Matthew 2:1-11 In our Old Testament lesson today we heard the story of mankind’s fall into sin—not just the fall of Adam and Eve—but the fall of all of us because of their sin. The Bible says that “sin came into the world through one man and death spread to all men.”
Now, we may not think that is fair—that one man’s sin has brought death to all of us-- but the fact of the matter is we too have sinned, we too have followed the deadly path of Adam—we too have gone our own way and not God’s way—and so have countless others in the family of Adam.
God’s judgment upon Adam and Eve and upon all their children that sin equals death is perfectly just when we look at our own lives of sin. All of us—without exception—along with the whole human family—without exception—is caught up in sin and the judgment of God rests upon us by nature.
But in the midst of that sin, when Adam and Eve ruined God’s perfect creation and doomed to death every one of their children, God stepped in.
He sought them out, forgave them their sin, promised them that he himself would raise up a champion who would defeat Satan and restore to the human family everything we have lost on account of sin and he showed them a picture of what that would look like as he covered them in the bloody flesh of an innocent victim.
That story of sin and salvation was told again and again for thousands of years—it was shown again and again for thousands of years-- in the sacrificial worship of God’s people as believers looked to and hoped for and prayed for the promised Savior who would not be another victim of Satan and sin-- but be their conqueror and our deliverer.
That is the One we encounter today in the wilderness One born as a member of the human family. One who has to fight against the devil just as we do each day.
And the Good News for us who are so often wounded in this battle, is that in the same way that Adam’s sin has destroyed us, Jesus’ holy obedience and his victory over temptation has saved us.
The Bible says that: Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Please note that Jesus did not put himself in harm’s way spiritually—he was not the least bit cavalier about the spiritual dangers of encountering Satan, but this was the direction that his life had to go as the Savior of the world.
He was the champion promised by God. He was the new Adam who had to get things right if we are to be saved.
And so he took upon himself our nature- and he was born under the law-and faced temptation like every other child of Adam in the weakness of our frail human flesh. The Bible says that: After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Please contrast this with what we saw in the Garden with Adam. Adam and Eve lived in the perfection of God’s creation. The universe was their playground. Everything was made for them. They were the pinnacle of God’s creative work and everything in the universe was theirs to use and enjoy except for one small tree.
That tree was to be their altar and pulpit where they showed their obedience to God’s commands. It was where they exercised their faith in the goodness and promises of God. That tree should have been for them the eternal location of their worship of God.
But it became instead- the location of their fall- and of our destruction- and the end of God’s perfect world.
That is what Jesus encounters in the wilderness. A place where the devil had free reign and a body that was subject to all of the frailties of our human existence. And so it is not in the strength of Adam that Jesus fights against temptation. It is not in a perfect creation that our Lord enters the field of spiritual battle against the devil, but in a broken, fallen world and a body that is as weak as our own. The Bible says that:
The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
If you know the context, you know how utterly evil and depraved these words of the devil are.
Just a month or so earlier, Jesus entered into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John and the Holy Spirit rested upon him and Jesus heard the voice of his Father: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. This IS my Son!
And here now in the wilderness, when there is no tangible sign of his Father’s love but only his promise to lay hold of, Jesus is attacked by the devil: If you are the Son of God… Will Jesus believe the testimony of his Father? Or will he listen to the voice of Satan and eat what he holds out? This is right where Adam failed and plunged the world into ruin.
Please understand—there is no sin in bearing hungry—there is no sin in desiring food to meet that need. Adam and Eve were right when they said that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was beautiful and it would give knowledge—but God had forbidden it-- and that should have been enough for them-- and it should be enough for us—but it is not.
There is no sin in any physical desire in and of itself—God made us physical creatures. But he has put a hedge around those desires for our own good.
He says that sex is reserved for marriage-- and food and drink are to be used in moderation-- and the Giver is to be valued above the gifts-- and yet we have cast aside the words of God regarding our lives as creatures again and again because much too often we value bread more than God just as the Israelites did in the wilderness.
But Jesus did not. He was the new Adam who held fast to the words of his Father and he was the new Israel who valued his relationship with his Father more than food.
His life as his Father’s Son was infinitely more valuable to him than meeting some need no matter how desperate the straits-- and his Father’s words were infinitely more powerful than the devil’s temptation-- and so he took his stand on the words of his Father:
“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Adam would not gain, but lose his life, by ignoring God’s Word and eating from the forbidden tree. We do not gain, but lose our life, when ignore God’s word about material things and then misuse God’s good gifts.
But Jesus believed the words of his Father. And such is the devil’s deceitfulness that the very words of God became his next place of attack. The Bible says that:
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.’”
Adam and Eve knew the Word of God. They had heard the voice of the living God of the universe say, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”.
And yet when Satan arrived on the scene, those words were the exact location of his attack, “Did God actually say that”? And then, “It’s not true”.
And so it was that day in the wilderness that the new Adam (who has just withstood temptation by taking his stand on the Word” is attacked by Satan in the same place where dam fell—on the Word of God. He says, “This is what the promises of God are, if you are the Son of God, put God to the test and see if he is faithful or not.”
It is a particularly demonic mode of attack because it is an attack on the faithfulness of God and the truth of his Word and it is used against those who know God and believe his Word and it sounds so reasonable—surely I can test God in this promise and see if it is true or not.
But faith that must be proved beyond the promises of God’s Word is not faith at all—it is faithlessness.
We have all fallen victim to it. We say to ourselves, “If God really loved me then he would do this or that.” Or we say, “If God really loved me he would preserve me from this or that.”
And we put God to the test by demanding something of him beyond the promises that he loves us so much that he has sent his Son into this world for us.
Jesus did not fall victim to this temptation. There was no need to prove the faithfulness of God and the power of his promises beyond the power of his Word itself.
He took the sword of the Spirit in hand and defeated the devil in exactly the way he was being attacked and affirms his Sonship and the Father’s love for him and his own role as the Savior of the world.
It is here, in the saving purposes of Jesus that the devil wages his last attack. The Bible says that:
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.
When the devil came to Adam and Eve, they lived in the perfection of God’s creation and they literally possessed everything in the universe save one. And that is where the devil attacked. It is the mystery of evil that they succumbed to temptation when the lacked one small thing in the whole universe including a life with God.
But we see it all around us. A husband and father has everything and throws it away for some fling. A musician or artist has every gift and ability and the admiration of millions and they kill themselves. An athlete makes it to the big leagues but ruins it all with drugs or gambling.
That is how the devil came to Jesus. He said, “It is not enough to be God’s Son, I will give you the world”. Please know, as Jesus did, that the devil is a liar and whatever he says he will give you is a lie that is meant to destroy you for time and eternity.
The world already belonged to Jesus. He was the one who created it-- but now it was ruined by sin and the only way for him to reclaim it for himself was not by the lies of Satan-- but by his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection.
The worship and service of God by man that was lost by Adam and lost by us too was reclaimed and renewed by the holy obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, an obedience unto death, so that what was lost by Adam and his children was regained by Christ for us in his victory over temptation. Amen.