“What Kind of Son Are You?” (Luke 4:1-13)

First Sunday in Lent
March 10, 2019

“What Kind of Son Are You?” (Luke 4:1-13)

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” So came the Father’s voice at Jesus’ baptism. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. And we know from the rest of the New Testament that Jesus is the Son of God in a unique sense, a one-of-a-kind sense, in his very being. As we said in the Nicene Creed, Jesus Christ is “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds.” He is the Second Person of the Trinity, true God, divine in his very nature. In this sense, there has never been, and never will be, anyone else who is “the” Son of God.

But in another sense, Jesus did come, he needed to come, as “son of God” like others who have borne that identity. I’m thinking here specifically of three examples of “sons of God”: Adam in the garden; Israel in the Old Testament; and we, the church–all “sons of God” in this respect.

Take Adam, for example. In the verses right before our text today in Luke, there is a genealogy of Jesus going back all the way to Adam. That genealogy concludes, “Adam, the son of God.” You see, Adam was created to bear the image and likeness of God. That’s what good sons do.

Then there was Old Testament Israel. In Exodus, Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’” So Israel had this status of being God’s son, and a good son should serve the will of his father.

Adam, Israel, and now us. We are God’s sons also, God’s baptized children, inheritors of his promise, joint heirs with Christ, privileged to call on God as our heavenly Father. We have been baptized to be God’s faithful, obedient sons, trusting in his goodness and reflecting his character. That’s what good sons do.

But when we look at Adam, when we look at Old Testament Israel, and when we look at ourselves, we have to ask, in each case, “What Kind of Son Are You?”

And that’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus comes as the faithful and obedient Son of his Father, doing his will and reflecting his character. He comes resisting temptation and overcoming the devil. And it’s important, absolutely essential. that he do so, for in his temptation in the wilderness Jesus will be the son that Adam failed to be, that Israel failed to be, and that we fail to be. And your very salvation hangs on him being that faithful, obedient Son of God.

Jesus has just heard the Father say, “You are my beloved Son.” He has just come up out of the water and is led into the wilderness. Now the question is: Will Jesus do any better than Adam in the garden or Israel in the wilderness? How will Jesus do under temptation? Will he fold? Will he disregard God’s word and sin, like Adam did? Will he grumble against God and rebel, like Israel did? Adam and Israel both failed the test. They did not show themselves to be faithful, obedient sons. So what kind of son will you be, Jesus?

Now this question is of absolute importance for us. Because, like Adam and like Israel, we too have failed the test. So if we are to have any hope at all, it will rest with Jesus. We need someone to get this thing right. And Jesus comes as our representative.

Let’s take a trip out to the wilderness and see what happens. The devil comes and tempts Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” This was a real temptation, because Jesus was really hungry! He had been fasting for forty days. The temptation here is for Jesus to use his sonship for his own advantage, for his own benefit and comfort, to serve himself. You know, Adam had been tempted with food. The devil’s temptation worked with him. Israel had been tempted with food, grumbling against God’s provision in the wilderness. Both Adam and Israel had failed this test. They did not trust God.

How about us? Are we more interested in serving our belly than in serving the Lord? Do we complain about how God is not taking care of us as we think he ought? “God, why aren’t you providing for me the way I want? I deserve more. I deserve better. C’mon, God, get with it!” We too fail to trust our heavenly Father. We get all caught up in serving our own desires and our pleasures. We too fail the test. We do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Now how does Jesus do? What kind of a Son are you, Jesus? His answer tells us: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” There is something more important than serving our own desires. It is finding life in God’s word. It is trusting God’s promise that he will take care of us, no matter what. What kind of a Son is Jesus? Just what a son should be. He trusts in his Father’s goodness. He trusts God’s word of promise. He will not use his sonship to serve his own belly. Where Adam and Israel failed, where we fail, Jesus prevailed.

Well, OK, but the devil is persistent. So another temptation. The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” At the heart of this temptation is the willingness to rationalize, to do what you know is wrong, but can make excuses for, for the sake of personal gain.

Do we do that? What are the false gods we worship? Money, success, pleasure, the good life? Oh, we pay God a little lip-service–we’ve got to be able to rationalize our idolatry, after all–but what are the idols we worship ahead of God?

Now how did Jesus do on this one? Jesus answers the devil and says, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” No rationalizing for Jesus. He doesn’t take the bait. His kingdom is not of this world. This world’s power and glory do not entice him. Jesus stays true to his mission, which is to bring in the kingdom of heaven here on earth, to do the will of his Father, to go the way of the cross.

Notice that again Jesus responds to the devil’s temptation by quoting Scripture: “It is written.” “OK, Jesus,” the devil says to himself, “if you’re gonna quote Scripture, I can play that game too!” So the devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem and sets him on the pinnacle of the temple and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” The devil here is quoting verses from Psalm 91, but cherry-picking them to serve his purpose.

Here the temptation is for Jesus to take his sonship for granted and to presume upon God’s promise of protection. Take a promise out of context, twist it, and use it as a license for whatever you want to do, apart from God’s direction in the rest of your life.

Do we do that sort of thing? For instance, we presume upon God’s promise of forgiveness, and we use it as a license to sin, which it was never meant to be. “Well, God will forgive me later, so I’ll just go ahead and do what I want now.” But the Lord is not some puppet we can manipulate. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” But so often we think we can put one over on God and take advantage of his goodness, in order to do as we please. That is not the way of a good son.

So what kind of Son is Jesus? How did he do when faced with this temptation? He tells the devil, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Once again, Jesus proves to be the faithful and obedient Son. He will not do what the devil tempts him to do. He will not put God to the test by turning a gracious promise into a license to take a shortcut to glory.

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” You know, Jesus will face the same temptation later on. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The devil in wilderness and the scoffers at the crucifixion speak the same type of temptation. They tell Jesus to use his sonship in order to avoid the way of the cross. That’s really what all these temptations are about: to get Jesus “off his game,” to lose his sense of mission and purpose, to forget what he came to do. And what Jesus came to do was to do the will of the Father who sent him. And that means going to the cross, in order to save us from our sins.

The cross is what this is all about. Jesus is the obedient Son, and he will be obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Jesus will not fall for the devil’s temptation, which is to bypass suffering and take the easy way out. Jesus came to do the will of his Father, he came to suffer and die on the cross, to redeem us from our sins, and that is exactly what he will do.

So Jesus passes the test, all three tests, with flying colors. He withstands temptation and defeats the devil, here in the wilderness and ultimately at the cross. Where Adam failed, where Israel failed, where you and I so often fail, Jesus, the faithful and obedient Son, prevails.

And thank God he did! Because in Christ, our representative and our divine champion, we share in his victory! My friends, you have someone on your side! He is Jesus. He beat the devil in the wilderness, he beat the devil on the cross, and he beats the devil now, whenever the old evil foe tries to trick you and tempt you. So take your refuge in Jesus! When the devil comes knocking at your door–and he will–tell that old snake to get lost and take it up with Jesus! Jesus’ resolve will strengthen your stand. Jesus’ shed blood will clear your conscience. Jesus’ resurrection will lift your spirits and give you hope to carry on.

“What kind of Son are you, Jesus?” Answer: The faithful and obedient Son, the one who trusts God and beats the devil. Brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is your traveling companion in the wilderness. He is your strong refuge in temptation. He is your champion in battle, your high priest in heaven, and your sure hope of everlasting life.

Published in: on March 9, 2019 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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