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
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
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
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
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
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.