Invocavit

~ First Sunday in Lent ~

Readings: Genesis 3:1–21 | Hebrews 4:14–16 | Matthew 4:1–11

Text: Matthew 4:1-11

The season of Lent is not a 6-week period of feeling bad for ourselves, bemoaning our inadequacy, or—God forbid!—feeling more pious than the rabble of the world.  It is a time of teaching, of catechesis, that we might learn to know our Lord better.  The Gloria in Excelsis stops, because He whose birth the angels announced, also humbled Himself to the point of being unrecognizable as good news for anyone [Luke 2:14 comp. to Isa. 53:3].  The Hallelujah’s (“Praise the Lord”) stop (and have stopped) so that we can better hear the lessons of our God’s work in suffering and weakness, His presence in darkness and death [Psalm 139:11-12].

So, we begin Lent where all of our sorrow and trouble began—where sin entered into the world.  The Old Testament reading today shows us where it all broke down.  God made everything good—even on the sixth day extolling His creation “Behold! It was very good” (Gen. 1:31).  But the Serpent came and deceived the woman. The man betrayed his Creator, spurned his duty as a husband, and unleashed misery on all his descendants. 

Adam and his wife gave into temptation under the best of all circumstances.  They were surrounded by trees bearing ready-to-eat food, had not a care or trouble in the world, and they were at peace with it all.  And yet, they were so quickly turned away from God!

But Lent isn’t about Adam and Eve.  Thank God it’s not, because that’s a frustrating narrative, full of mistakes and hurts.  That’s because we bear the image of Adam; we no longer bear the image of God [Gen. 5:3] (Yes, we were originally made in God’s image, but our lives from conception to death are the experience as the image of the man of dust, 1 Cor. 15:48-49]  Adam’s story is suspiciously like our stories—only the names have been changed.  It’s the same story every person on this earth is living for the short time we’re given.  No, we need a better hope than to look to our fellow descendants of Adam.

Lent starts at the beginning: the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.  Right after He is baptized in the Jordan, declared by the voice from heaven to be the beloved Son of God, He is driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tempted.  There’s no wasting any time here, because there is saving to do, which is God’s sole purpose.

Why the wilderness?  Wilderness is where those who are exiled from the Garden go.  Life and abundance were in the primeval garden, but sin brought death and scarcity.  Thus, the wilderness is God’s proving ground for what’s in a person’s heart. In what will you trust?  Will it be what your eye can see and is readily in reach?  Or will you cast your needs upon your Creator and stay true to Him?  This is how it was for Israel in their 40-year journey through the wilderness of Sinai.  The Lord God was testing to see what was in their hearts, and the results were abysmal.

It was in the wilderness that God commanded sacrifices so that He could dwell in the midst of this people who were impatient, greedy, ungrateful, and inventors of evil.  The highest sacrifice day was the Day of Atonement, described in Leviticus 16.  At the center of that Day are two goats: Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel.” (Lev. 16:7-8) The first goat gets killed as a sin offering, a death for life exchange.  But the second goat is treated like this: “Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.” (Lev. 16:21-22)  We’re accustomed to the sin offering as justice for what our sins deserve.  But the other goat—the Scapegoat—is imputed with the sins of the people—“all their iniquities, all their transgressions, all their sins”—and then he is led into the wilderness to go to Azazel.  Azazel is a transliteration from Hebrew, and many commentators associate with the devil or a demon.  So it is actually the beloved Son of God who is both the appointed sin offering and the sin bearer and substitute.

In the wilderness, handed over to the devil, He stands in place of Adam and all his children.  Here, it’s helpful to stop and consider just how serious Jesus’ situation was: “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”  He went without food for 40 days, which is far longer than average.  Even half that time could ordinarily kill a person.  He must have been like a skeleton, not able to think, perhaps his organs failing.  But He lived because God kept Him alive.  If you think this is preposterous, listen to what the Lord says just before the verse Jesus quotes:

The Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. (Deut. 8:2-4)

Sin has so corrupted our desires that we think our lives are kept going by food and doctors, jobs and retirement, that the Word which comes from the mouth of the Lord is a nice afterthought, some more information to use so we can broaden our horizons.  But Jesus shows this truth in his emaciated body (and maybe I’m totally wrong, and he was vigorous—God can do that also).  But along with that bodily hunger, is the weakness of God’s Son’s humiliation. He was mortal, and confined to one place, and giving up any divine foreknowledge, the man Jesus didn’t know if He would make it out of the wilderness alive.  He had all creation at His disposal, as the Word by which all things are made, and yet He willingly humbled Himself.  St. Paul would later describe this as the mind which Christ gives us to follow: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:5-7)

He was in the likeness of men, but where man has failed again and again, Jesus stood firm.  When He was tempted to use divine “cheat codes” in order to feed Himself, He refused—even though it could have meant His death.  Where Eve and Adam evaluated food on their own terms and for their own benefit, Jesus obeyed His God and fully entrusted His life into His Father’s hands.

When Jesus was tempted to have a little Temple-jumping recreation along his way, claiming that God would surely protect him from harm, Jesus affirmed something we are dreadfully weak about: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you did at Massah.” (Deut. 6:16)  In case you’re not familiar with that incident, that’s where the people came to a place with no readily accessible water, and they blamed Moses and accused God of bringing them into the wilderness to kill them, even doubting in the Lord was among them at all (see Exodus 17:1-7).  Lying through our teeth, we might say we never do that and that we have such perfect submission to our Father’s will, and we’ve never charged God with wrongdoing when we suddenly lose someone we love.

No, even when tempted with that, Jesus did not put the Lord His God to the test, and even willingly accepted all the tests which happened in the wilderness. 

Finally, when the devil shows his true colors and flat out asks Jesus to worship him instead of God, Jesus again and alone succeeds where we so many times have failed.  It’s really no big deal, we tell ourselves; we’re only doing what everyone else is.  Trouble is, those of the world are deceived and eating from the devil’s hand.  There’s no hope here in going with the crowd, following our feelings, because it will wind us up where the rest of the sons of Adam have landed—sin and death.

Our hope is in Christ, who is called the Second Adam.  He is the only one who can outmaneuver and defeat the devil.  He’s the only One who can take on and take away our unfaithfulness and our naked shame before God and one another.  It’s Jesus alone who, having done all this, is able to go into the grave as a free man, and rising on the Third Day to free us from death’s power!

Listen to how St. Paul explains what Jesus Christ has done for us:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many… 19 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. (Romans 5:12-19)

And about the victory over death, and restoring that lost image of God to us, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:

47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Cor. 15:47-49)

This is our hope and our confidence in Christ!  He has saved us where all other help was powerless.  God has come to our rescue through the water of Holy Baptism, where He declared in Christ, “You are my beloved child.”

Even though the devil was bested in the wilderness with Jesus, he will be after us all the more because we belong to God, and because we still bear that image of Adam.  This is the realm of spiritual warfare—“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12)  And that topic can be both scary and exciting.  Scary, because we know what a mighty enemy the devil is and because of how weak we are.  Exciting because it’s true that there is an unseen battle taking place in the world between good and evil.  It’s just that in our own strength and understanding, we get spiritual warfare wrong.  It isn’t like video games or heroic epics where we somehow have power in ourselves.  Our strength and shield are in Christ alone.

Sometimes the devil’s tactics will be obvious—making disobedience to God’s clear Word sound appealing and reasonable.  Call this the front door attack, if you will.  But the devil also has a backdoor attack, and that is to divide us from Christ and divide us from one another.  That is actually what his Greek name, Diabolos, means—the Divider.  So, he will try to divide us from Christ by making His Word seem irrelevant or less important than the stuff happening in our daily life and the world.  But he doesn’t stop there, because he also seeks to divide us from the flock of God.  So, he brings up hurts that we can’t seem to get past, stirs up feelings of resentment, and gives us excuses why we’re better on our own.  We can get by without hearing the precious voice of our Savior, because, according to the devil, it’s just information.  Yeah, I learned that all in Catechism. I was raised in it, so it must magically stick.  Hook, line, and sinker.

Our only hope against the devil and all his craftiness is our God who comes to our rescue.  He covers our shame with His righteousness.  He says, “Be gone, Satan!” and sends His angels to minister to us.  There is no need to fear, because the Son of God has truly done for you what you needed most.  Through faith in Him, you have the victory over sin, death, and the devil, and eternal peace with your Creator.  Amen.

Scapegoat Lev. 16

Does what Adam did not do

Obeys where we are disobedient

His humiliation: hunger and thirst, gives up his divine attributes

Shares in our weakness (Heb. 4:15)

Temptations

Bread of God is enough; Adam had enough, Israel in their wilderness journey still complained (Dt. 8)

            Putting God to the test (Dt. 6)

            Bow down (Dt. 6)

Our only hope in our struggle with sin and bearing Satanic attack, is Jesus. 

Demon possession, spiritual warfare can often be a scary topic which we don’t like to take on in our love for clinical safety.  But the defeat of Satan has already been accomplished.  When the devil or a demon comes to a Christian, he will use the same attacks.  If we respond on his terms and in our wisdom or strength, we will surely fall.  Do not imagine yourself strong enough to do what even our first parents failed to do in paradise!

Instead, hold up Jesus, your Lord and Savior.  Whether that means having a crucifix on your wall or around your neck.  Here, bare crosses require more imagination which can be hard to muster in the heat of battle.  Hold up Jesus, the scapegoat who went into the wilderness on your behalf; the lamb of God who was led to the slaughter and now whose blood has been sprinkled on you in the cleansing flood of Baptism, the Passover Lamb whose flesh and blood are now given you to eat and drink.

You are not left alone as Satan’s prey, and you are not hungry because you feed upon the all-sufficient, life-sustaining Word of God.  Though you and all your ancestors have daily put the Lord to the test, He has remembered His steadfast love and covenant toward you—not based on your promise or fortitude, but upon the covenant which Jesus ratified with His own blood.  Even though Satan and the godless world may promise you your hearts’ desire, your Lord alone is pure, throws down all idols, and His Spirit jealously fights our idolatrous desires and replaces them day by day with a hunger and thirst for God and what is pleasing to Him!

First Sunday in Lent

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Readings: Genesis 22:1-18 | James 1:12-18 | Mark 1:9-15

Text: Genesis 22:1-18

One of the sad realities of life is that people only get woken up to a problem when it affects them personally.  In war, they’re willing to send other sons into war, but hate to send their own.  Slave labor is an atrocity, but when China does it, people turn a blind eye because it saves them money at the store.[1]  We remain armchair theologians until evil and death come knocking on our door and we have to come face-to-face with them and beg God to help us.

In the Old Testament lesson today, God desired to test Abraham.  And it’s not that waiting until his nineties to have a promised son wasn’t a test, but that didn’t really plumb the depths of his heart.  Regrettably, with Sarah giving him Hagar, he had another solution.  If even in name only, Abraham did have an offspring to inherit his household [cf. Gen. 15:1-3].  Rather, when God wanted to test Abraham, He knew where to look to see what was in Abraham’s heart: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”  Your son…no, not the son of the slave woman…your beloved son.  The one I promised and delivered to you.  The son of your old age, the one whom Sarah bore you.  Give him back to Me.

If faith toward God were just a matter of information, He knows the hearts of all and doesn’t need our words.  But believing God, as Abraham did, cannot be separated from how we take His Word to heart in the priorities we set, the choices we make, and the way we treat others.  God wanted to know Abraham’s true devotion, so He asked for that most treasured part of His life.

Each of us has those nerves which are tied to what we consider precious to us above all things.  They are the things for which we fight, the things we move heaven and earth to keep: our reputation, our spouse, our children, our way of life.  Sometimes the things we fight for are not so honorable: our alcohol, our affair, our unhealthy diet, our toys big and small, our laziness.  All the while, we might say we believe in God, and convince others.

But God tests what’s in our heart in a similar way: He asks for or takes that precious thing away.  And in doing that, He strikes a nerve.  Then, feelings of betrayal and anger are aroused in us.  We try reason our way out of it, and figure there must be some way to have our God and eat our cake too.  But like Abraham with Hagar, our half-baked human solution won’t do.  God really is asking for that, because whichever you give up is not really your god.

Too often, however, we choose our precious thing over God.  The work schedule says Sunday, and we roll over without so much as requesting a different schedule for religious reasons.  Our days are filled with so much to do and worry about, who has time to stop, read a little of the Bible and pray?  It’s enough to make ends meet, how could I possibly spare anything to give to the Church or to my neighbor in need? 

The point is that what is precious to us shows us where our heart is.  As Jesus Himself says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21)

But the same is true for God!  Where His treasure is, there His heart must be also.

The test of Abraham was but a foreshadow of another sacrifice.  “And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

What is precious in God’s eyes?  What would He give anything to obtain?  What fills Him with a longing that never ceases and postpones the close of the age century after century?  Some might say that it’s an obedient humanity.  Whenever at last we get our act together and achieve the end of injustice, oppression, and violence, then we will make our Creator proud.  But that’s not it.

Perhaps we can learn what this is by what price He’s willing to pay to obtain it:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. (Mark 1:9-11)

It is no messenger, but God’s own beloved Son.  No cheap substitute would do.  No more rams, or goats, or bulls.  The wood was laid upon His Son’s back as He carried it up the mountain.  The knife would not be held back this time, but “nails, spear shall pierce him through; the cross be borne for me, for you.”[2] 

This is what is in God’s heart, and how you know what the treasure of His Kingdom is: 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matt. 13:44-46)

The precious treasure God seeks is you.  You, saved from sin, death, and hell.  And not just you, but every person in the world—”He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 NIV)  He yearns for His Word to take root in your heart and bear fruit in your life here and there in eternity.  He covets your soul and is aflame with jealousy over whatever else captivates you and draws your devotion away from Him.  He will not settle for part of you or share you with the world, and this we know because He held nothing back from your ransom payment: “the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6)

By this treasure, we know what’s in God’s heart.  By this treasure, given for you, He forgives you for all of your sin, including the ways you have worshipped and treasured the things of this life over Him.  Praise to Him because He is so faithful, so dedicated, and so persistent!  Abraham, together with us, have times when we are doing well, but even that’s not enough.

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

It was not Abraham himself, but the offspring or seed God promised, who has brought that blessing to all nations.  And with such a received by us, we are the children of Abraham, who confidently live in and share the precious treasure God sees in saving all the families of the earth.  And in Abraham’s children of faith, He creates in us a new heart, a clean heart, which treasures God our Redeemer above everything else this world has.  The Holy Spirit teaches us the true value of God over the things of this life, and He teaches us to know God as our loving, almighty Father.  With that renewed heart, we’re able to see that whatever our life has now is just for a time, to enjoy and thank God for it while we have it, and to be able to let it go when God says it’s time.  We are, with Job, able to say, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

Will we be able to live with such abandon into God’s care in this life?  Perhaps, but even when you still see the treasures of the flesh deceiving you, know that the Lord has treasured you, and He has made you His own possession.  Despite the weakness of your heart, His gracious purpose will be done, through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.


[1] https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/china-83-major-brands-implicated-in-report-on-forced-labour-of-ethnic-minorities-from-xinjiang-assigned-to-factories-across-provinces-includes-company-responses/

[2] What Child is This (LSB 370, st. 2)

First Sunday in Lent (Matthew 4:1-11)

Jesus’ ministry begins not in a lush garden in the presence of God as it was in the beginning, but in the wilderness of a world that is under the curse of sin and death. His ministry after being baptized in the Jordan and declared to be the Son of God, goes immediately into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days. Forty for the days for the flood of Noah by which God judged the wickedness of men (Genesis 6-8), forty for the years during which God bore with the stiff-necked generation before bringing their children into the Promised Land and the whole time fed them with bread from heaven (Psalm 95:8-11, Exodus 16). Forty days for the time in which Moses was on the mountain receiving the Word of God (Exodus 34:27-28). Forty for the days Goliath came and taunted Israel and defied the Living God (1 Samuel 17). Forty days for God showing forbearance to a twisted generation, that they might be saved.

This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the capstone of all of God’s dealings with the sons of men since Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. It was the beginning of a new creation, “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 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.” (Rom. 5:18-19) The Son of God, Jesus, stands in the wilderness as the New Adam to work righteousness and bring salvation where the First Adam and his children were cursed. It’s quite appropriate that Genesis 3 and Matthew 4 are read together.

Jesus stands in for all humanity when He is tempted by the devil, and listen to the temptations He faced, because each time He is tempted to forsake the Word of God for temporal, selfish gain: “If you are the Son of God…” does not mean that the devil wasn’t listening at His Baptism, when the Father declared from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.” It means that Satan is up to His old tricks of lying and murdering (John 8:44), attempting to pry God and man apart. In fact this is what the Greek name for the devil, diabolos, means—he who divides, casts apart.

2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

The first temptation casts doubt on God as Creator of heaven and earth. Will He indeed do good for His creatures? Can a man truly turn His life over to the care of God and not have to be ready to grab the proverbial wheel at any moment? Command these stones to become loaves of bread—take your life in your own hands, because how could it be God’s will for you to hunger? Not only “if you are the son of God,” but If this God really loved, He wouldn’t let you suffer with sweat and hunger, thorns and thistles, and after all your labor to return to the dust.

It had worked on the Israelites before (we’ll hear this two Sundays from now): [They said to Moses] “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex. 17:3) It works on us, too, because as soon as the money runs short, we’re convinced it must be the end. We lock down and go into survival mode, believing only in what we can measure and touch, relying only on our reason and strength to see us through.

What does God say to that? 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Yes, you are dust and flesh, fragile and at the breath of the Lord you whither (Isaiah 40:6-8). When He hides His face, you die and return to the ground (Ps. 104:27-30). But what of it? Did He not create you from the dust by a Word? Are you afraid that He cannot sustain you? Or are you more in love with this present life than the God who gives and who takes away? Do you not remember that apart from Him there is no God, no life, no resurrection?

The second temptation follows this:

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,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”

If God truly claims you as Son, He won’t let anything bad happen to you. If He is truly Almighty, then no matter what choice you make, His will is done. This questions God’s care for His children, with the implication that if something harm does come, He must not be as almighty as all that. If you further dissect Psalm 91 by this man-centered approach, you will read “For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence… A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” Then, where is the justice in the cancer which separates loving spouses from each other, the SIDS which takes a sweet child from his parents, or viruses indiscriminately sickening droves of people? Why won’t you help, God? Don’t you see us languishing?

God, what do you have to say to that? 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” That is, you have seen the life you have as something that belongs to you, as if you were king or queen over your own domain. We demand that God justify His actions to us. How dare God not serve me, but we have it backwards. He is the Lord, we are the servants. He the Benefactor, we the beneficiaries. He the Protector, we are guarded and kept by Him from eternity.

The devil’s final temptation:

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Here the devil promises Jesus His supposed heart’s desire. Don’t you want all nations to honor you, all to hail the name of Jesus? I can it to you that thing you desire most, the Liar claims. All you have to do is worship me, trust in my power, celebrate my works and walk in my ways. Better than that, I can give it to you with all that nasty, painful suffering and death.

We understand this temptation not necessarily as worshipping the devil, but bargaining with God. Our heart’s desire, the thing we would do anything to have, we can achieve by other means. This is the draw of witchcraft, palm reading, psychics, and Ouija boards. You can have the help you want, the ultimate good you see for your life. But it comes at a price. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36) The devil’s lie is that “where there’s a will there’s a way” and where God doesn’t satisfy, there are other options. If the Words of Jesus are not to your liking, devote yourself to the teachings of demons—whether in bald-faced paganism, or in a guise of Christianity by picking a church that won’t judge what you don’t want to repent of.

What does God say to this? 10 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.’ ”

Jesus remained steadfast, when we are flighty. He remained strong where we are weak. He remained true, when we’ve been duped. “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god…Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Isa. 44:6, 8)

If you have been tempted, if you think sometimes God is too far removed to help, behold Him “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He was tempted in the flesh so that He can help us in our weakness. Where we fall, He has the power and willingness to save—to forgive, renew, and rescue.

And if you are so afflicted, He gives you a pledge of His help by giving you His own Body and Blood to eat and drink. This very Body and Blood is the one which felt hunger, felt Satan’s temptations and lies, felt the sting of allegiance sworn but then broken, the humiliation of being jeered at, who felt bodily agony and breathed His last.

This is what He gives to you, who falter under the weight of your sins, who groan at the onset of death, and whose hearts are rent asunder by loss. He gives it to you to comfort and strengthen you, because His Body did not remain in the grave. He rose again to life free of sin, death, and devil. He rose, never to die again (Rom. 6:9), and so will you.

So, come to the altar now, with all your weakness, that you may put on Christ’s strength, in the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal rest. Amen.