“Urgent: Tempted People!”
Lent 1, February 22, 2015
URGENT: Tempted People!
Text: Mark 1:9–15
There is an old story about a minster and his wife who wanted to buy a dress. He trusted her to be reasonable, knowing their checking account was not as full as they would like. That’s why he was shocked when she came home with an outfit, a beautiful outfit, a costly outfit. When he asked why, she replied, “The devil tempted me. He told me the dress looks good.” “Then why,” he asked, “didn’t you say, ‘Get behind me, Satan.” She told him, “I did say that and when I told the devil to get behind me, he did and said “The dress looks pretty good from back here, too.” In our text today the Holy Spirit leads Jesus out into the wilderness. Why? To be tempted. And that’s crucial! Because we are tempted too. It’s very important that we know that Jesus, Who Was Tempted, Helps Us When We Are Tempted.
It may seem unexpected that Jesus, after His baptism, after His formal beginning to His ministry and the beginning of His mission to save us, then goes out into the middle of nowhere where He does not eat, or do much of anything else, for forty days. And during this time, He is tempted by the devil. Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are.
Was Jesus’ temptation an occasional thought that passed through His mind while He fasted? Was He limited to one temptation a day or two or three? Mark does not give us a lot of details about Jesus’ temptation, but this he does teach us: Jesus was tempted all forty days of His time there, for “he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan” (v 13). The writer of Hebrews gives us this insight: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15).
That Jesus was tempted in every respect may be offensive to some people, perhaps even to you—to think Jesus was tempted by the worst of sins. It is something that we just do not think about that Jesus was tempted to steal, or curse, or anything. That just sounds wacky, like a bad idea for a Hollywood movie. We don’t get a laundry list of temptations for Day 4 in the desert or Day 38, but the fact still stands that Jesus was tempted in every respect throughout those forty days and throughout His ministry.
And that is another detail about Jesus that is often overlooked. Jesus was not just tempted for those forty days, He was tempted every day of His ministry, everyday of His mission to save us. To the very end, Jesus is tempted—even on the cross. Remember, after these wilderness days, Satan waited for a more “opportune time” (Lk 4:13). But instead of listening to Satan’s lies, He prayed to His Father; He prayed for His enemies; He gave comfort to the repentant thief who had given in to temptation that led to his own crucifixion. Jesus prayed for you and your temptations even as He died for you. And this was all for you. By His complete and full temptation, without sin, without faltering one single time, Jesus has credited your account with perfect resistance to all temptation.
Now that is good news for us; Jesus comes to us with help and hope. But we must ask, How are we doing with temptation in our lives? We are tempted all the time, right? Tempted to put other things ahead of God in our lives, to misuse God’s name, to sleep in on Sunday and skip coming here, to have a bad attitude toward police officers and think they just write tickets and eat donuts, to hate that guy in the next cubicle over or the next desk over, to watch porn when no one else is around, to copy that DVD or Blu-ray on your computer, to lie. We deal with a lot of temptation.
At your Baptism, these words were prayed: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” from temptation. Jesus has been and will continue to be by your tempted side until you are finally at peace and rest eternally with Him. Paul said in 1Corinthians 10:13, ” No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Because you are declared also to be the loved son or daughter of the heavenly Father, you have all the help of His Son, Jesus.
We are aware, though, that Satan is relentless. Satan is a keen observer of behavior, and he will not let up until you breathe your last. But you are not without help and hope. Remember, Jesus was tempted in every way, and that means Jesus was tempted the ways you are tempted. Jesus knows well that list we just went through. Jesus is with us every time the devil starts whispering: “Go ahead. Everyone else is doing it.” (By the way they are not.) “It’s not going to hurt anyone.” (By the way, yes it will.) Jesus knows us, is with us, and will help us.
We can turn to Jesus when we are tempted. Those great words of comfort from Hebrews even go on: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:15–16).
As tempted people, can we dare to draw near to God’s throne of grace? Certainly you can! Jesus has opened the way for you. Not only do we hold on to our Savior Jesus, who has been through the very temptations you are going through, but we also put out our urgent prayers to our heavenly Father, who hears every word. In His own prayer, Jesus puts into your mouth the very words of His temptation experience: “And lead us not into temptation.” And we know because He died on the cross for us and rose again for us, we can draw near to that throne of grace. We can, because of what Jesus did for us. We are forgiven.
Let’s sum up this way. A few years back, Ken Klaus talked about how every state is proud of their state fairs, but what they are really proud of is the junk food. In the past, Wisconsin had chocolate covered bacon on a stick. Texas had fried beer. Massachusetts offered fried jelly beans, and North Carolina had a “koolickle.” (a pickle soaked in Kool Aid.) That same year, New York and their state fair had the “Big Kahuna Donut Burger.” For a little more than five dollars you could get a quarter pound hamburger sandwiched between halves of a grilled, glazed donut. With a few extras like a little cheese, some bacon, lettuce, onion, relish and you’ve got 1,500 calories of junk food goodness. Does that sound tempting? We all look at something, probably every day, and say to ourselves, “I shouldn’t eat that.” And then we do.
There is no doubt about it: out there somewhere is a temptation with our name on it. Satan and the world have spent considerable time putting together the proper list of ingredients which when presented at the right time and in the right manner will tempt our spiritual palate and seduce us into sinning.
Jesus came to be our Savior because He was the only One who could do the job. Only He could resist temptation; only He could fulfill the Commandments; only He was big enough, powerful enough and holy enough to pick up our sins and pay their price on the cross.
His Easter morning resurrection from the dead is our assurance that all who believe on Him as Savior will be forgiven, freed and given life eternal.
Brothers and sisters, this gift strengthens you, your flesh and mind and spirit, in times of temptation . . . and forgives you for every time you give in to those temptations. Jesus is here for you, even now, when you are tempted to think this sermon is too long or too boring, or if you are tempted to think, “Just say amen! I’m hungry!” Jesus is with you right now, to help you resist and to restore you when you fall. Jesus, who was tempted, helps you when you are tempted. Thank God that He was and that He is, and that He will be, here for you.