First Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4:1-11 (ESV)
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,
" '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.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” That is what the forty day fast of Lent is supposed to teach us. As re remember Jesus’ fast in the desert forty days resisting temptation on our behalf, forty days of being shown every which way possible for him to avoid the cross, avoid suffering and pain, and yet for us he remains steadfast and resolute. He will not take short cuts, he will not fall to the devils temptations. The man who takes compassion of 5,000 by making loaves of bread multiply, will simply not make bread out of stones to care for his own hunger. He has bread of a different type. A type of food that he would share with us. He will live by the word of God, even as he dies on the cross for you and I, that we too might live by the word of God.
Lent, a few days into it and I really start enjoying it. A season dedicated to focusing on what really matters, not the things of this world, but the things above, God, heaven, eternal salvation.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus wards off the tempter with these words, but he speaks to us too. It is for us that these words were recorded. Do we take that seriously? I don’t believe that many do. I don’t think most Christians do. I think most often it is given lipservice. Seeing the weird ways in which most fundamentalists twist it, I think the whole debate concerning inerrancy is just a distraction. As if once you believe it is inerrant you are free to ignore it.
Of course, some of this is a by product of how serious a matter God’s word is. The People at Sinai would not have God speak to them anymore lest they die! Perhaps it is not laziness, or carelessness that keeps people away from God’s word, and its diligent use, but fear. But it is a perverse fear of God, not the kind he demands, that keeps one from reading his word. Problem is no one lives for not reading God’s word, and everyone who does read, every one who reads it and takes it seriously, well they do die. God’s word kills. Kills you dead.
Yes, God’s word is a dangerous thing that way. It’s supposed to kill you, just before it makes you alive. Some how it has to kill you, before it can give you life, before it can allow you to live. It strangles your soul, suffocates your conscience. It’s a familiar sensation for a Christian that takes God’s word seriously, the pain of that two edge sword being driven through your heart, that cesspool of sin. And in the most peculiar of places, most often when it talks of love, is when it comes about. The world talks of love and everyone is mesmerized by visions of flower girls, world peace. The Bible talks of love, and I’m reminded of broken and strained relationships, anger I have felt in my heart, envy I have had for the blessings others have enjoyed, when I take my own blessings in life for granted. Yes God’s word will kill you, over and over again, as long as that old Adam drowned in baptism keeps surfacing for air in you, God’s word when read will be pushing him down one more time, as often as it is read.
Yes, because if we take God’s word as seriously as Christ does. And here he shows how serious he is about it, what his own view of Scripture is, for in quoting scripture in this, he shows that he believes it to be God’s word. Yes, if we take God’s word as seriously as Christ, as seriously as God himself does Then we know it was in baptism we were buried with Christ into death, so that just as he was risen from the dead to the glory of God, we too might walk in the newness of life. And it is this newness of life that Jesus would have us walk in even now, even now which our Epistle lesson reminds us is the day of salvation. Because only when we find death in God’s word do we find Life. Or as Christ says, “ For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25 (ESV)
And this because Christ took God’s word seriously, and in it lost his life for our sakes. He gave up his life on our behalf, that we might finally have life, true life, real life, the newness of life! Yes, I told you at the beginning, the fast, these temptations, it was about avoiding the cross. The Devil wanted Jesus to do a run around. But Jesus took God’s word seriously. He knew that wouldn’t be love, though the world would not have known the difference between avoiding the cross and that which it calls love. Jesus knew that to love God above all things, with all his heart and soul and might, was to love his neighbor as himself. Something we men too often forget. And to love his neighbor as himself, meant to die on the cross, to lose his life that we who lose our life for his sake would find it. So that he could give us life, life abundant. God’s word which he believed in would find its climax in him, in him crucified for the world. But in his death is the forgiveness of sins, forgiveness that kills to make alive.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen