Away with you, Satan

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted. In the Lord’s Prayer (that Jesus teaches his disciples) we pray that God will lead us NOT into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Matthew 4:1-17

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted.

In the Lord’s Prayer (that Jesus teaches his disciples) we pray that God will lead us NOT into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

But Jesus is being led by the Spirit right into the thick of the very human experience of temptation.

This comes right after Jesus has been called God’s beloved Son in his baptism and comes just at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

Though he isn’t around anyone but the devil in the wilderness, I would argue this is where Jesus’ ministry starts. He has been called in his true identity as the Son of God and the Spirit has led him to this place.

Why here? Couldn’t Jesus go help the sick now? Couldn’t he preach at the temple?

I think this first calling of Jesus is one of the easiest to connect Christ with all people. Jesus is united with us in experiencing temptation and evil. We as beloved children of God experience those things and it gives me comfort to know even sinless Christ would experience these things as the beloved Son of God.  

Jesus gets hungry, gets tempted, and confronts evil face-to-face because Jesus knows that we experience all of this too.

The point here is not how to face these temptations and win. No, that is not something we can do. The point is to see what kind of God we have who faces the same difficulties we face. And Christ finally has the fix for these things. “Away with you, Satan!” is his response.

Remember where Jesus is during these temptations: the wilderness.

Jesus is in the wilderness with the devil. When have we been in that place?

Clearly, I don’t mean this literally. Our ‘wilderness’ might be a bit different. When have we been away from every help, resource, and relation? That is our wilderness.

What is your personal wilderness?

We see that the devil knows scripture and unfortunately the devil knows each of us too. He knows our greatest wilderness, our greatest and most vulnerable place.

When we lose a loved one to death or broken relationship, we experience wilderness. When we lose a job, experience illness, are forced to move from our home, or have any number of other difficulties we might experience a wilderness. We each can see our own wilderness and can see why it is the most difficult space for temptation.

And this is where Christ enters temptation in the wilderness.

In this vulnerable place of separation, look at what the devil brings before Jesus. In a time of hunger, the devil tempts with food. In a time where Jesus seems powerless, the devil tempts for the power of God to be displayed. In a time where the devil seems to have control over the world, the devil tempts for Jesus to worship the devil in order to gain control of this earth.

Each temptation is for Jesus to take power for himself.

The final temptation even goes so far as to tempt to give power and worship to evil itself rather than looking to power from God alone. Christ responds, “Away with you, Satan.” God alone is worthy of our worship.

Those temptations are really not that far from us.

We experience physical need and temptation. We hunger for things we may not need.

When evil seems to win, what lengths will we go to in order to gain power and change things? What power will we lean to for that change? When we feel powerless, how will we grasp for control?

We don’t have to look far to see harmful effects of grabbing for power. Our nation is a month into this partial government shutdown. Around 380,000 people are on unpaid leave. How many lives have been affected by this? Regardless of political opinion and background, many people I’ve spoken to are greatly concerned about this, and rightly so. Great harm can be done when we are unable to release our own grasp on power. We can become so wound up in our own way forward that we lose focus of where the true power and right way forward may be.

Jesus’ temptations aren’t in conflict by themselves. There is nothing wrong with Jesus eating some bread. There were issues about who had the power in each scenario.

It is tough to wait on God and look to God for the power, but that is precisely what Jesus shows us.

Jesus responds consistently in each temptation, using the word of God and looking to God’s power alone.

Our temptation is named here: putting our trust in anything other than God alone and making ourselves god, putting God to the test and seeking our own power.

Jesus puts things right. Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”’

Jesus knows to whom the power belongs and that God alone is worthy of praise and worship. God alone is the defeat of evil, not human power. This is good because the evil around us can be so overwhelming.

Can we take stock of the evil Christ is facing? This is the devil. This is all the worst evil.

Evil: what leads a person to kill others and take another human as if they are an object, Evil: what creates a mentality that a group of people can be considered lesser because of their skin-color or societal class status, Evil: all things on earth that lead us to seek or allow harm of another life instead of good. Evil is real and we can’t defeat it, but God can and God does and God moves through us and with us in this.

Christ doesn’t take the easy way out and bargain through this when the devil tempts him. Christ will not negotiate with evil for control. Christ shows evil the door out, having endured all of this temptation and evil for our sake in his life, ministry, and his death.

Jesus says, “Away with you, Satan.” Not, ‘move over’ or ‘take it easy.’ “Away with you.”

Christ won’t let evil have the power. As the great Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

The prophecy we hear of Christ: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

We do not deny that hate and evil are real, we have our focus on God as the only one true light who can and does defeat that evil.

And the defeat is done in power-filled love of Christ, our one true light, who endures and defeats temptation and evil for our sake.

Jesus defeats temptation and evil, using the word of God. Jesus unites with all believers in using the scriptures God has given. We as beloved children of God do not stand alone when temptations rise or when evil confronts us. We have the word of God that Jesus recites and we have the word made flesh in Jesus Christ who is one who can banish evil.

Evil is defeated directly. “Away with you, Satan.” Away with you all powers of evil. Jesus does this in his life and in his death.

Jesus knows that evil and temptation are still present in this life. That is why Jesus teaches us to pray that we are not led into temptation and that we are delivered from evil as we rely on the one with the true power and not the evil deceiver of this world.

We may still wait in wilderness places, but we are never truly alone.

Christ passes through all these things for us because we can’t. As beloved children of God we rest assured that the defeat of evil is true in Christ Jesus and that all worship, praise, and power belong to our Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen

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