In the movie “13 Going on 30” a thirteen year old living in 1987 wakes up and finds herself in 2004. Jennifer Garner then plays the role of thirteen year old 80’s girl living in the body of a thirty year old woman. The formerly unpopular girl now leads a hip life, but finds that it isn’t what she thought it would be.
This is, of course, the movie plot for a romantic comedy. And while it is interesting to project life forward, it is probably more intriguing to consider what it would be like if you could project backwards. If you could, would you go back to being thirteen years old?
For me, the answer to that question all depends on whether I would still be the person I am now. After forty five years of life, I have a pretty good sense of who I am. I know what is important to me, and what is not. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I know what I am good at and what I am not good at. I am comfortable with all of those things and if someone else doesn’t agree or doesn’t approve, it doesn’t really bother me.
It would be great to go back to thirteen with forty five years of life experience. I would know to avoid mistakes I made – like being infatuated with the same girl from sixth grade to my senior year … yikes! What was I thinking? I would enjoy things more because I would see them for what they really are and wouldn’t care what other people thought about me.
However, if going back to thirteen meant living the whole thing all over again just like I experienced it the first time through, there is no way I would ever go back. Early adolescence is a time when you begin to figure you who you are – but really don’t have any clue yet. It’s often a painful experience as you try to figure out the answers to all of those questions I just mentioned. It’s a time when you are very worried about what other people think about you. A trip back to that? No thank you.
In our Gospel lesson for the First Sunday in Lent we see Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. We find that he knows exactly who he is, and that this guides all of his actions. We learn that because of Jesus, we know exactly who we are … something that at times we are all to prone to forget.
Our text begins by saying, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” The word “then” points us back to what has just happened. Jesus has just been baptized by John in the Jordan River. Jesus went up from the water, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
At his baptism, Jesus is identified as God’s Son. Jesus is, of course, the incarnate Son of God – the second person of the Trinity. But in his role as the incarnate One he is also the Son who plays a unique role in God’s plan of salvation. We heard about this earlier in the church year when Joseph obeyed the angel’s warning and fled with Jesus and Mary to Egypt in the middle of the night. They only returned from Egypt after the death of Herod the Great. Matthew tells us about that event, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”
In the Old Testament, Yahweh had said to Pharaoh through Moses, “Israel is my firstborn son.” Yahweh called the nation his son. Later, he described the kings descended from David as his son. The king was Israel reduced to one. Now the Father calls Jesus his Son, and we learn that he is fulfilling the role of Israel. Just as Israel had passed through the water of the Red Sea, so Jesus passes through the water of his baptism. Israel had been identified as Yahweh’s servant, and in his baptism Jesus was identified as the Servant of the Lord.
Israel had gone from the Red Sea into the wilderness, and there again and again the people forgot who they were. They forgot about the unique status God had given to them, and they failed to trust in God. Now after his baptism the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness in order to be tempted. He goes where Israel had failed. He goes because Israel had failed for it is in Jesus that all that Israel was meant to be will be fulfilled.
In our text, Jesus is tempted by the devil. Each of the temptations is an attempt by Satan to get Jesus to forget who he is and what he has come to do. They are attempts to get Jesus to serve himself rather than to obey the Father’s will and serve us.
After Jesus had fasted for forty days, he was hungry. The devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Israel had often not trusted God and had grumbled about food. But Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Though he would miraculously provide bread to thousands of others, he would not use his power to serve himself because this was not the word he had received from God the Father.
Next the devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said, “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.’” The devil wanted Jesus to force the Father’s hand; to test God’s power. But Jesus replied, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” The Lord knew and trusted the Father’s power. The Son had come to obey the Father, not to test him.
Finally the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” The Father had set before the Son a way of service and suffering that led to glory. The devil offered the easy way, if the Son would just forget who he is. But 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 knew who he was. He was the faithful and obedient Son. He was the faithful and obedient Servant of the Lord.
Jesus never forgot who he was. He never forgot the saving role that the Father had given to him. During Lent we will follow Jesus as he makes his way to the cross of Good Friday. There, as he hangs on the cross, we hear an echo of his temptation. Those passing by speak the demonic words, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mock him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Jesus did not come down from the cross. Instead he was the faithful Son and Servant of the Lord who stayed on the cross for us. He gave his life as a ransom for us, and in so doing carried out the Father’s will as he redeemed us from sin. And through faithfulness to the Father’s will, he received the thing that the devil offers in our text. On the third day he rose from the dead and on another mountain the risen Lord said to the disciples “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
In our text this morning we see that Jesus knows exactly who he is. And that is good news for you, because you are prone to forget. You forget that through baptism Christ has made you sons and daughters of God. You forget about what you are, and go off trying to achieve worth and status through what you do and what you have. You forget that you are God’s dearly beloved child, as you worry about things you want but don’t need. You forget about who you are, as you take up the world’s ways of treating others.
The good news of Jesus’ temptation is that Jesus knew who he was. He never forgot. Even when tempted to veer off from the Father’s will he defeated the devil and remained faithful. And he has given that victory to you. Through the water of Holy Baptism he has given you a share in that ultimate victory that he won by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. He has given you a status that you could never earn for yourself.
In a text that is shaped by baptism, the apostle Peter put it this way: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
This is what the Son has made you to be through the washing of water with the Word. And through the work of the Holy Spirit who gave you new life, our Lord now leads you to live as what you are. In our text today we see that Jesus the Son was faithful and obedient to God as he walked a way of service to us. The Spirit now leads you to live in service to others. Just as the Son of God did not have to look for ways to serve, but rather had been given a calling by the Father to fulfill, so it is with you. He has placed you in callings – in vocations in life – where you serve others. He has made you a husband or wife; a father or mother; a son or daughter; a member of this congregation; an employer or an employee. And in each of these settings he uses your service to provide for the needs of others, just as he worked through the service of Jesus to provide your new status.
In our Gospel lesson today, we see that Jesus knows exactly who he is. He is the Son who fulfills God’s will for Israel. He is the Servant who wins forgiveness for others. He knows the Father’s will. He trusts the Father plan. Secure in this he defeats the devil’s temptations as he begins his journey to the cross for you. Through baptism he has given you the new status that he won by his death and resurrection. You are baptized into Christ. So remember who you are.