Sunday, March 09, 2014

Sermon: Invocabit (Lent 1) – 2014

9 March 2014

Text: Matt 4:1-11 (Gen 3:1-21, 2 Cor 6:1-10)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Did God actually say…?”

With this question, Satan began his sales pitch to Eve and Adam.  Satan was not trying to sell her a laundry detergent, or a car, or a set of steak knives.  He was trying to sell her, and her husband, something that no-one in their right mind would want: death.

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”  asked the serpent.

He waited for the customer to make her objection, which she did: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”  And here is where the crafty salesman went for the close: “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

And so the opening line: “Did God actually say…”, designed to sow the seed of doubt, was followed up by the lie that breaking God’s law would not lead to death.  The serpent appealed to her vanity, he offered her benefits of Godlike power for buying what he had to offer.  And he closed the deal: “She took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Satan made the sale.  He sold death to people who were immortal; he sold sorrow and suffering to people who lived in perfect joy and peace.  He sold every human being who was ever born into the slavery to sin. 

Except one.

For God in His mercy, redeemed Adam and Eve and all fallen men created in His image, but who were fooled and corrupted by the crafty serpent, by the devil, by Satan.  God promised Adam and Eve a Savior, saying to the serpent, “He,” the Savior, “shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.”  And that “offspring” of the woman, or as the Hebrew text literally reads, that “Seed,” would be sown in the womb of a future daughter of Eve, He would be a Son of Adam who is the Son of God, who will fulfill the promise and crush the serpent’s head, making war against the devil, defeating him, not merely setting the clock this way or that, but radically turning back the ravages of time and death, making all things new, in a new creation: a new heaven and new earth, and renewing men and women for everlasting life.

But, dear friends, it comes at a terrible price.  For God told Satan: “You will bruise His heel.”  And indeed, there is a consequence of death as a result of the fall, as punishment for our sins, and that death was paid by the Offspring, the Seed of the woman, who was born into our world not to buy the lie of the sales-pitch of death, but rather to give away the truth of the grace of life – purchased “not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

Three years before Jesus was to conquer the devil at the cross, He would meet the devil in the wilderness.  Satan made the same sales pitch to this New and Greater Adam, this Son of Adam and Eve, who is also the Son of God.  The devil tried to distort God’s Word and close the deal on the Son of God once and for all, but our Lord Jesus Christ was not buying it.

There was to be no “Did God actually say...?” this time.  Instead, the challenge was to go the other way: “It is written.”  Rather than allow the devil to cast doubt upon God’s Word, Jesus, who is God’s Word in the flesh, uses the Word as a sword to beat back the crafts and assaults of the devil.

The tempter first tried the sales-pitch of food, knowing that Jesus was hungry.  Our Lord replied, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 

The tempter then tried to misuse God’s Word, quoting Scripture, but doing so out of context, challenging our Lord, appealing to His vanity.  “Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

The tempter then offered to give Jesus Godlike power to rule the kingdoms of the world, and make his pitch that Jesus worship him.  “Then Jesus said to him, ‘be gone, Satan!  For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and to Him only shall you serve.’”

Thus the fall in Eden would not be repeated. This time, the Man defeated the crafts and assaults of the devil.  He did not buy the pitch.  He did not make a foolish transaction.  And the serpent was to slink away until a more opportune time, when the real battle would rage: the battle of the cross.  And it is at the cross where the bloody heel of Jesus would crush and mortally wound the devil, his lies, and all of his works and ways.

Did God actually say that a Seed of the woman would come to defeat the devil and redeem mankind!  Indeed, He did, dear brothers and sisters!  Indeed He did!  Once and for all.  God actually said, and God actually did! 

And so here we are, dear friends, at a crossroads of our own, the intersection of our fallen nature and our renewed nature in, with, and under the sacrificial blood of Christ, the crossroads of the deadly lies of the serpent and the life-giving Word of the living God.  Here we are as baptized Christians given the gift of eternal life by Christ’s work, by the Father’s promise, by the seal of the Holy Spirit, and yet Satan continues to whisper in our ears: “Did God actually say…?

Dear friends, “It is written.”  The promises are “written.”  And they are written to be read.  Read the Word!  Study the Word!  Hurl the Word back into the lying sales-pitch of Satan!  Are you better than our Lord?  If Jesus used the shield of God’s Word to protect himself against the tempter, how much more should we “poor miserable sinners” do the same, dear friends?

Our Divine Service is a twice-weekly baptism and feast in the Word of God.  As a congregation, we gather to study the Holy Word together twice weekly.  We are called upon not to forsake the assembly of ourselves together to mutually beat back the sales-pitch of the evil one.  We are vulnerable to his lies.  And that is why the Lord has provided you with a community of brothers and sisters for mutual aid and comfort.  For what war was ever won by individual soldiers fighting separately, each in his own place and in his own way?  The Lord has called you, dear friends, called you, to be a part of this community: to hear the law convict you, to hear the gospel comfort you, to hear Christ absolve you, and to hear the Word beat Satan down.  The Lord has called you to join us in Bible class – as a community.  It is not only about what you get out of it (which is, incidentally, eternal life), but also about what you can do for your neighbor by participating. 

Satan loves a divided people to conquer.  Satan hates a people that are united with one another under the headship of the Lord, knowledgeable of His Word, and humbly submitting to His calling and election as Christians.  And better yet, Satan is powerless to take away the gift the Lord has given us in His mercy and in His Word, in His promise, and in His very body and blood.

As the holy apostle speaks to us yet again, dear friends: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation.”  Now is the time, dear brothers and sisters, now, this holy season of Lent, now is the time to recommit to the Lord, to make a vow to be here with Jesus week in and week out, without excuses and without the delusion that the Word of God is a low priority.  Now is the time to commit to joining your brothers and sisters to study God’s Word.  Would Jesus prefer you to sleep in or watch TV or play a round of golf?  Will any of those things arm you for battle with Satan?

Being in His Word does arm you for that battle, dear friends.  And better yet, it connects you to the person and work of Jesus, the one who defeated death and the devil for us men and for our salvation, for you! 

“Did God actually say…?”  Yes, indeed, dear friends, yes indeed.  God did actually say, and God continues to say in His Word:

“He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”  It is written!  Amen.


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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