a tyrant who has taken humanity captive.

The real Owner of all people is the God who created us.

And the God who owns us sent His Son Jesus to save and redeem us sinners.

God’s Son came in the flesh in order to conquer Satan, destroy his kingdom,

and free us captives from his domain of darkness.

As St. John proclaims: For this reason the Son of God was made manifest,

so that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

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The first prophecy of Christ, which Adam and Eve received in Paradise,

was that the woman’s offspring would bruise the serpent’s head.

Jesus, the Virgin’s Son, did this chiefly through His death on the cross.

There, the devil’s head was completely crushed.

But Jesus’ battle with Satan in the wilderness was the beginning. 

It was the first assault touched off by the Lord of our salvation

in order to tread down Satan under our feet. 

Scarcely had Jesus begun His ministry when immediately He attacked Satan.

He did not leave the battlefield until He had won the last engagement 

for us on the cross and could cry out: It is finished! (John 19:30).

The resurrection that immediately followed Good Friday

was our Saviour’s victory shout, which we echo in the Te Deum: When You had overcome the sharpness of death, 

You opened the Kingdom of heaven to all believers.

In addition to Jesus’ resurrection,

His descent into hell and His ascension into heaven

were the glorious triumphant procession of our victorious Saviour. 

The victory of Good Friday, the descent into hell, Easter, and the Ascension

could not have occurred had not Jesus won His first battle.

And so, the devil’s temptations in the wilderness are a necessary part 

of the Lord’s work of our salvation.

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How happy we can be in knowing that Jesus won the battle in the wilderness,

not for Himself, but for us. 

The bonds of our captivity were severed and we are free.

Adam and Eve’s defeat in Paradise 

was overturned by Jesus in the wilderness.

Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree.

Jesus hungered forty days and nights.

Adam and Eve wanted to be like God.

Jesus, the true Son of God, suffered from the devil’s mockery:

If you are the Son of God.

Adam and Eve were misled by the serpent’s garbling of the divine word:

Did God actually say? (Genesis 3:1).

Satan tried that on Jesus,

but Jesus remained firm, saying without wavering:

It is written.

Adam and Eve were seduced to pride

when the serpent dazzled them by promising:

when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, 

and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5).

Satan also tempted Jesus to pride through the promise of easy earthly glory.

However, Jesus triumphed and Satan had to leave, defeated.

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Now, if you want to be eternally blessed by the battle of your Saviour Jesus, 

nothing more is demanded of you than that you play the part

of a believing spectator, which is God’s gift to you.

The main point from today’s Gospel

is that you learn to believe that Jesus battled for you, in your place,

for your freedom and salvation.

For you who know and feel your sins,

for you who confess that you once were the devil’s captive,

full of unbelief and contempt for God Word, 

full of pride, vanity, lust, and love of the world,

—for you, all that needs to be done is that you look to your Saviour Jesus.

This Champion has held the field for us.

This Lion from the tribe of Judah has conquered for us. 

This Jesus has defeated the devil for us 

and has won the victory over sin and hell for us.

And this Jesus now divides the spoil of war with us

by giving us forgiveness, righteousness, life, and salvation.

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The first use that we should make of Jesus’ battle with the prince of darkness

is that we become believing spectators,

that we look alone to Jesus

and learn to believe that Jesus battled in our place, 

just as He died in our place.

If you believe in Jesus and His Word,

if you find comfort in His victory—in His defeating the devil for you—

then happy are you!

Only as we look to Jesus’ victory can we live as His fellow soldiers

who confidently and joyfully follow Jesus into battle

armed with faith and God’s Word.

The battle that Jesus fought against the devil extends into our own lives.

Whoever looks to Jesus and trusts in His victory 

will end up fighting as He did.

Of course, we are saved only by Jesus’ victory over the devil.

Nonetheless, believing spectators of Jesus’ victory 

must also become the Lord’s fellow soldiers

who, by God’s grace, fight as Jesus did.

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If Satan crossed swords with Christ, 

then we, the followers of Christ, dare not feel secure.

Christ is the general; 

thus, all believers in Christ are called to active duty in a spiritual war.

In Baptism, 

we all vowed to renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways, that is, to fight against him. 

Just as Jesus was driven into the wilderness immediately after His Baptism 

to be tempted, 

so all who are baptized in Jesus Christ should expect nothing else.

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If you believe in Jesus and His Word, and find comfort in His victory,

then happy are you!

But remember that although you are saved,

you are still in the world, you still have sin in you,

you still have flesh and blood,

you are still in the land of death, where Satan dwells.

He is around you with his demons.

He is busy trying to ruin you again, trying to make you tired and faint,

so that you will leave Christ and yield once again to the devil

and let yourself be brought back into his domain of darkness.

Do not ever suppose that Satan is far away,

for he is at your side when you pray and read God’s Word.

He is around you when you tend to your work. 

He is next to you 

when you go to church, hear the sermon, and partake of the Sacrament.

Wherever you go, the devil tries to tempt you so that you fall. 

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But thanks be to God that where we fall, God’s Son resists temptation.

Where we doubt, the Son of God clings to His Father.

The Son of God takes upon Himself the punishment for our sins, 

and credits us for His good works and for His faithfulness.

Jesus dies in our place and atones for our sins so we don’t have to.

Because of Jesus, we are declared innocent and spared eternal damnation.

Because of Jesus, we are freed from the accusations that were against us

because of our sin.

Nonetheless, Jesus tells us to pick up our crosses. 

His death is for us. It is how we are saved, the way God has loved us.

But Jesus’ death is also an example. It shows us how to live and how to die.

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Jesus is always an example.

And so, we should learn from His temptation in the wilderness

not only what He has done for us 

but also how to use Scripture and prayer to drive off Satan. 

Jesus our Saviour is also Jesus our example.

Our goal is to submit to God’s Word just as did Jesus. 

“Submission” is not a popular concept among us sinners,

but submitting to God’s Word is our calling as God’s baptized children.

And what shape should our submission take

in this time of great distress among the nations of the earth?

Well, husbands, continue loving your wives.

Wives, continue respecting your husbands.

Brothers and sisters, continue rejoicing in the Lord

by not being anxious about anything, 

but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 

letting your requests be made known to God (see Philippians 4:4-6).

Continue do[ing] good to everyone, 

especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).

Continue answering the devil’s temptations with It is written,

making the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word,

your weapon in all temptations.

Continue repenting of your sins.

Continue daily taking up your cross, denying yourself, and following Jesus.

Through all of life’s struggles and threats upon your wellbeing, 

continue praying daily: Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God (Psalm 31:5).

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, 

with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one,… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. 

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance (Ephesians 6: 16, 18).

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My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

our Lord’s whole life—from His Baptism to His Good Friday death—

was a time of the devil’s tempting.

So too, from the moment of our baptism to the moment of our death,

the devil is targeting us with his attacks.

And so, now is the time for us for follow Jesus 

in the way of praying, fasting, and relying upon God’s Word.

We pray, fast, and rely on God’s Word 

not because we want to impress God or think we can earn His favour,

but because we love Jesus and we want to be like Him.

We don’t want to hurt ourselves or others by sin.

We hate our sin, for we hate what God hates.

And we want to do good works and please God by loving our neighbour because we love what God loves.

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Being a Christian is not an idle sport; 

it is a continual struggle with flesh, world, and Satan.

Left to ourselves, we would certainly be overcome by Satan

and made his captives once again.

But we are not alone!

The Jesus who defeated Satan in the wilderness and on the cross

now wants to fight within us and to conquer.

His grace is sufficient for us, for His power comes to perfection 

in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).

In this world, we suffer great tribulation, distress, and danger,

and the devil regards us as sheep to be slaughtered. 

But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus, 

our victorious Saviour, who loves us (see Romans 8:35-37).

And in our struggles, Jesus gives us this amazing promise:

This will be my gift to the one who conquers: 

I will sit them beside Me on My throne, 

just as I conquered and sat with My father on His throne  

(Revelation 3:21—The Bible for Everyone: A New Translation).

This is the glorious, unfailing, solidly great promise of God,

which He has given to us in Jesus, so that we remain steadfast in battle. 

God has won the victory for us through Christ. 

And now, God fights alongside us. 

God dwells in us through baptism; 

thus God fights and wins our battles in and through us. 

All this is an incomprehensible grace. 

All this Christ Himself wants to accomplish and bring to fulfillment 

within us, that one day He may give us the gift 

of sitting beside Him on His throne 

as those who have conquered in Christ. Amen.