What power would the devil and the world have over us if they couldn’t use the things we want for leverage? Even our desire to serve God and work for his good pleasure can get so twisted that we fall deeper and deeper into sin. Which raises an interesting question, what did Jesus desire? Mark says he was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. What levers was Satan pulling? What buttons was he pushing? How did Jesus triumph?
In our epistle lesson James says that temptation arises when we are enticed by our own desires. A little thought will show just how true this is. For example, I am much more likely to overeat on pizza or chocolate than I am on chitlins. Uncontrolled desire can lead to gluttony and gluttony being one of the root causes of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and strokes, is actually a deadly sin.
We Lutherans often talk about the devil, the world, and our flesh as our enemies, but honestly, what power would the devil and the world have over us if they couldn’t use the things we want for leverage.
Eve was tempted through her desire for wisdom. Abraham by his love for his son. Esau by his hunger. Job by his desire to be justified in the sight of his friends. Peter by his desire for safety. Judas by his love of money.
Some of these escaped by the grace of God, but most fell, just as we often fall. And many who fell were recovered by that same grace.
And so, while the devil may get occasional credit for an assist, and the world keeps offering us new gizmos and experiences, the fault for sin lies with us.
Even our desire to serve God and work for his good pleasure can get so twisted that we fall deeper and deeper into sin. When Caiaphas condemned Jesus, he justified it as protecting the people of God; and when Saul of Tarsus went from synagogue to synagogue and from town to town arresting Christians, he thought he was serving God.
The desire to be more Lutheran, more Christian, more pious than others has led countless people into the sins of pride and wrath and slander, while blinding them to their own need for repentance.
BE pious, BE Christian, BE Lutheran, but forget the more. For to be all those things is simply to live by grace through faith in the Son of God. He loved us and gave himself to release us from the snares and traps that spring from our own desires.
Which raises an interesting question, what did Jesus desire? Mark says he was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. What levers was Satan pulling? What buttons was he pushing? How did Jesus triumph?
Mark doesn’t say. But we know some of the things that tempted him from other passages of scripture. In the other temptation accounts we can see the devil trying to appeal to hunger, thirst, a desire for certainty or to prove oneself right, and Jesus’ desire for the promised kingdom.
Jesus undoubtedly had many other human needs and desires. But the desires I want to highlight today are not common: his desire to see God’s will done and his desire to save sinful people from the wrath of God. Ultimately, the two are the same.
The Book of Hebrews says of Jesus, that he was
The founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
What is this joy that Jesus desired so greatly that he was willing to endure such great suffering?
The Book of Revelation pictures Jesus receiving the praise of all the heavenly host as well as the praise of all the earth as he is brought before God to assume his throne and carry out God’s will.
The Canticle “This Is the Feast” is taken from Revelation 5. In it we praise Christ for his saving work.
Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God. Power, riches, wisdom, and strength, and honor, blessing, and glory are His. Sing with all the people of God, and join in the hymn of all creation: Blessing, honor, glory, and might be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen.
But the glory of his reign and receiving the praise of all is only part of his joy. Christ finds joy in the people he has saved. Isaiah 53: says,
The will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:10d-11
This passage from Isaiah speaks of the satisfaction that Christ receives from the fruits of his suffering, death, and resurrection. Isaiah says he has born the iniquities, that is sins, of his people and that because he has done so that God accounts them as righteous. So that satisfaction he feels is not that which comes from defeating one’s enemies, but the joy that comes from saving one’s friends.
And you should count yourself among those friends. For you have been baptized into his death and resurrection. You have come today seeking his gifts in the sacrament and have often received them. From him you receive life, and help, and salvation. Your sins are removed. You are one with him who is one with God.
Further, Isaiah also says that all this is done in accord with God’s will. It was the Father’s will that Christ suffer for us and Christ came for that purpose. As Hebrews notes when the Son comes into the world he says,
“Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.” Hebrews 10:7
Jesus greatest desires were to accomplish God’s will and to save us from our sins. To save you from your sins. And these two desires are one for the God shares the desire that you be saved through faith in Christ Jesus and his suffering and death.
Nowhere is this as apparent as in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was betrayed. There in the Garden his in-born desire for life was great. He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Here you see that he desired to live and not die. But because of his great love for us and his Father he continued, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:16)
As men and women descended from Adam and Eve, we have many desires that can be a source of temptation for us. Sometimes those desires lead us into sin. But Christ, the Son of God, the redeemer of the world has had mercy upon us. His greatest desire is that we repent of our sins and believe the good news that Jesus lives and reigns and is preparing a place for us in his kingdom.