In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So the sons of Jacob go down into Egypt to escape the threat of death by famine. And the Son of God goes down into Egypt to escape the threat of death from Herod. And Hosea says of Israel’s exodus: “Out of Egypt I have called my son” (Hosea 11:1). And Matthew says, when Joseph brings Jesus back to Galilee from Egypt: “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the mouth of the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son’” (Matthew 2:15). Moses leads God’s son, Israel, right up to the border of the Land of Promise. He sends 12 spies into the land to see what it looks like. They come back with a giant bunch of grapes, speaking of milk and honey and a good land; but they also say that there are giants in the land. Caleb and Joshua say that God will do what He said and give them the land, no matter who lives there. But, in the very first voters’ assembly, they vote down Caleb and Joshua, many thousands to two. The people decide for themselves what will be good, and they reject God’s word. So God swears by Himself: they will never enter into the rest I have prepared for them. Everyone over the age of 20, except Joshua and Caleb, will die in the wilderness, as they wander for 40 years—one year for every day the spies were in the land—until, finally, Joshua leads them across the Jordan into the land.
Jesus reverses this entire journey in the wilderness. He goes out of the land of Israel, out of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He goes down into the Jordan, and goes back into the wilderness for 40 days—one day for each year Israel spent in the wilderness. He is baptized in the Jordan and God says, “This is My Son.” Then the Holy Spirit brings Jesus into that wilderness of doubt and unbelief and rebellion to be tempted by the devil. And the devil tries to cast doubt on the Word that God had spoken: Did God really say, “You are My Son”? If you are the Son of God, surely God wouldn’t mind if you made these stones into bread. He doesn’t want you to die, does He?
Certainly, it is no difficult thing for Jesus to provide Himself bread. He will multiply essentially nothing to feed thousands twice in the Gospels. But He knows that His Father will never give Him stones if He asks for bread. Jesus will not be the Son apart from the Father. He will not be His own God, independent of the Father. The Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that goes out from the mouth of God. Jesus is the Word who goes out into flesh, into the wilderness, and He has that life in Himself.
Then the devil takes Him up onto the very edge of the temple and says, throw yourself down from here, if you are the Son of God. Your Father won’t even let you touch the ground. He says He will send His angels to guard you, so that you won’t even strike your foot on a stone. But the Son of God, unlike the sons of Israel, never doubts whether God will do what He said. He will not turn away from the promise of God because of fear. You shall not put the Lord your God to the test—which is a rebuke to the devil, as well. Jesus is His God, because all things were made through Him. Do not put your Lord to the test, devil.
Then the devil takes Him up onto a very high mountain, and tries to be God to Jesus, so that Jesus will be a different kind of son. He shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and all their glory, and says, I will give all of these to you, if you will simply fall down on your knees and worship me. Then you can gain the world without all that suffering and death stuff. Be the Son on your own terms. But Jesus says, Get out of here, Satan. You shall worship the Lord only and Him alone shall you serve. What good would it do to gain the whole world and yet lose the life of the whole world?
And then God does what He said He would do: He commands His angels concerning Him: they come and serve Him, feed Him, strengthen Him. Jesus is the new and greater Elijah, who was also served by an angel in the wilderness, as he was fleeing from Jezebel. Twice, an angel brought cakes baked on hot stones, and water to Elijah, saying, eat; the journey is too much for you. And Elijah goes 40 days and 40 nights in the strength of that food, to Horeb, the mountain of God. So Jesus has gone 40 days and 40 nights, not fleeing from His enemy, but meeting him head-on. And then Jesus goes on until He reaches Golgotha, the mountain of God. Because Jesus is not only a new and greater Moses, and a new and greater Elijah, but a new and greater Joshua, who will lead His people finally and forever into the eternal Land of Promise: not a slice of land in the middle east, but the Land that will encompass the entire creation; a new heavens and a new earth.
Jesus is the faithful Son, brought up out of Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, and delivering His people. And when you are baptized into Christ, you also are not taken immediately to heaven (although, we might wish for that sometimes). You are, instead, driven with Jesus back out into the wilderness of this world, where the devil prowls around, looking to devour the sons of God. In the enemy of the Son of God, you now have a life-long enemy. And the devil does the same thing that he did to Adam and Eve, and the same thing he tried to do to Jesus: he suggests that maybe God didn’t say what He did, in fact, say. Did God really say? You will not die. Be your own son. Be your own person. Follow your heart. Do what you think is right. Who knows if God is even out there? Besides, even if He is, He helps those who help themselves: it’s by your work, your effort, that you get food. What has anyone ever given you? Only what you got for yourself. Maybe God doesn’t actually want what is good for you. Test Him and see if what He says is true. There’s got to be a better, easier, quicker way to have a good life than death and resurrection.
But for you, who have the Holy Spirit of God, your weakness, doubt, temptation, and impending death must drive you to prayer—to the word that God has spoken, by which you live, which Jesus has put into your mouth. It drives you into the warfare that the Son of God has waged on your behalf, against everything opposed to Him: that God’s name would be holy upon and among us; that His kingdom would indeed come here and now, so that the devil’s kingdom would be brought to nothing; that His will would be done for us and against the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh; that He would give us our daily bread, in spite of the devil; and that He would give us the eternal bread from heaven, Christ’s own flesh and blood; that He would forgive us, and we would forgive others; and that, finally, He would not lead us into temptation but, instead, deliver us from the evil one. And every single word of that prayer, from the mouth of Jesus, will be heard and answered. Because He delivered His Son into temptation and death, who was victorious over the evil one, and raised from the dead in the glory of the Father—because of that faithful Son, He will never lead you into temptation, but will, instead, deliver you from the evil one once and for all, when He brings you from this wilderness into the Land of Promise.
What the devil tries to give to Jesus by means of that false worship, Jesus has gained by His own blood and death. And so we respond to the prayer of Jesus by declaring: Thine is the kingdom; Thine is the power; and Thine is the glory, forever and ever. It is most certainly true. Whatever else God promises, He gives in that Kingdom, which has already come near in Jesus. Hear Him only; feed on Him only; and out of the Egypt of slavery to sin; out of the wilderness of this world; out of the bondage of your own flesh; God will bring His sons and daughters.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/3/17