David Kolander

It’s Time to Get to Work!

by David Kolander on February 26th, 2023
Matthew 4:1-11

Just a few months after one of my daughters got married last year, her husband experienced what a number of you have experienced in your life, when a few weeks before Christmas he was told his company was downsizing and that he no longer had a job in the organization he had worked for for over five years. And so, as some of you have also had to do, since that time he has been looking for another place of employment, coming to the understandable conclusion, “It’s Time to Get to Work!” He needs the income, and he needs something to do.

In our lesson for today, our Savior Jesus is not in danger of getting laid off from his job, but there is someone who wants to get him fired from his mission – a someone who had been wanting that ever since he had first enticed Adam and Eve to want to become their Creator’s equals and to do with his creation what they themselves wanted to do with it, as we heard in our First Lesson. In the thousands of years since that first bite of the forbidden fruit, the Son of God had been waiting for the signal that the time had fully come for the final part of God’s salvation plan for his people like you and me to begin. And so we come to Matthew 4, and we can almost hear Jesus say on this first Sunday in Lent, “It’s Time to Get the Work!” My people need a Savior, and they need to know that they can trust me.

The reason I’m saying we can look at this lesson of Jesus being tempted by the devil as a time for him to get to work is because in the verses right before our lesson Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. You may remember that we often refer to Jesus’ baptism as his installation ceremony – as the day he was officially able to begin his mission — as the day he was officially acknowledged as the promised Messiah, when his heavenly Father said to him the very same thing he said to him three years later on the Mount of Transfiguration — as Pastor Casmer preached to us about last week — “This is my Son whom I love. With him I am well-pleased.” And now in the very next verses of our sermon text we see God’s Son beginning his God-pleasing work in a way that only someone who was perfect and holy could ever possibly do.

But from hell comes the one – the devil – who wants to do everything he can to make sure Jesus doesn’t stay perfect and holy, because if Jesus didn’t stay perfect and holy, what would that mean for us? If Jesus didn’t stay perfect and holy, what that would mean for us is that God the Father could not of course credit that holiness to us, since there would be no holiness to credit to us, meaning we would stand before God on the Final Day as people who did not stand a chance to live forever with the holy God in his holy heaven. And if Jesus didn’t stay perfect and holy, God the Father could not of course consider the blood he shed on the cross to be holy, precious blood, meaning there is no way it could forgive and wipe away from God’s memory every sin you and I had ever committed. If Jesus didn’t stay perfect and holy, everything that God had talked about in the Bible would be a total sham – a total failure – a total lie – if, when it was time for Jesus to get to work, he would have miserably failed and had humiliatingly gotten fired from his mission. These are the things to keep in mind as we now think about these three temptations and thank God from the bottom of our hearts that Jesus succeeded in his mission, because that means that through him we are also perfect and holy in God’s sight and able to carry out whatever mission and purpose in life God has in mind for us.

The word devil in the Bible is pronounced diabolos, from which we get the word diabolical – and that is what the devil just plain is – diabolical, conniving, evil. Two different times he tries to play mind games with Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, make these stones bread. If you are the Son of God, if you really are the Son of God, jump off this building.” Obviously Jesus as the Son of God could have turned those stones into bread. A little later he would later turn just five small loaves of bread into enough food for thousands of people as one evidence that he really was the Son of God. But what would have it have meant if he had made some stone-bread now, even when he must have been so hungry from having fasted for forty days and forty nights?

His dear heavenly Father, who said he was well-pleased with his holy Son because of the work he would be doing, was going to sustain him and keep him going in that work, no matter how hard it got. So Jesus quoted a Bible passage to the devil that said that, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Yes, God does use food and money to keep us alive, but what really keeps us alive is the word and promise of God to give us what we need to stay alive until he decides to take us to heaven. Food and money and medicine and jobs are just some of the earthly tools he uses to keep that promise. Jesus was saying to Satan, “Because I really am the Son of God, I know that my Father will keep me going without me having to help him along by doing something I have the ability to do. I trust him.” 

That’s the same trust you and I can put in the same Father in heaven, who, no matter the financial or health circumstances in our lives or in our world, will keep you and me alive as along as he wants – and he will keep us as well and healthy as he wants in order to have us keep depending on him, rather than resorting to fretting and worrying about all we think we need to do to help God along by doing this or trying to get that by turning so-called stones into what we consider badly-needed bread. We can go about our lives with confidence, because the promise of our Father says he will keep us alive the way he knows is best for us. We can trust him.

Well, if you trust him so much, go to the top of those steel trusses on our new church building and jump off. After all, the devil said to Jesus, if you really are the Son of God you can trust him to catch you as you are falling, since that Word of God you just told me about bread also says that the Lord won’t let you smash your foot against a stone, as he sends his angels to lift you up in their hands. But what you would you and I be saying if we did something like that? What would Jesus have been saying if he had done that? We would be saying, “God, I don’t really trust you. I’m going to test you to see if you really are telling the truth. I am going to tell you how you are to take care of me.” God does tell us to trust his promises and to hold him to his promises, but he does not tell us to use his promises as an excuse to test him on our terms. If Jesus had jumped off that temple top, he would have basically been saying, “Father, I dare you to take care of me, if you really can.” No, Jesus said to the devil, “Don’t misuse the Word of God. The Bible also says, ‘Don’t put the Lord your God to the test.’” What a blessing it is for us to know that the Lord does keep his promise every single day to guard and protect us with all the invisible angels he says surround us. Instead of testing God, we have every reason to be thanking God – and praying to God that he will continue to keep his promise to deliver us from evil until the day it’s time for us to be away from all evil – and all the tears and worries and those things that makes us scared — forever, where the only test will be how many times we can say “Thank You” to a God who loves us so.

But the devil is diabolical, and if he can’t get us by having us wonder if we really are God’s children or if God’s Word really is true, he will just make a full frontal attack and say the only way to enjoy your life is to give it to him. He doesn’t even try to play mind games with Jesus this time – “If you are the Son of God” – he just says, “Look at all the kingdoms and glories of this world. All this will be yours if you bow down and worship me.” How strange, isn’t it, that you and I can so often fall to the totally absurd temptation that if we follow what our sinful nature wants us to do, or if we follow the actions or the philosophies of what the world around us does or thinks are fulfilling or truly smart or cool, then we will feel fulfilled and smart and cool. Jesus says so simply what Satan tries to make it so difficult for us to say, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

And that really gets us to the point of why Jesus allowed himself to be taken by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness desert and to allow himself to go without food for over a month and to allow the devil to try with all his might to get him to fail. It was time to get to work. It was time to do the work that leads you and me to be able to get to work and to say with all our heart, “I will worship the Lord my God, and serve him only.” After all, this is my Savior God – the Lord Jesus Christ – whose one hundred percent perfect life, as shown in the example of these three temptations, is said to be your and my one hundred percent perfect life. He is, the Bible says, our righteousness, our perfection. The perfect Lord Jesus Christ, who still allowed his body to be placed on a cross so that holy precious blood would be poured out to pay the price for all the times, despite our best efforts or sometimes, sadly, when we don’t even seem to care, we have not trusted God to take care of us or we have challenged and tested God to take care of us or we have just said, “Okay, Satan, it sounds like what you can offer me is best for me. I belong to you.” What a perfect – what a loving –Savior we have, who, when it was time to get to work, did the work that lets us know in his amazing grace how amazingly special we are to a God who is also, for Jesus’ sake, so well-pleased with us, as well. In Jesus’ name, then, let’s all of us now get to work and worship and serve him only, who has so served us – for whatever time God still gives us. Amen.

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