All that Jesus did and suffered was for our instruction.
He consented to be led into the desert and to do battle with the devil so that when the baptized were assailed by greater temptations after baptism than before they would not be troubled as though this were something unexpected, but would remain steadfast, bearing them all nobly.
You did not receive weapons so that you might sit at ease, but so that you might fight! — St. Chrysostom
It should not surprise us that Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River is followed immediately by his temptation. After the voice from Heaven proclaimed: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased,” it was now known that there was walking on earth one who was human but on whom the devil had no dirt. How can the devil leave this situation unchallenged? There is no accusation against Jesus, no basis for a charge to be brought against him. (Lk 23:4, 14) Yes, that is the conclusion of Pilate who will voice it at the end of the Gospel of Luke. Jesus was human but not marred with sin. It demanded a challenge and got one in the temptations of Jesus.
George Bernard Shaw is said to once have sent an anonymous telegram to a dozen prominent Londoners. It simply read: “Been discovered. Take immediate action!” Two days later, half of them had been discovered as having taken a sudden, previously unannounced holiday abroad.
No, seriously, if the prosecutor of heaven — or an earthly counterpart who was an unbearable stickler — were to investigate you, would you come out clean? You are free to say yes, but if you do, then all you do is to proclaim that you have never listened to the brief order of confession which does include the famous line from 1 John: “If we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves . . “ John would tell you that claiming that deception for yourself constitutes calling God a liar.
One of my favorite cartoonist is Ralph Ruthe. He is German so look for his stuff at the risk of challenging your rusty German. He likes Heaven and Hell type themes and in one, my favorite, two devils are talking to each other. Behind them people from several races and, judging by the apparel, several cultures and religions, are burning in the flames.
“I say! Multiculturalism is working out pretty good for us,” one says.
“Yes. No question: We are inclusive,” Answers the other.
I admit, I have failed to resist the urge to use that image, Hell as the most inclusive place on earth, in the pointless debates in the church on inclusivity. Heaven is inclusive to be sure. It is inclusive because all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. The Gospel; it is primarily about the forgiveness of sin (Melanchton); must be inclusive because Hell is inclusive, and Hell is inclusive because everyone, including the Son of God, is included in Satan’s pursuit to have the dirt, the accusations, against every one of us.
Pilate’s judgement is the proclamation of a new reality: Satan has failed to find fault with someone. Jesus, truly human and born of Mary, was tempted but did not sin. Sin did not deform him in any way. Therefore he was the worthy, pure Passover Lamb to be slain to take away the sin of the world and to defeat the angel of death who wields death as the power if sin. (1 Cor 14:55 - often read at funerals)
In Jesus, body, mind, and spirit were tempted, but the cardinal virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love, prevailed. In a state of hunger his Faith in God’s providence won out. In viewing the Kingdoms of the world, all of them in an instant and thereby viewing the injustice done to his people Israel and denial of the promise of God to Abraham through all ages, Jesus chose the Hope in God’s plan to bring in the Kingdom and keep the promise alive. Finally, tempted to be a splendid hero, loved by all but from afar, he chose Love which is not done at a distance but in person and always risks rejection as the story in Nazareth tells us (Lk 4:14ff)
Every day is filled with temptation. Faith, Hope, and Love are always under assault and the tempter, the heavenly prosecutor (Job 1) already has a file on you. Unlike Jesus’ file, yours is not empty. Worse, since you belong to those proclaiming the forgiveness of everything in every file — you were given the duty to proclaim that at Baptism — you are a “person of interest” to the prosecutor. Yet, your message is one of your weapons: You are forgiven. You are one who reads the commandments carefully and admits you sins. In Faith you repent and amend your living, in Hope you live on in a sometimes chaotic world trusting God to bring it blessed conclusion, in Love you prove neighbor to those you meet. (Lk 10)
This world’s tyrant will rage. (Luther, Battle Hymn of the Lutheran Church) His work will be for nothing, his carefully crafted files will mean nothing in the end. The Passover Lamb that was slain has taken away the sin of the world.