1st Sunday during Lent

February 18, 2018

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church

Sioux Falls, SD

Rev. Norman F. Seeger


Mark 1:12-15

At once the Spirit sent Jesus out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!”


Mark 1:12-15

“Good News!”

1) Jesus is tempted by Satan

2) Jesus builds God’s Kingdom


Dear faithful followers of Jesus the Christ,

Are you ever tempted to sin?  Does the devil ever invite you; encourage you to disobey any one of God’s all-encompassing ten commands for my daily life?  If you ever find yourself tempted by Satan, tempted to sin, I have good news you need to hear today.  If anger or if envy sometimes seeps into our head – if our naturally self-centered heart crowds out true concern for friends or co-workers, God has good news we will want to hear today.  If we feel free to redefine God’s plan for marriage just because worldly people regularly ignore our Lord’s instructions for expressing love between husband & wife — if I ever feel some almost irresistible urge to print profane graffiti on a school sign when I think no one will know who writes this, Mark has good news we need to hear today.  If I am tempted?…  Let’s be honest… When we are tempted to sin, whenever we are invited to deny, defy; to disobey God’s will for my Christian life — invitations to evil we will encounter every day – whenever we recognize our sin, whenever I realize I have once again been led to dance with the devil instead of walking with God, it is good news; it is great to hear Jesus is tempted by Satan – it is sweetest gospel truth to be told again Jesus builds God’s kingdom by refusing to sin before suffering our sin’s penalty so we repenting, believing souls can live forever in heaven; not die hell’s unending death.

Mark’s message is brief, bullet-points:  In the wilderness, Jesus is tempted by Satan; in Galilee, Jesus proclaims God’s good news.  Terse, pointed information about our Savior should not surprise us. Unlike parents who regularly record every event in a child’s life – at least their first child — God does not offer a ton of details about his one & only Son who becomes Mary’s first-born at Christmas.  Born the Son of Mary, God the Son is circumcised the eighth day.  Jesus is presented in the temple the fortieth day, praised there by Simeon & Anna.  Eastern wise men come to worship a newborn king Joseph quickly carries to Egypt to escape King Herod butchering the baby boys in Bethlehem.  Returning later, Joseph settles his family up north in Nazareth, introducing a decade of silence.  Twelve-year old Jesus goes with Mary & Joseph to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, staying a little longer than they thought.  After a frantic Mary & Joseph find Jesus ‘in his Father’s house — in the temple courts — sitting among the teachers, listening & asking questions; amazing everyone with his understanding & answers,’ Jesus ‘goes down to Nazareth with them & Jesus is obedient to them.’[LK 2]

After another eighteen unreported years, thirty-year old ‘Jesus comes from Nazareth in Galilee to be baptized by John in the Jordan.  Just as Jesus is coming up out of the water, heaven opens; the Spirit descends on him like a dove.  A voice from heaven is heard:  ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’’{MK 1]  ‘Immediately the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness.’  While God’s inspired press coverage of Jesus in the four gospels increases exponentially over the next three years, Mark’s report remains brief, “Jesus is in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.’  ‘Jesus goes to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God:  the time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God has come near.  Repent; believe the good news!’

Why is Jesus tempted by Satan good news?  It is obviously God’s plan.  ‘The (Holy) Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness.’  He does not accidentally cross paths with the devil; not happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  God sends his Son to face Satan one-on-one – no human helpers, no friendly disciples encouraging him from the sidelines.  Wild animals increase danger Jesus endures.  Eating nothing for forty days, Jesus’ human hunger intensifies his struggle as God sends his Son to be tempted by Satan; to personally experience every evil invitation we will encounter in our lifetime.  When we wisely ask God’s guidance in troubled times, whenever we pray for Jesus’ assistance as Satan attacks, an inspired writer of Hebrews assures us we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,’ assures us ‘we will receive mercy; will find grace to help us in our time of need’ for ‘we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.’[HEB 4]

Every temptation we will ever encounter in this world, Jesus faces first as Satan desperately attempts to defeat a descendant of Eve the devil knows God is sending to crush him the way the Lord promised after Adam sinned in the garden of Eden.  If the devil can derail Jesus just once – one lying or unloving word, one angry action, one selfish thought floating through his head – Jesus will not crush but will be crushed by Satan; Jesus will no longer be able to offer his sinless life as the one acceptable sacrifice paying our sin’s penalty, freeing us from our guilt; freeing us from eternal death we sinners deserve.  Knowing one sin would have nullified Jesus’ work of redemption, it is good to hear God’s inerrant Word say, ‘We do not have a high priest, Jesus, who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.’[HEB 4]

God similarly declares Jesus sinless at his baptism.  Looking back over the first thirty years of his earthly life, reviewing countless unrecorded temptations Jesus encountered, God announces, ‘With him I am well pleased.’  Be assured, God could never be pleased with sin.  As at the beginning of his public ministry, so approaching its end, on a mountain where Jesus is transfigured, God will say again, ‘With him I am well pleased.’[MT 17]  Finally, at our Savior’s cross, after Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane endures an unbelievably intense temptation to walk away from a hellish crucifixion he knows for a fact will separate him from God his Father the very next day – when Jesus prays, ‘Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit’[LK 23] – God signals his acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice atoning for our sins by accepting his son’s soul before our Savior ‘breathes his last.’

Why is Jesus being tempted to sin every way we are tempted, yet not sinning even one time, good news for us sinners to hear; good gospel news for everybody to believe?  God had promised through Jeremiah, “I will raise up a Righteous Branch for David.  He will reign wisely; will administer justice & righteousness.  In his days Judah will be saved & Israel will dwell securely.  This is the name he will be called:  The Lord Is Our Righteousness.,u[JER 23]  Could God’s news possibly be better?  The Lord Jesus is our righteousness.  As God ultimately judges us – judges us holy, righteous; sinless in his sight – God looks at the life Jesus lives as our Substitute.  Refusing to sin, Jesus acquires righteousness; salvation for you; for me.

Refusing to sin as he is tempted by Satan for a lifetime, as he faces every temptation we will ever encounter, Jesus is not only able to speak with the voice of experience when we prayerfully ask his advice, Jesus in the wilderness also illustrates the way he instructs us to react to temptation by turning to God, letting the Word of Christ fill our lives.  Luke & Matthew detail Jesus’ repeated use of God’s Word to counteract Satan’s sinful suggestions.  Urged to turn stones into bread to ease his hunger; to prove his godly power, Jesus responds, ‘It is written:  Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Encouraged to jump from the top of the temple to prove his trust in God’s promise to protect us with angels, Jesus responds, ‘It is also written:  Do not test the Lord your God.’  Invited to bow down to Satan one time, in exchange for all the kingdoms of this world, an apparently easier way to win the world than by enduring death on a cross, Jesus orders, ‘Go away, Satan!  For it is written:  Worship the Lord your God; serve only him.’[MT 4]

Facing Satan himself – as our Substitute – Jesus defeats the devil by refusing to sin.  ‘With the wild animals,’ with no human helpers, Jesus ‘in this wilderness is served by angels,’ as he will be served by an angel God sends to Gethsemane where Jesus earnestly pray his Father’s will be done… be done by Jesus climbing a cross to atone for our sin, to innocently die as our sinless Savior so ‘Everyone may be saved; everyone may come to know the truth there is one God; one mediator between God & humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.’[1 TM 2]  Salvation is ‘the good news of God Jesus proclaims in Galilee:

This is good gospel news we need to hear again & again as we Christians will continue to be tempted by Satan – as we, sad to say, in our ignorance or in our weakness, fail to fully imitate Jesus, fail to always turn to God’s Word for guidance.  Falling into sin, we need to hear our Savior Jesus constantly calling, ‘Repent!  Repent!’  We need the Holy Spirit not driving us into the wilderness, but driving us into God’s Word to reassure us, as Jesus asserts, ‘God’s timetable is fulfilled.  The kingdom of God has come near.’

Jesus building God’s kingdom is good news we sinners need to hear as our Savior powerfully invites us, ‘Repent!  Believe the good news!’  Believe Jeremiah prophesying, ‘David’s Descendant, Jesus, the Lord is our Righteousness.”  Believe John the Baptist introducing; identifying Jesus ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’[JN 1]  Rejoice in good news apostle Paul will soon echo, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus; you will be saved,’[ACTS 16] for Jesus, in fact, is the Good News he proclaims in Galilee, in Judea & Jerusalem; in the ends of the earth.  Defeating Satan by refusing to sin, Jesus is our Righteousness.  Overpowering death & the devil by enduring hell on our cross before rising victorious Easter Sunday, Jesus is our Redemption.  Who needs more details?  Declared righteous in Christ, redeemed from our sins by Christ; given faith in Jesus, our Savior & Lord, one by one we are brought into God’s kingdom — believer by believer we are brought under God’s eternal rule for our eternal life in Christ.