Feb. 21, 2010
First Sunday in Lent
Luke 4:1-13

Iron Eyes Cody is the Native American actor who did a TV spot for the Keep America Beautiful campaign in the early 1970s. He was an Indian drifting alone in a canoe. As he saw how our waters are being polluted, a single tear rolled down his cheek, telling the whole story. This public service announcement is so powerful it still airs occasionally.

Several years ago, Cody told an old Indian legend in Guideposts magazine:

Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There he fasted. On the third day, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one tall rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. I will test myself against that mountain, he thought. He put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the peak. When he reached the top, he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet, and looking down, he saw a snake.

Before he could move, the snake spoke. “I am about to die,” said the snake. “It is too cold for me up here and I am freezing. There is no food and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley.”

“No,” said the youth. “I am forewarned. I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me.”

“Not so,” said the snake. “I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you.” The youth resisted a while, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last, the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass, when suddenly the snake coiled, rattled and leapt, biting him on the leg.

“But you promised…” cried the youth. As the snake slithered away, he turned and said, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”

One of the flaws inherent in our sinful nature is the temptation to think, “I’m stronger than that. It won’t happen to me. I can play with fire without getting burnt.”

Jesus, after His baptism, went out into the desert to be tempted by the devil. What do you do for 40 days in the wilderness? You reflect. You seek God. You think deeply about your life and its direction. As Jesus geared up for His ministry, the Spirit directed and accompanied Him out into the desert.

God allows testing into our lives to strengthen and prove us. Satan brings temptation that he may defeat and destroy us. The categories are the temptation to use power for the wrong purposes, which is seen in the temptation to turn the stones into bread; the temptation of idolatry, which would be seen in serving the wrong master; and the temptation to gain popularity by performance, which is seen by jumping on the rocks.

I. An Illegitimate Means
The first temptation Jesus faced was to serve a legitimate end with an illegitimate means. He’d been fasting for 40 days and He was hungry. No one could fault Him for wanting something to eat. The temptation, though, to change the stones to bread would have been to use powers the rest of humanity didn’t have.

We serve a Savior who knows what it is like to face temptation. If Jesus had used His divine power to feed His own appetite, He would have lost what it was to be fully human. He came to identify with us, to live a sinless life among us so He could offer us the one sinless life as the spotless Lamb of God without blemish to take away the sin of the world.

II. An Illegitimate Authority
Next, Jesus was tempted to forget where the real authority lies. Satan told Jesus, “I can give you the authority and splendor of the world.” What he didn’t tell Jesus was that they weren’t his to give. The temptation would have been to buy into the devil’s lie and avoid the cross. He could have gotten back the power Satan had stolen from Him, but that would have been to fail in His mission.

III. An Illegitimate Test
The third temptation was to gain popularity by performance, to do something spectacular to gain the attention of the masses. That would have been to put God to a foolish test.

Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet He did not sin. He accomplished His mission, and He can give us the power to live victoriously.

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