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Sermon February 26 2023

Lent 1 A 2023 Testing of Jesus Sermon

Matthew 4:1-11


Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The Season of Lent is upon us.  Lent is a forty day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that began on Ash Wednesday and will end at sundown on Maundy Thursday.  

Lent is a time that we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Lord’s Victory at Easter.  Lent is a time for us to discover how we might follow Christ more faithfully as we discover again His love for us.  

But most of all, the Season of Lent is the time when we recall the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent in the wilderness. 

Each year, on the First Sunday in Lent, we are told of the time when the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  We hear that for 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus fasted.  And then the tempter went to Him.  And three times Jesus was tempted by the devil, and three times Jesus resisted these temptations.

And so, it no coincidence that the Gospel word for temptation is also sometimes translated “tested.”  Jesus was tested while He was out in the wilderness prior to the start of His ministry. 

So, what does this mean?  Well, a test can be understood in two ways.  First, a test can be understood as something that you need to pass to complete something.  You go to the Texas Department of Public Safety, for example, and you take a test, and if you pass the test you get a driver’s license.  That’s it.  You accomplished what you set out to do. 

But a test can also be something that prepares someone for what is to come.  I will give you an example.  Before surgery, a doctor may prescribe a series of tests to make sure one is ready to have surgery and to help the doctor prepare for the surgery.  Blood work, an MRI, x-rays and other tests may be performed in preparation for surgery. 

These tests are done prior to surgery to help ensure a positive outcome. 

That is what the temptation of Christ in the wilderness was all about.  The temptations of Christ, the three tests, were meant to help Jesus get ready for what was to come.  They were not just tests to see if Jesus could pass them.  They were meant to help Jesus face the bigger challenges that were waiting for Him as He lived out God’s Redeeming Activity in this world. 

Matthew’s Gospel gives us all sorts of clues to indicate that this is true.  Mathew’s Gospel states “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.”  The Spirit led Jesus to these tests.  The Spirit led Jesus to these tests so he could be prepared for what was to come. 

Another clue is the setting.  The location of these tests was the desert.  In the Bible, the desert is a place of preparation.  Moses fasted on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights.  

The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years before they entered the promised land.  Elijah fasted in the desert for forty days and forty nights.  

In the Bible, the wilderness was the setting where God’s people were formed and prepared. The wilderness is where God’s people were strengthened and challenged for the task God had prepared for them. 

Jesus was tested in the wilderness so He could face all that would soon come His way.  The tests He faced at the beginning of His ministry helped Him complete the work he was sent to do.  

For you see, the devil wanted to know if Jesus understood what it meant to be the Son of God.  And the devil wanted to know if Jesus was willing to suffer and die and live out God’s Activity in our world.  And the answer is a resounding YES.  Jesus knew, and Jesus was prepared to live out Gods’ Redeeming Activity. 

Jesus, the Son of God, was willing to be obedient to God’s will and suffer and die for the sake of the world.  That was God’s plan.  That was what was in His future as He completed His wilderness journey. 

Today as we walk this forty-day journey of Lent in remembrance of Christ’s forty days in the wilderness, we too know what lies ahead.  God was preparing Jesus for the Cross.  But thankfully, the same fate does not await us.  

Jesus completed what needed to be done.  He died for all for all our sins.  His accomplished the mission that God gave to Him.  

My friends, we too have a mission.  Today we are called to love and serve each other, even at the cost of our comfort.  We are called to trust in God’s grace and love, even when we cannot see the proof.  We are called to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and not citizens of this world that pursues power, status, and wealth here on earth. 

Yes.  The Season of Lent is our wilderness journey.  Lent is a time that challenges us to be faithful followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Lent is a time of preparation, a time of testing, so that we too can be disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord and follow where He is leading us. 

Let us pray: Holy and mighty God, your Son’s triumph over sin and death has opened to us the gate of eternal life.  Purify our hearts that we may follow him and share in the radiance of his glory.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.