The First Sunday in Lent – Sunday, March 10, 2019

March 10, 2019  

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus knew who he was.

Since last Advent, when we began hearing gospel readings from Luke each Sunday, we have heard stories that clearly indicate, not only that Jesus knew who he was, but others knew.

John the Baptist recognized the presence of Jesus while they were both still in utero. A pregnant Mary had gone to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. When Elizabeth hear Mary’s greeting the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy… (Luke 1:42-44).

The night Jesus was born, angels appeared in the sky singing glory to God. The angels told shepherds that the Messiah was about to be born. The shepherds went to Bethlehem to see the baby, believing everything the angels told them about him (Luke 2:8-18).

The prophet Simeon and the prophet Anna, both people who had each been promised they would not die before seeing the Messiah, met Jesus as an infant when he was brought to the Temple to be purified. Each of them knew, as soon as they saw him, who he was (Luke 2:22-38).

Remember the story of Jesus when he was twelve years old? He traveled to Jerusalem with his family to celebrate the Passover. After the celebration they traveled home, only to discover Jesus was nowhere to be found. Returning to Jerusalem they found him in the Temple studying with the elders. When his mother told him how worried she was he replied “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:41-50).

When Jesus, as a young man, was baptized God spoke to him saying “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased (Luke 3:21-22).

Jesus knew who he was.

Others knew who he was. Which makes today’s gospel reading all the more interesting.

What did the devil say to Jesus? He said “If…”

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread” (Luke 4:3).

“If you, then, will worship me [all of this] will be yours” (Luke 4:7).

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…” (Luke 4:9).

If…

Jesus knew who he was. Others knew who he was; which means the devil’s words weren’t about the “if” they are about the “if then…”

If this is true then you have the power to do this.

If this is true then you have the power to do that.

I’m going to be bold here and flout, not only tradition, but the way the story is told in the gospels themselves…

Luke wrote, and tradition embraces that the devil was tempting Jesus. I don’t believe that is what was happening.

I believe the devil was trying to distract Jesus. I believe the devil was trying to distract Jesus from fulfilling his Call as the Son of God. And Jesus was not about to be distracted.

Jesus was not going to let his own hunger distract him. Jesus was not going to let his power distract him. Jesus was not going to let his abilities distract him from what God had called him to do.

What is most curious is how Jesus responded to the devil’s attempts at distracting him. He turned to scripture. Each and every response he gave to the devil began with the words “It is written…”

“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone’” (Luke 4:4).

It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him’” (Luke 4:8).

“It is written, ‘[God] will command [God’s] angels concerning you, to protect you…’” (Luke 4:10).

And then Jesus said “It is said…”

“It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Luke 4:12).

Like Jesus, we know who we are. At least, I hope we do.

We are God’s children. We are baptized children of God. We belong to God.

As God’s children, like Jesus, we are called to be faithful to all that God desires of us. We are called to be faithful to all that God desires from us.

Which means, we can’t allow ourselves to be distracted.

Each of us knows best what distracts us from our calls.

The blessing of today’s gospel reading is that it gives us an example of how to defeat those distractions.

Scripture.

Defeat the devil’s distractions with scripture. Try it out with today’s psalm. If Jeanne were preaching she’d probably call it the “You who” psalm.

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty—
2you will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my stronghold,
my God in whom I put my trust.

Whatever is distracting you, say to that distraction: My refuge is God. God is my stronghold. I put my trust in God. Say those words and believe them. Trust them. Find strength in them. Lean on them.

And then hopefully, as promised, the devil will depart from you.

Amen.