Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday Feb 14th 2016 - / Luke 4:1-13 / Jesus Takes No Shortcuts
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Luke 4:1-13 / Lent 1 Sunday - Jesus Takes No Shortcuts
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, He was hungry. The devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered Him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to Him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and Him only shall you serve.’”
And he took [Jesus] to Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
“‘He will command His angels concerning you,
to guard you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
As Jesus stood in the waters of Baptism and, "the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, [the voice of His Heavenly Father, saying] “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased,” Jesus stood at the starting point of His public ministry. As one prepared to run a marathon far exceeding Olympic proportions, His feet on the starting blocks, Jesus was set to run the race which would go though Galilee and all of Judea and area, to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, to the Cross, to death, to Resurrection, to His Ascension. As the hymn verse says, Jesus concludes His course when He crosses the finish line, as He ascends to heaven, and "sits upon the throne, Whence He had ne’er departed, His Father’s and His own." Another hymn says, "God the Father was His source, Back to God He ran His course. Into hell His road went down, Back then to His throne and crown." To finish the race and win the reward justly, fairly, and honourably, the race had to be run without shortcuts. Shortcuts may improve the time it takes to cross the finish line, but short-cuts would disqualify the runner.
Following His Baptism, during Jesus' first leg of the course, was the stretch we hear about in today's Gospel reading, the part where He was fasting in the wilderness those 40 days. It was in those days that the devil came to Jesus hoping to disqualify Him early in the race, hoping to trip Him up right off the get-go.
What was the nature of the devil's temptations? This cleaver effort to disqualify your Saviour? Bookending the three temptations is the wicked and pointed little phrase, “If you are the Son of God?" In the Waters of Baptism Jesus had heard the proclamation of His heavenly Father. This phrase uttered by the devil then is a calling into question what Jesus' Father had said. As the devil, that ancient serpent, had done in the garden when he said to Eve, Adam's wife, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” With the words, “If you are the Son of God?" it's as though the devil says to the new Adam, Jesus the Christ, your Lord, 'Did God actually say, “You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” If so, why are you hungry?' maybe you should take matters into your own hands. If all things were made through You Jesus, and without You was not any thing made that was made? Make then this stone into bread! For your sake Jesus doesn't take the shortcut, instead Jesus stays on the course and suffers His hunger, He resists the temptation of the devil. And in His resisting Jesus trusts that His heavenly Father will give Him His daily bread as He truly needs it.
Hebrews 12 says, "let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us," Endurance, patience, here in Luke's Gospel we see Jesus running the race a head of us, running it perfectly, patiently avoiding the temptations to shortcuts: "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
Now knowing that God so loved the world that He sent Jesus, His one and only Son, in order to redeem the world - knowing that Jesus' work is to redeem the world from darkness - the devil offers another lure, the temptation of a shortcut to this end, a shortcut that temptingly provided a way to redeem the world without the Cross of Good Friday: Here's the shortcut: Showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time the devil said to Jesus, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus stays on the narrow path to your salvation, Jesus stays on the course laid out for Him so that He could stand before His disciples on the day of Ascension after His resurrection and say, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me." Again He trusts that His heavenly Father will give Him His daily bread, in this case "All authority," in due time - after your salvation had been accomplished. Again, "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
From the beginning the devil knew that God was planning the redemption of creation, in particular humanity, by way of a Saviour who would, "bruise [his] head, [the Serpent's head,] and [that he, that Serpent would] bruise His heel [The Saviours heel],” and that somehow this would draw people to God and redeem them, that they would again trust in God - so once more the devil asks Jesus, “If you are the Son of God?" - this Saviour - reveal Yourself to be the Christ "throw Yourself down from," the pinnacle of the temple, and in so doing instantaneously gain the following of the people who You've come to save. This too is a short-cut, and worse again, it is a temptation to distrust His heavenly Father, such an act would force God the Father to save Jesus from a public and imminent death before His time of crucifixion had come. This is an affront to the cross, to the path of salvation that Jesus must run the course of. "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
In the race of perfection, the race of keeping the Law of God perfectly, setting one foot in front of the other perfectly we are losers, we are the disqualified, we have taken the tempting shortcuts, we have failed to trust in our heavenly Father, we have sinned, we have fallen short of the glory of God. We run the race so poorly that we are generally tempted and deluded into thinking that we run it for ourselves, so selfish is our running of the race that we forget God as we run, forget Jesus, forget others. This is the nature of the shortcut - shortcuts take us off the path, take our eyes off Jesus who has run the race perfectly ahead of use, who ran it without shortcuts.
Would you like an examples of a short-cut, when it comes to running the race? Not really, you say ... here one anyway: Sex outside of marriage - 'Oh! But Pastor! It's Valentine's Day! There are 9 other Commandment's Couldn't you pick one of them!' No sorry this is the one you get today. Sex before marriage even if it's with the one you desire to marry is a shortcut. Sex is for the Husband and Wife, not for the boyfriend and girlfriend, not for the common-law couple, not for the casual hook-up. "Run with the patience the race," "run with endurance the race that is set before us." Pre-marital sex, sex outside of marriage is a sin - the world, the devil, your own sinful flesh says “Did God actually say, "no sex outside of marriage?" Yes, in the 10 commandments, God says, “You shall not commit adultery." Jesus likewise says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Adultery is all sex outside of the marriage of a man to a woman. He who has ears to hear let him hear. Even window shopping breaks this commandment, "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
Oh but you say, "I never did that!" I've run the race perfectly in that regard ... really, it's not that simple. Did you ever see someone a friend, your son, your daughter take the shortcut of Sex outside of marriage, maybe they moved in with their sex partner and you said nothing? You stood by the sidelines and watched them run off the path taking the shortcut? Worse you approved of their shortcut, excusing yourself saying, "let's keep the peace and not upset everyone." "If I say anything I'll lose them." Would you? Would you lose them? Do you know that for sure? Trust the Lord your God. The shortcuts provided by the temptations of the devil are full of perils, they are dangerous, they lead to ruin. The possibility of getting lost, stuck, ruined are extraordinarily high.
Saint Paul says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly." Even if somehow you have kept the 6th commandment - You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honour each other  - Even if somehow you have kept the 6th commandment have you kept them all, have you kept all 10 perfectly?
Have you avoided every shortcut laid out before you by the devil? Search your heart. You know that you have not, I have not. I need the One runner who ran the race perfectly, the One Runner who received the prize of Salvation, the One runner who obtained it for me, who gives me the disqualified looser of the race the imperishable wreath of Salvation that He has won, the imperishable crown of Eternal life. I need Jesus who knew so well that there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. The one who trusted His heavenly Father, obediently running the course that took Him to the Cross, which for His great love for your and I, He considered a place worth going to, even thought it was a hardship, a place of suffering, shame and death. A place worth going to because the course that ran through that Cross is the course that ran through to eternal life and redemption for us, for you for me.
Would you like some Scriptural advice for running the race laid out before you? St James says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." St. Peter says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."
Today we remember Jesus who ran the race with all endurance, patience and love, who perfectly resisted the temptations of the devil who prowled around Him in the wilderness seeking to devour Him. Your Jesus has crushed that serpents head. Put your trust in God. Repent of the shortcuts you take, stick to the course run by Christ, and ask for forgiveness when you run off the path, Jesus will forgive you. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Quotations for The Fast Lane, compiled by Richard W. Pound, McGill-Queen's University Press, pg 491. Beverly Sills, multi award winning operatic soprano (May 25, 1929 – July 2, 2007).
 Luke 3:21-22
 Lutheran Service Book # 539, "Christ is the World's Redeemer," Stanza 3
 Lutheran Service Book # 332, "Saviour of the Nations Come," Stanza 5
 Genesis 3:1
 Luke 3:22
 John 1:3
 Hebrews 12:1-2
 KJV Hebrews 12:1-2
 Matthew 28:18
 Genesis 3:15
 Exodus 20:14
 Matthew 5:27-28
 1 Corinthians 9:24-26
 Luther's Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House, 1986, Pg 12
 James 4:7
 1 Peter 5:6-11