1st Sunday in Lent
March 10, 2019
“To Boldly Go Where Every Man Has Gone Before”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The text that engages us today is the well-known Gospel lesson from Luke chapter 4 and what we know as “The Temptation of Jesus.”
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
On September 8, 1966 on NBC, a science fiction program aired for the first time. It was called “Star Trek” and this show was about a post-apocalyptic earth upon which humans had developed faster-than-light travel capabilities. This allowed the construction of a ship that could travel through space permitting humans to interact with a whole host of alien civilizations. The crew of this ship – the Enterprise – were led by Captain James T. Kirk who led them through the galaxy with a five-year mission: “to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” Star Trek, in its original format, boldly lasted only three seasons and was canceled in June 1969. However, Star Trek and its legions of fans, were not ready for the mission to end. Six subsequent TV series have arisen around the original premise totaling more than 750 episodes along with 13 theatrical movies making Star Trek the 2nd most prolific science fiction franchise in history.
“To boldly go where no man has gone before.” That’s a phrase that I would like us to reflect on not regarding Star Trek, but regarding our Lord Jesus Christ. In today’s Gospel lesson from Luke 4, Jesus is called to go where every man has gone before. Jesus, following His baptism in the Jordan, is now ready to begin His ministry on earth. Luke 4:1 tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This is more than just some trip into the desert! This recalls significant Old Testament imagery. In Genesis, Adam and Eve faced temptation from the devil…and they failed. The ancient Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years – note how long Jesus was in the wilderness (40 days) – and they grumbled against God and failed to obey His Word. And so here is Jesus…going where Adam and Eve had gone before, going where the Israelites had gone before, but this time there will be a significantly different outcome.
First of all, the devil tempted in regards to food. In Genesis 3:1, Satan said “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Then, when he
tempted Jesus, he tried the same approach: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Satan knows how weak people can be when it comes to food. In America there is significant press given to the opioid crisis because roughly 60 people die every day or almost 22,000 a year as a result of opioid overdoses. That’s bad, but our obesity rate is 31% and every year obesity-related issues kill 300,000! Our daily bread, though, is about more than bread. It’s everything that has to do with the support and needs of our bodies. People are tempted every day by the allure of material things. We want more…bigger…better…faster…more expensive…more impressive. Our age is an age of immediate consumerism; we want more and more and we want it our way and we want it NOW! Why is the Westfield Sarasota Square mall so empty? People order so much today instead of shopping especially with free, 1-day delivery. We want what we want RIGHT NOW! This is a temptation that every person has faced and given in to with open arms! But Jesus responded, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,’ which is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3.
Secondly, the devil tempts in regards to death and having mastery over death. No one likes death; we’re afraid of death. Satan knows that, and he hits us where it hurts. To Adam and Eve he said, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). This was a lie, of course because die they did, but Adam and Eve fell for it. The devil tried the same trick with Jesus. In the second temptation he said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down” from the pinnacle of the temple. Satan was asking Jesus to cheat death knowing that God would intervene. To this temptation, Jesus responded “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test,” which is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16.
Lastly, Satan used power or dominion as the incentive to tempt humanity and Jesus. To Adam and Eve he said, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). This one was too much for Adam and Eve to take, just as it is too powerful for us to resist. Who doesn’t desire power and authority over others so that we get our way all the time? Imagine how great life could be then! This is a strong temptation, but when the devil tried it on Jesus – to offer Him all the kingdoms of the world – he was met with “you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” This is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:13. When the devil posed these three temptations to Adam and Eve it was too much. They gave in, and sin poured into the world staining it ever since. But Jesus endured all three and resisted all three.
Jesus goes where every person has gone before, yet where we fail – daily – He prevailed. Jesus responds to the devil’s temptations not with divine strength or a light saber (oh, that’s Star Wars. I mean a phaser), but with the Word of God. In each case He responded with a quote from scripture. This is not the last time Jesus will be tempted in this manner. While He hangs on the cross, the voice of the tempter comes at Him once more: “…If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matt. 27:40). Believe me…Satan would love nothing more! But once again Jesus does not give in to the temptation, and we will be eternally grateful that He didn’t. For Jesus stayed on that cross to win for us the forgiveness of all our sins, even for every time that we succumb to temptation. His mercy, His grace, His love perpetually forgives us. When we fail, He forgives. When we lose, He loves. When we show compulsion, He shows compassion.
In this life we can boldly go where we need to go. Yet Satan is going to be there to lie, twist, tempt, and generally cast doubt into our lives. As believers in Christ we are not perfect; we will give in to temptation. Although we are not perfect, though, we are forgiven; forgiven by the One who shed His blood for us, forgiven by the One who was tempted in every way just as we are, and yet never gave in.
Jesus has become the model for us when we are tempted. He responds to temptation with the Word. Yet how many Christians handicap themselves today, not knowing the Word, not studying the Word; we have removed from our lives the one effective weapon in our arsenal! Even if you have the Bible memorized, our strength and our heart will fail us…but Jesus prevails for us by going where every man has gone before to win victory over the devil and sin and death itself for every man. May His victory be your inspiration and your strength in every moment of trial and temptation in this life.