In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Our Lord was tested in every way—for testing and temptation are the same word—by the Adversary, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15) Satan tested Him for whether He would be faithful to the Word of God or not. (Matt. 4:1-4) That Word which man must live by. (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3) So our Lord having taken the dust of human flesh into Himself—into the divine nature He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit—if He was to live He must live from God’s Word. For life to the full (John 10:10), life with God, flowing from His Holy Spirit, life connected to Him is real life. (John 15:5) For life disconnected from your Heavenly Father is not true life. It is dead. Empty. Meaningless. Passing away. Without purpose.
This is why when Adam and Eve sinned, though they did not die physically in that instant, they did die spiritually. (Gen. 2:17) They were cut off from the Living Vine (John 15:1; Gen. 3:22-24) whence flowed their life. The results were instant. Fear. Shame. Awareness that they would no longer live forever. That they were mortal, and thus, vulnerable. That’s what it means that they they became aware of their nakedness. (Gen. 3:7) They became aware of their vulnerability. Vulnerability which had been there a moment before but did not matter, because everything was very good. (Gen. 1:31) As soon as they did what they ought not do things were no longer good. They learned of evil, for they had done evil. And they instantly learned of the evil which had colonized their own hearts. For they looked at each other. And Adam looked at Eve in a way he had never looked at her before—full of lust, full of desire to control her, to have her, to think only of himself and his wants. Not of their mutual good. Thus, she instantly became ashamed because of his leering gaze at her. He instantly knew the wickedness that had been borne in himself. They had been tempted and tested by the serpent. And they had failed.
But of course, no one—not them, not you—is tested by the Lord beyond their ability to escape. (1 Cor. 10:13) The Lord always provides a way of escape from temptation. Adam and Eve could have passed the test, in theory. Though we will never know. For that is not what happened. And there is no sense crying over spilt milk. In fact, Scripture says, in one mind bending plot twist, that the Lord had your salvation and Christ’s death on the cross in mind before the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8KJV; 1 Pet. 1:20-21; Eph. 1:4-5) I have no idea how that makes any sense. For it is not how I understand and experience time. But it is not meant to make sense. It is meant to comfort the fallen sinner. The one who has given into temptation. It is the way forward, provided in Christ (1 Cor. 10:13), for the one who has failed the test.
For the Lord allows you to be tempted or tested. He could have stopped Satan from interacting with Adam and Eve if He so desired. But in truth, had they never been tested what difference would there be between them and a robot? Programmed to always do what it will do. So in love God allowed their love for Him to be tested. He allowed them to reject Him. They had free will. A will unbound by sin. A will able to choose the good. To live in and from the good. For all was good, including themselves and their will. But once they sinned. Once they fell and now knew evil, from doing evil, since evil had infected their hearts and minds, they were no longer free. For which of you is truly morally free? Which of you has pure motivations at all time? Who among you has pure desires in all you do? Which of you does what is clearly good, always without fail? Or do you know what is right, but so often just don’t want to do it? You want what you want when you want it. Which means, you are not free. You are a jumble of motivations and urges competing with each other inside of you. So that your will is bound to which ever desire happens to be king at that moment. Some of them are sort of good. A lot of them not so good. Many of them down right clearly evil. Or as St. Paul said, “The good that I want to do I do not do. The evil that I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.” (Rom. 7:19) Even Paul, who had been caught up into the third heaven and heard unspeakable things still wrestles with sin to such a degree that it is true for him to say that he is the chief of sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15) Just as it is honest for each one of us to say so also, when we examine ourselves in light of God’s law. In other words, our culture’s obsession with free will and individualism stops dead in its tracks as soon as you bump into God. With regard to God and salvation there is no free will. You are either dead in your sin, dead to God, cut off from He who is the life of the world OR you are alive in Christ Jesus, grafted into the vine by Holy Baptism and His Word of truth, and bearing much fruit.
So as one who is grafted into the vine—one who is truly alive in Christ—you are allowed by the Lord to be tempted. Tested. So that you may know both the quality of your faith, and whom your faith rests on. Whom your faith flows from. So that, having been saved by Christ, being constantly tested to remind you that He is the foundation of your life and salvation, you now hold fast to that confession. (Heb. 4:14) Which means, you have the right, the privilege to carry the world before the throne of grace. (Heb. 4:16) That right comes with responsibility which gives that right meaning. Your responsibility is to hold fast to your confession. (Heb. 4:14) To align yourself with your Saviour. (Heb. 4:15) To speak the same word He speaks: to yourself, to the Church, to the world, and to pray. Pray for those whom the Lord our God puts in your life. Especially those whom He calls you to serve through your vocations.
For you can not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4) Adam and Eve lost when they were tempted and returned to the dust. Christ our Lord became flesh, clothing Himself in their dust. And that dust of His body was baptized in the waters of the Jordan, where He was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and was led by that Spirit into the wilderness. Into the place where the Sons of Israel were tested for 40 years whether they would listen to the Word in which is life or not. (Exod. 16:4) Whether they would eat of that Word and live, or whether they would set it aside and die. So our Lord strove with Satan. Was tested by him. And He won!
He won where Adam lost. He passed where Israel flunked. He succeeded where you have failed. He let Satan test Him as a man, so that this second Adam might truly live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Matt. 4:4) So that this Word of God in flesh (John 1:14) might be the life giving Vine you are grafted into by faith. (John 15:5)
And moreover, He, who is God, was led by the Holy Spirit of God, to confront the ancient foe. He let the ancient foe who defeated Adam come at Him. He let Satan put God to the test. (Matt. 4:7) And it is written, “You will not test the Lord your God.” Yet Satan did. And what happened to him? He has been cast out of God’s glorious presence. (Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:9) Out of His good will. Down to earth below. But even here his time is limited. (Rev. 12:12) For Christ our Lord has cast out all the power Satan has here below. (John 12:31) For when He died, when His blood dripped down the cross and soaked into the earth, from which Adam was made, man’s deadness to God ended. Now—by His Word which proceeds from the mouth of the Lord, and from the Lord’s mouth through yours to others—Man shall live. (Matt. 4:4) For by that cross, by that blood shed, your sins have been atoned for. And not yours only, but the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) When you receive this Word from the mouth of the Lord, by your pastor, when it is planted in you and creates faith, Satan is cast out. That’s why you come here again and again. For here Satan is cast out when the Word of God is planted in you. Especially the word of forgiveness in Christ’s name that you receive in Holy Absolution. That’s why you delight in singing glorious hymns like “A Mighty Fortress”. That’s why your heart thrills to it. For whenever you hear and sing and pray of your champion who has defeated Satan, Satan is cast out. You are revivified. Raised to new life. Life in His Spirit. Life with God your Father, in His good grace, no longer in Satan’s domain. (Col. 1:13) Life not as one dead to God, but as one claimed by Him. For He strove with Satan and He won. Where you have lost He won for you. To win you from Satan. To to redeem you from sin and death and the power of the Devil.
This Lententide is a time to remember your own helplessness. Your own bondage to sin. Which has been broken by Christ. Who strove with Satan. Who defeated Satan. Whose tempting lies are no longer chains that keep you bound. For you now live. Not by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.