O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Mt. 4:1-11
Preached on March 9, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, have you ever heard of the popular television drama "Breaking Bad"? It is all the rage these days, because it tells the story of a good guy gone bad. The story of a kind, honest chemistry teacher who is transformed into a cold, merciless drug lord. What begins as an attempt to pay for his exorbitant cancer bills, you know, keep his family from going bankrupt, turns into his own twisted, personal kingdom of power where he only cares about himself. And people can't get enough of it. They are addicted to it. Because deep down they connect with it. Breaking Bad is the story of one man breaking and becoming evil, a story that ends in death.
Now, interestingly enough, only moments ago, we heard the true story of mankind breaking, the true story of how mankind became evil. But we don't seem to have the same fascination with that story, do we? We don't like to be reminded that we are godless. Cursed. That the Holy Spirit of God has withdrawn from us because we demanded our own goodness - a goodness apart from God. It is hard to remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return - that since your birth you have deserved to die for the evil you are, because your nature, like your father Adam, wants to be its own judge of what is good and evil. Your nature reaches for its own kingdom.
No, we don't like having to rely on God for everything, because we think we are pretty good on our own, and if anyone asks us to - we are more than willing to prove it to them.
Then, we run headfirst into today's Gospel reading. The temptation of our Lord - where the Holy Spirit, the same one we grieved in the garden, leads our Lord into the desert. Where Adam was on the defensive, Christ is on the attack. Where Adam was safe at home, Christ is in enemy territory. Where Adam was satisfied in the garden, Christ is hungry in the wilderness. Why? Because the Spirit leads Christ to battle.
This isn't poor Jesus, alone and hungry being picked on by the Devil. This is your Lord taking it to your greatest enemy. Challenging him. Standing firm before him to get his eyes off you. "You want to torment mankind, Evil One, here is your target. You will accomplish nothing more until you face me." Christ is here to fight - to fight for you in the weakness of human flesh. To fight for the ungodly, for the godless, for the evil ones who oppose Him and His goodness, who want to keep a kingdom for their own. This is who Jesus fights for. For me. For you.
And fight He will. For the devil - Diabola - takes the bait. He sees Jesus weak and vulnerable, 40 days without food, and swoops in to do what got him his name. Diabola means "thrower" or "accuser." The devil comes to spit accusations at Jesus, to tempt Him to prove that He is the Son of God. But he doesn't see the trap. Oh, he knows Jesus is the Son of God - but he doesn't believe it, doesn't think it is good. And he knows Jesus cannot sin - but in his unbelief, he thinks he can get Jesus to fall. And so the trap is complete. God uses the devil's own unbelief against him - He proves His utter dominance over this fallen angel by using his own rebellion to defeat him.
Because Christ is breaking bad. Not by breaking and becoming bad like us. But by Breaking the bad for us. Defeating it. Doing right - what Adam and his children have done wrong. And the first thing -is overcoming the temptations of the Evil One. Trusting God's Word where Adam did not.
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." This is what the Father declared from heaven right before Jesus was led into the wilderness. Adam too, right before he was tempted, was told that he was the head of all creation, that there was no good thing God had held back from him - not even His own image. Adam doubted. Christ did not. Adam thought God was holding out on him. Christ trusted. And it is this trust - this unwavering faith - that the Son of God works here for your sake.
For you DOUBT. Like Adam, you think God is holding out. And you TEST. Like Satan, you want God to prove Himself to you in the way you demand. To end this misery and give you some glory already. Where is the glory, Lord? Prove yourself that I may believe in you. You want the easy road and have no idea how hard you make it for Christ.
Nevertheless your Saviour walks the faithful road for you. He does not take the easy way out. He does not doubt His Father's Word. "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God." I don't have to prove myself to you Satan. I know who I am, and my Father has declared it. That bread will not end my suffering, it will not give me glory, the Word of God will, on which I wait.
"If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "‘He will command his angels concerning you,' and "‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" I don't need to test my Father to know if He speaks the truth, and you should not be testing me, for it is not a stone you should fear my foot should strike, but your head - serpent - do you not feel it crushing you each moment I stand firm on God's Word?
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Fall down Jesus, like Adam did, and you can share his glory. Begone Satan, you lose, for I trust the Lord my God, and I come to share His glory with all of Adam`s kind. I`m going to the cross for them, and there is nothing you can do to stop the way of the cross. Nothing! For I am willing to suffer all for them, I am here to take your worst and completely defeat you by it. Rage. Fume. Accuse. Slander. I will still save them.
Beloved, today isn`t only about how mankind became evil, it is about how mankind has been made righteous in Christ. How our Lord is breaking bad. Because Breaking Bad is a story that ends in death. It is the story of a kind, honest teacher who came to die as if he were a cold, merciless drug lord. To pay the exorbitant debt of our spiritual cancer to keep us from eternal bankruptcy. To freely give us His kingdom of power in which He promises to serve us. Christ is breaking bad - He is breaking bad for you. Do not be ashamed of His cross, and do not be ashamed of your own, for Christ has broken your bad for you and promised you eternal life. Hold fast then to His promise and watch closely this Lent, as He shows you what it cost Him. In Jesus` name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr