Blog / Book of the Month / You Don’t Need What the Devil’s Selling / Matthew 4:1–11 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 26th 2023 / Season of Lent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

You Don’t Need What the Devil’s Selling / Matthew 4:1–11 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 26th 2023 / Season of Lent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

You Don’t Need What the Devil’s Selling / Matthew 4:1–11 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 26th 2023 / Season of Lent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 26th 2023: Season of Lent / Matthew 4:1–11 "You Don’t Need What the Devil’s Selling."

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written,

         “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

                 but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

         “‘He will command His angels concerning you,’    


         “‘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.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

         “‘You shall worship the Lord your God

                 and Him only shall you serve.’”                              

Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.

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. “He's such a smooth talker, he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos,” now I haven’t heard this saying in a long time, likely for good reason, but strip away the modern cultural insensitivities and at the root of this adage is a saying used to speak of a slick salesman who bamboozles folks out of their money by selling them things they already have or don’t need. An Inuit living in Iqaluit in February doesn’t need a smooth talker trying to sell them ice or snow, no one needs this in our neck of the woods either. And while Jesus was certainly physically hungry after fasting for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, following His baptism in the Jordan River, the devil — that smooth talker — wasn’t really selling bread or physical security or fame or fortune or earthly power to Jesus, the devil’s temptations cloaked something else, they were simply the bait, the loss leader, this slippery snake was trying to pull the “old bait and switch” on Jesus. Consider this, even while walking the desolate wasteland of the wilderness Jesus actually had everything He needed: 1) He had the word of God; 2) He had abiding trust in His heavenly Father; and 3) He had the promise of the resurrection of the flesh and eternal life; Jesus had the love of His heavenly Father in all things.

More than that, the Gospel of John speaking of Jesus says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”[1] This is Jesus: so Jesus doesn’t just have God’s word, He is God’s Word; Jesus doesn’t just trust His heavenly Father, He has always known and been with Him from the beginning and beyond unto eternity; Jesus isn’t just content with what He has in the moment, all things were made through Him and without Him was not any thing made that was made. Think about that for a moment, Jesus with the Father and the Holy Spirit make all that you see, all that ever existed, even the things you cannot see, all of it made by the one true God: so when the devil says to the hungry Jesus “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread,” the stones belong to Jesus, the bread He could miraculously make from them[2] — if He wanted to do so — would also belong to Him indeed all the bread in the world belongs to Him, all the bread that ever was and ever will be belongs to Him; the wilderness He walked in and the whole world belong to Jesus; even the rebellious and smooth talking devil doesn’t belong to himself, yes even the devil belongs to Jesus because as God all things belong to Jesus. For a time Jesus sets aside His authority and rightful claim over all of this in humility[3] but it was all still His, and would all be given back to Jesus by His Father in His resurrection on that first Easter morning and forty days later at His ascension to His Father’s right hand,[4] so this slick tempter has nothing Jesus truly needs, he’s like a smooth talking salesman trying to sell you ice and snow in Regina Saskatchewan in February.

Adam and Eve in our Old Testament reading likewise didn’t need what that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan[5] was tempting them with. God had given them everything they needed.[6] They, however, fell into sin and by their sin they brought death to us all yet here in our Gospel we see Jesus resist the temptations of the devil and in so doing He proves to be a champion come to defeat the crafty smooth talking serpent the same demonic force at the root of your personal temptations into sin. This is why Saint Paul in our Epistle reading writes of Jesus and Adam and you and I saying, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”[7]

Dear ones, you don’t need what the devil is selling; all the forbidden fruit of the World, once it’s fleeting earthly pleasures fade, bring nothing but needless pain and suffering and death. Every clever trick to get you to trust yourself and your own abilities in times of trouble instead of trusting in your heavenly Father, and in Christ Jesus your Saviour, will bring nothing but needless pain and suffering and death in the end. All the temptations towards reckless living, expecting that God will always get you through it unscathed, are equally treacherous and unnecessary for the Christian, you don’t need to believe in such lies. God may in fact let you fail or be injured by your foolishness to knock you off your high horse, to provide opportunity for you to draw close to Him again, to teach you a lesson, so consider what the long suffering Job says, “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty,”[8] and what the wisdom of Solomon teaches, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father [disciplines] the son in whom he delights,”[9] and what Solomon says to the wicked caught in their sins, “He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”[10] Do not be led astray by temptations to reckless living. Likewise, don’t be lead to worship yourself and your desires, dear ones don’t be tempted to live life in a self serving way without care or concern for others, without worship of the one true God and service to Him; such living brings about loneliness, bitter arrogance, needless pain and suffering and eternal death in the end.

There is always a rotten core beneath the waxed and shiny polished temptations of the devil whether they are spiritual temptations or physical temptations or temptations of the mind. In all these cases whether focused on power or money or sex or reputation you will not find peace or contentment in what the devil sells as “good” because it is not good and it’s always a twisting and perversion of what God already gives to you in your daily bread. Saint Paul learned this, Christ Jesus is his teacher and yours, remember what Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, he writes, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”[11] Unlike Saint Peter[12] Saint Paul didn’t have a wife, so taking Paul at his word here, we see that Paul will, in Christ Jesus, have learned how to be content with a life of abstaining from sexually relations and activities outside of marriage, and on the flip side Saint Peter and his wife then also needed to be content with each other inside their marriage, forsaking all others and remaining faithful to each other only – just as all married couples are called to live. This is but one example but you can see this in all the Ten Commandments when you look at them through the lens of the Last and First Commandments.

The Last Commandments: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house” and “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour,” are all about being content with what you have and if you’re content with what you have you will not easily fall prey to temptations of character assassination, theft, sexual immorality, anger leading to bodily harm and murder, or disrespect of mother and father or other authorities; and the First Commandment “You shall have no other gods,” when applied to the rest of the Commandments is all about trusting God above all things as the giver of “every good gift and every perfect gift” which comes to you from above, “coming down from the Father of lights, with whom,” Saint James says, “there is no variation or shadow due to change.”[13] God the Father knows best how much authority and responsibility you should have in this life; He knows who should live and die; He knows how much force should be used to curb sin; He knows what makes a sexually pure and decent life; He knows who should have what possessions and He knows truth from lies; He knows the heart of a man, the heart of a woman, the heart of a child, He knows your heart; He knows what your tongue should or should not say. When we break the Holy Law of God, given to us to serve as a curb from sinning, a mirror for our self examination, and a rule for living our life then we are saying we trust more in our own idea of what is good or right than in what God says is truly good and right. Then we trust more in our self than in God, placing ourselves over and above Him and not trusting in Him above all things. When discontent runs wild in your heart without repentance the First Commandment to “fear, love and trust in God above all things” soon is broken.    

The temptations of the devil towards Jesus in our Gospel reading are all an attempt to sow seeds of discontent for Jesus with His situation, and to drive a wedge between Jesus and His heavenly Father; an attempt at tempting Jesus to trust more in Himself than in His heavenly Father. And what then is the way in which Jesus combats the devil? How did Jesus deal with this smooth talking serpent’s satanic accusation “if you are the son of God?” Each time Jesus shoots back “it is written ...” 

Quoting from Deuteronomy,[14] Jesus responds to the devil’s first temptation saying “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

When the devil, in his second temptation, twists the meaning of words of Psalm 91 once more Jesus quotes Deuteronomy[15] saying, “Again it is written, ‘you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Lastly to the devil’s third temptation Jesus says to His tempter “Be gone, Satan!” quoting again from Deuteronomy[16] saying, “For it is written, “‘you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”

“The battle with Satan described in our [Gospel Reading today] was the beginning. This was the first engagement that had to be fought by [Jesus] the Prince of our salvation to trample Satan under His feet and to deal the first deadly wounds to him.” The tide of this conflict was turned once for all on Good Friday by Jesus’ “bloody death of atonement on the cross for all the sins of the world. By this, the head of the snake was totally crushed and all people were completely redeemed.”[17]

So once more: Dear ones, as much as your sinful flesh might disagree, you don’t need what the devil is selling, Adam and Eve didn’t need what the devil was selling, Jesus didn’t need what the devil was selling. You need what he’s peddling as much an Inuit living in Iqaluit in February needs ice or snow, you don’t need the devil’s ice cubs, no matter how smoothly or temptingly he tries to sell them to you, no matter what the promise of convenience might be or the lure of enjoyment might pretend. Saint James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and [God] will draw near to you.”[18] Trust in the LORD your God above all things; do not recklessly test God with sins you deem as “pure” thinking them unworthy of forgiveness; lean on His Holy Word. And when you are bamboozled by sin, death and the devil, when you fail at this because your own flesh has convinced you to cave into temptation, remember the one who did not fail, Jesus Christ, the one who resisted every temptation and turn to Him, He will forgiven you, His forgiveness is complete. He forgives as one who knows the lures of the devil, as one who felt the barbs of the devils hooks and even stood firm in your place.  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.

[1] John 1:1–3
[2] Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:31–44; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:1–14; Matthew 15:32–39; Mark 8:1–9
[3] F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics Vol. II, Concordia Publishing House 1951, Page 285-287
[4] Matthew 28
[5] Revelation 20:2
[6] Genesis 1-2
[7] Romans 5:18–19
[8] Job 5:17
[9] Proverbs 3:11–12
[10] Proverbs 5:22–23
[11] Philippians 4:11–13
[12] Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, Matthew 8:14–17; Mark 1:30–31; Luke 4:38–39
[13] James 1:17
[14] Deuteronomy 8:3
[15] Deuteronomy 6:16
[16] Deuteronomy 6:13
[17] God Grant It: Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walther, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Page 245.
[18] James 4:7–8

Photo Credits: Main Photo of devil's tempting a man from rawpixel; Ice box in winter from Pr. Ted Giese; detail of Adam and Eve from rawpixel; detail of man tempted by the devil from rawpixel; frosted apple from rawpixel; detail of husband and wife with rings from pexels; detail and montage of stained galss window of Jesus tempted by the devil from flickr; ice box in winter with snow shovels from Pr. Ted Giese.