1st Sunday in Lent
13 March 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"The devil made me do it." Modify that just a bit..."the old beggar woman who was peddling apples, she made me eat it!" OK, you have to work with me here. Eating an apple is not generally a sin (unless you were told not to.) But suppose it was. And here we have Snow White facing this severe temptation.
Was Snow White completely innocent here? Did she think she had to pick up an apple and bite into one? The apples looked so shiny and perfect. Succulent fruit, and after all, fruit is made by God and is a gift from Him, right? It is natural, organic. Yes, Snow White gives into the temptation and like every other human, she grabs hold of the temptation and relishes it as she indulges.
Sure, we can feel sorry for the princess, but the blame isn't only for the wicked queen; the blame comes back to her, as well. No one forced her to eat. And even if they did, it doesn't stop the fact that she gave in to temptation. And Snow White suffers the death that all who give into temptation suffer.
"The devil made me do it." That is a common excuse. But, of course, it does not cut it. No matter what the occasion, the devil did not make you do it. He may have tempted or deceived, enticed you with your interests, lusts, and even talents, but he cannot make you do anything.
Can you imagine Jesus, trying to explain to His heavenly Father why all the rocks in that part of the desert suddenly were fresh, warm, delightful-smelling bread? "The devil made Me do it!?" Absolutely not! He knows the devil has no such authority, and our Lord Jesus clearly demonstrates the power of God's Word in this series of temptations. And as the Lord God-in-the-flesh, He triumphs over all temptation and remains pure, holy, and sinless.
But then there you are, stuck in your flawed, mortal nature, while "the old evil foe now means deadly woe." He is subtle and crafty, and twists words to confuse you. He will even take the Word of God and rip it out of context, trying to convince you that your sin is just another choice, with no real "right" or "wrong."
That's what Satan was hoping to convince Jesus of here. No real right or wrong. So what if you turn some rocks into bread? What's the big deal if you jump off of the Temple and show your power? What does it matter if there is a crucifixion or not, if the devil kindly gives the world back to God? However, Jesus does know why it matters.
The Lord's miracles are never self-serving. He does not do parlor tricks. He does not bend or break laws of nature just because He wants to have some fun. Miracles are for the support of others' faith, giving glory to God.
So feeding over 5,000 is a beautiful, noble work, selflessly providing for the people and glorifying God. Yet feeding Himself by transforming rocks into bread is a selfish miracle with no one else to appreciate it. So instead, Jesus declares to Satan the Word of God.
The devil tried his best to quote the Word of the Lord, too. Out of context. Edited into short soundbites. Trying to twist it into supporting sin. Nevertheless, Jesus stands firm, declaring God's Word. And, as always, His Word is powerful, and sends Satan running scared.
Today you have the joy of knowing there is more to this than the fact that Jesus was tempted by the devil. Jesus endured temptation for you. He remained sinless for you. And now, He stands with you supporting and preserving you, "lead[ing] [you] not into temptation."
Today He forgives and releases you from the many and frequent sins which come from giving into temptation. He who did not cause the stones to become bread, now makes bread become His Body in the bread, for the life of the world. He who would not leap from the Temple roof, has leapt off of the page of written Scripture, and into the here-and-now of your lives. He who would not bow down to Satan, is ever before our heavenly Father in humble adoration, interceding on our behalf.
Yes, you are like Snow White. You are like her in yet another way. Not only have you both given into temptation, and not only will you both suffer death. But someday your Prince will come; the Prince of Peace, King of Kings, and Lord of lords will return. Having "kissed" you through His Word and Sacraments, He will call out, and raise you up! And He will carry you into His kingdom, where you will enjoy life with the Prince forever! And infinitely better than some fairy tale, He will bring you to be with Him in the ultimate "happily ever after!" Amen.