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 (Luke 4:1-2 ESV). For our sake… Jesus was tempted by the devil. Today at International Lutheran Church we begin this season of Lent and our forty-day journey to the cross. Our new sermon series and meditation, For Our Sake, examines the true nature of the battle before us and what Jesus endured to bring us the victory!

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth he implores the people of God to consider just what God has done for us in Christ with these words: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ESV). The mystery of the cross can only be understood in relation to what it means for us. During our Lenten meditation we will explore just what Paul was describing when he said “For our sake” as it relates to what Jesus did for you and me.

Today, we read in Luke’s gospel of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. This forty-day ordeal was more than just the recapitulation of the forty years of wilderness wandering of God’s people in the Old Testament. This cosmic battle is instead the good news that gives us hope, because we know that Jesus was tempted in every way that we have and ever will be and yet He did not fail (Hebrews 4:15). He remained true and unmovable. Yet His victory did not come in overwhelming the devil with His superior force, but rather in humble submission to the Word of God. 

I am often asked in a confirmation class a difficult “why” question. Why did God allow Satan to exist at all? Why let him be able to tempt not only Adam and Eve, but you and me? It is not a child’s question but one we struggle with every time we look at the cross. Why? Why should Jesus be tempted at all? Why would He be hungry? Why would He be at all tempted to bow to Satan’s easy way out? Why would He be tested to depend on God’s Word against God’s Word? Luke certainly was familiar with the good news through Paul’s preaching and his appeal to consider these words… “for our sake.” For our sake, Jesus knew the driving desire to satisfy our most basic needs. For our sake, Jesus bowed alone to the Father proving that all things are in His Hands alone. For our sake, Jesus flung Himself upon the very will and Word of God alone that this Word would be fulfilled in Him.

For our sake, Jesus endured the temptation to give to us the daily victory of our sins forgiven in our battle with sin, death and the devil. We face the daily desire to see our lives only as the physical here and now. We are tempted to think that this is all there is and nothing more. We are tempted to take the easy way out and bow to the pressures all around us. We are tempted to doubt the Word of God and deny His goodness and mercy. Each are real temptations that come each day. Yet, Jesus’ victory assures us of our victory in Him. Luther’s Reformation hymn A Mighty Fortress boldly declares, “Were they to take our house. Goods, honor, child or spouse, Though life be wrenched away, They cannot win the day. The Kingdom’s ours forever” (LSB 657 v.4). 

Our victory over Satan is not dependent on ourselves or our strength, but relies only on the good news that for our sake Jesus endured temptation. His death on the cross – that “opportune time” that the devil waited for – did not even deter Him from His mission of saving you and me. He willingly became the very sin for which we would be justly condemned. He became death though He is life, that you and I would be something completely new. Jesus’ victory over your sin and mine, your death and mine, gives us hope we need to cling to each day as we face temptation. God grant this faith to us all for Jesus’ sake!

Pastor Carl