Luke 4: 1-13
First Sunday in Lent
February 14, 2016
TEXT: "You shall worship the Lord your God, and only Him shall you serve"
Today's Gospel Lesson is the story of that supremely good religious man named Jesus who went into an obscure corner of the desert in Israel where He fasted for forty days without starving to death. "Jesus was led by the Spirit for forty days in the desert," Luke tells us. "He ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended He was hungry."
Temptation is a confrontation of the Forces of Good and the Forces of Evil in which God opts for Goodness and Satan opts for Wickedness. The person whose soul they're fighting for casts the deciding vote. In that desert experience described in today's Lesson, Jesus cast the deciding vote. And in your own experience -- your day-to-day experience -- you cast the deciding vote.
Like Jesus in the desert, you must choose...
...between obedience to the Father's Will and obedience to Satan's;
...between God-centeredness and self-centeredness;
...between service to others and self-service;
...between God's promise of fulfillment in His Divine Life of Love and Satan's promise of fulfillment in power and money and creature comforts.
A mother had prepared a good, nutritious lunch for her two youngsters, Billy and Tommy. She showed them two special cupcakes for dessert, one with cherry frosting and one with chocolate frosting. "The one who cleans his plate first will get first choice," she told them. Soon both plates were empty, with Tommy finishing first. "You win," said mother, "which cupcake do you choose?" After carefully studying both cupcakes, Tommy said, "I can't decide. I can't choose. Billy hasn't picked the one he wants, and what he chooses is what I want."
In one of the desert temptations, Satan tells Jesus to use His power to satisfy the patriotic longings of His people. The hope is abroad in Israel that the Messiah will come as a conqueror and that He will lead Israel to deliverance from oppression by the sword. Should Jesus use His power to make this dream a reality? Jesus chooses not to confuse means with ends. He chooses the path of trust in His Father's ways. Hatred, violence, force -- these are not the ways of the Father. The Resurrection Power of God is to be revealed in His Love. Jesus, therefore, chooses to reject the role of military conqueror and political ruler. Thus, He announces His choice to Satan in these words: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him."
"Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him!" Lord, what You choose is what we want!
"Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your Kingdom come! Your Will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven." Lord, what You choose is what we want!
"I came not to be served but to serve!" Jesus said to the disciples. Lord, what You choose is what we want!
There is a story from World War II about a father and his young daughter, Lila, who were taking an after-dinner stroll. The street was dark, except for the lights shining from the row-houses along the way. The child noticed that one or more stars were displayed in some of the front windows. "Daddy," she asked, "why are those stars in the windows?" "Each star means that the family in that house has given a son to the war," daddy answered. Then, as they walked past house after house, little Lila clapped her hands and cried out, "Look! There's a house that gave a son." Finally, they came to a break in the houses. And through that gap, the twinkling evening star could be seen, up in the sky. The little girl caught her breath. "Oh, look daddy," she cried, "look!" God has a star in His window. I guess He gave a Son to the war!"
Yes, Lila, God did give His Son, not to make war but to establish peace one earth. Yes, Lila, that Son has been given to me and to you and to all people everywhere that the world may believe in the God of Love. The God who cares about His people, the God who wants to make His people unbelievably happy in His Coming Kingdom.
The constant teaching of the Gospel is not, "Thou shalt be happy," but "Thou shalt do the Will of God." Nevertheless, we are not wrong to tell ourselves and our children that God wants us to be happy. Our ultimate fulfillment in happiness is God's promise to us. It is the reason we can rejoice in our fondest expectations of happiness. But, as Jesus tells us again and again, happiness is the consequence of doing God's Will. Happiness is the fruit of doing God's Will.
A woman wrote the following letter to syndicated columnist Abigail Van Buren:
Dear Abby: I am fifty-nine years old and I'm going with a guy of seventy-nine. He says he wants to marry me, but his sister won't let him. Don't you think he's old enough to do what he wants? -- (signed) Nellie
Abby answered as follows:
Dear Nellie: By all means he's old enough. But is he young enough?
As early as age twelve, Jesus knew what He wanted to do. "Did you not know that I must be in My Father's House?" He asked His worried mother when she found Him in the Temple after a three-day search. All His life He knew that He wanted to do the Father's Will. Thus, at the very end of His life, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His execution, He prayed, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will but as You will" (Mt. 26:39).
How to achieve wholeness in your life? How to achieve your full measure of fulfillment as a human being? How to achieve a deep sense of your life's worthwhileness? The answer is so simple you may not believe me if I tell you. Therefore, I am going to ask Jesus to answer those questions:
...Feed the hungry!
...Give drink to the thirsty!
...Love one another as I have loved you!
...Do what I want you to do and you will become the uniquely beautiful human being God made you to be. Do what I want you to do and you will experience genuine happiness.
Day-in and day-out, the temptations come to do other than what Jesus wants you to do. Day-in and day-out, God is opting for Goodness and Satan is opting for Wickedness. Day-in and day-out, it is you who casts the deciding vote!