Genesis 2:15-17; Matthew 4:1-11

(no sermon note)

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’


Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying 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,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

These are an interesting couple of passages to kick off this series on things we ought to consider giving up for this season of Lent and long after. We all know that tradition has us give up something for Lent in keeping with the discipline of fasting. Some people give up chocolate or alcohol or fast food or tv or curse words…any number of things we give up for only 6 weeks as we reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us so long ago. Perhaps we should consider giving up some things for a lot longer that just 6 weeks. After all, Jesus did give up his earthly life forever! Even when he came back to us, it was in a different form, and he remains with us in a different form than 2,000 years ago. And he’ll come to us yet again in a different form. I know, complex stuff but the point is that even Jesus gave up something for a lot longer than a season of Lent and if we consider ourselves his followers then we ought to do likewise.

The theme of this first week is a calling to give up control. In both our passages, we heard two situations in which God himself relinquished control. In the garden, we heard how God essentially gave up control of both the garden and of mankind. He set a boundary: “but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Of course, having established the boundary made it all the more enticing to cross over! He shouldn’t have even mentioned the tree to Adam in the first place! I’m sure there was plenty in the garden to occupy his time with. But God had to incorporate this idea of death and separation in his garden. When something or someone dies, they are beyond our control and God allowed for the possibility of Adam being beyond his control. At the same time, God also instilled free will within Adam. He got to choose whether he’d eat of the tree or not, not God. So again, God is eager to give up control over his creation and allow one part of his creation to operate of its own free will. Man is given the reins to his own destiny, and it doesn’t end up well. Man eats of the tree and is forever separated from God, no longer one with God.

Along came Jesus who showed us a better way to handle such a situation of being given control. We heard how Jesus was wandering the desert for 40 days and nights until Satan, the great tempter, came along and tried to get Jesus to exert control over his situation. “Surely you can turn the stones into bread and end your starvation! Surely you can command the angels to carry you through the air! Surely you can reign over all the kingdoms of the world rather than be isolated in the desert! You have control, Jesus, simply exert your control like Adam did so long ago!” And how does Jesus respond? Certainly not like Adam. No, Jesus relinquished his control to a higher authority. He recognized that control is an illusion, that there is only one authority who has absolute authority over everything in this world. Our God has absolute authority over everything! We’re fools to believe otherwise. We’re fools to believe Satan, the great tempter, who tries to convince us we have more control than we actually do. God doesn’t tempt us, but He certainly tests us. He tests our faith and trust in him and his control.

Jesus’ response to the temptation of control was far better than Adam’s because it got rid of Satan: “the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” We’re forever hounded by Satan because of Adam’s lack of resistance to temptation. If only he had chosen as Jesus had then perhaps our situation in this world would be better. Control is an illusion. We ought to stay faithful and trusting in God’s control. We know He only wants the best for us. Allow for his will and his will alone to be done and you’ll be amazed at how good life can be! And give thanks…thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.