Sermon Notes for 1st Sunday in Lent, 5 March 2017 Anno Domini
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. Matt 4:1-11
We learn much about our Lord Jesus Christ as well as the ways of the Devil in today’s text. The great sin that caused Lucifer to be cast down with his angels was the foundation stone for all sin – PRIDE. “12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. 16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; 17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? 18 All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. 19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.”
Isaiah 14:9-19 (KJV)
The story is told of a young boy who was admiring the lovely goldfish of his parent’s pond. They glided through the water as if no effort whatsoever was required. The boy subconsciously uttered, “Oh, how I wish I could swim through the water as you do, Mr. Fish!” The fish responded, “But what is water?” If we have no opposing examples of a great blessing, we may appreciate it less. The fish has never known an environment that was not comprised of water. If we lived in a world in which there was no temptation, we would have no means to develop and measure character. That is what temptations do.
Let us, from the beginning, recognize certain facts borne out in the text:
1) We could not appreciate light if there was no darkness; or cold without heat, or good health without sickness; or success in sports without failure; or height without depth.
2) Temptation measures character. Without temptations, no challenge to character.
3) Fire tempers metal and makes it more solid and firm; so does temptation build character.
4) Our Lord came as a Man to demonstrate perfect character that withstands temptation. The more of a man or woman we are, the better character we will represent in our lives.
5) All temptations of Christ came from outside, and not inside, His soul: and He never submitted to any of them.
Now, let us examine the text for our own profit:
Forty Days and Forty Nights: Sound familiar? The rains gushed forth and the great fountains of the deep erupted for forty days and forty nights with poor Noah safely ensconced in the Ark. Moses was upon Mt. Sinai Mount of the Lord for LAW) while the Law was being given and fasted for forty days and forty nights. Elijah fasted forty days and forty nights sustained on Mt. Horeb (Mount of the Lord for MERCY) by the gifts of God. Without the Law, mercy would have no meaning. And the Children of Israel wondered forty years in the Wilderness….. We observe forty days and forty nights during Lenten Season (excepting Sundays) as a symbol of our fellowship of suffering with Christ (That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death) Phil 3:10 Do we conscientiously fulfill this experience?
There is something that is magnificently mysterious about these forty days and forty nights. We only have the mention of three occasions in Scripture of fasting forty days and forty nights. Read what the old theologian, Adam Clarke, says about the forty day fast: “It is remarkable that Moses, the great lawgiver of the Jews, previously to his receiving the law from God, fasted forty days in the mount; that Elijah, the chief of the prophets, fasted also forty days; and that Christ, the giver of the New Covenant, should act in the same way. Was not all this intended to show, that God’s kingdom on earth was to be spiritual and Divine?—that it should not consist in meat and drink, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost? Romans 14:17 Relative to the forty days’ fast of Moses, there is a beautiful saying in the Talmudists. “Is it possible that any man can fast forty days and forty nights? To which Rabbi Meir answered, When thou takest up thy abode in any particular city, thou must live according to its customs. Moses ascended to heaven, where they neither eat nor drink therefore he became assimilated to them. We are accustomed to eat and drink; and, when angels descend to us, they eat and drink also.“
Please recall with me the account of the Transfiguration of our Lord: “1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. 9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” Matt 17:1-9 (KJV) This gives evidence of the truth of how Adam Clarke describes the nature of the fast being that of the Kingdom of God as being spiritual and Divine – of righteousness, peace, and joy.
“He was afterward an hungred”: When Jesus had suffered every deprivation of bread and water, He was intensely hungry. Satan bides his time until he perceives the most vulnerable moment in executing his vile temptations. It was at this moment that the Tempter came to Christ.
“If thou be the Son of God”: Satan loves to question. His first temptation in the Garden was a question: “Hath God said?” He is not as concerned about total conviction of a lie as he is in simply creating doubt, for doubt makes faith null. “Command that these stones be made bread” The greatest physical need Christ feels at this moment is bread. How tempting to comply with Satan’s urgings! Satan always opens with a QUESTION of the veracity of God’s Word – much like today.
“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God: Christ answers with Scripture, but that Word is also the Bread of Heaven! This Bread Satan cannot have. Then Satan loosed a number of more temptations which Jesus rebuffed, again, with the written Word “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” What a perfect lesson for us in confronting Satan. Just as darkness cannot abide the Light, Satan cannot abide the Word.
“5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Matt 4:4-6 (KJV) So does this last quote not bear the text accurately? No, it does not. The Devil, like modern Bible versions, left something out – that left out was the nature and character of Christ – “In all thy ways.” The ways of the Lord are mercy and truth. Here it is fully shown in Psalms 91: “11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Psalms 91:11-12 Strangely (yeah, right) Satan did not include the next verse since it was the adder was representative of his own nature. “13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.” Psalms 91:13 (KJV)
. Satan will promise youall that he does not have power to grant and demands all that you do not have the power to keep from him. Satan demands worship – God INVITES the same. But notice this: just as in the Garden, Satan opens, not only with a question, but with one that does not accurately quote the Word of God.
Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. This last admonition was more than Satan could bear. “Then the devil leaveth him!” It is often the mystery of God that He allows our temptation under austere circumstances and with faint heavenly help. God watches and observes our overcoming strength through the power of our faith in Him. Then He sends succor: “and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him”. After He had born the battle and won the field, God sent the Angels to minister unto Him!
We learn at least three cardinal lessons from this text today: 1) Man shall not live by bread alone – we need the Bread of Heaven which is the Word, and that Word is Christ. It is this Bread that becomes our weapon against the wiles of Satan. 2) Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God – We do not make deals of our righteousness with God. His demands unconditional surrender to Him. We reserve no secret sins or vices. We cannot cause God to condone any of our cherished sins, all must be on the table. 3) Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve – not the gods of fashion, of power, of wealth – but the God of Heaven in every avenue of our lives. Are you committed to Christ in all these three principles? It is Lenten Season! Now is the time to turn again with fresh resolve!