Matthew 4:1-11: Not By Bread Alone

Not by bread aloneSuch a generous offer the Devil makes, proposing to share the stage of God with Jesus Christ.  The Devil can be such a charmer, offering our Lord bread, glory, and sparing Him the suffering yet to come.  Why?  So we will be without our Savior’s Word.

The Deceiver whispers, “You don’t need to do this, this isn’t Your fault.  These stones lie before You, fit for some blessed purpose.  These stones can become nourishment for Your hungering belly, beautiful to the eye and pleasing for food.  Give Yourself a break, enjoy the benefits of being the Creator, and allow me the pleasure of the people.  Never need they trouble you again with their grievances and complaining.”

The Suffering Servant, Jesus, allows Satan a hearing, but unlike those who came before, He does what they did not—He resists.  Yes, temptation comes, but He overcomes.  For our Savior does not succumb to corruption.  No, He suffers, obeying when they disobeyed, living by the Word going forth from His mouth.

The Son will wait while the Father provides.  Led into this time of temptation, He places Himself under God, knowing deprivation and disgrace.  The Father provides for Him, not by taking away the burden, but by offering Him up for our every failure!

Without a grievance, the Savior goes.  Without food, honor, and abandoned, He goes.  Later, this Messiah will lumber, bearing the beam of wood to pay for our wrongs.  So, He turns the other cheek and allows others to force a crown of thorns on His head, to drive nails into His hands and feet.  The Diabolical One does his worst, claims his day, demands his price, and believes he prevails in triumph as Jesus gasps His final breath.

Oh, how un-crafty the Evil One is, for Jesus outfoxes the fox.  The world’s Redeemer pays the ransom to God’s Law, completing the sacrifice through what seems as defeat.  The Savior loves us to the end—bleeding Himself dry of life, Spirit, and blood.

The Devil orchestrates this from afar, leaping and cavorting at the death of the One promised, prophesied long ago when we plummeted into sin.  The Seed of Eve foretold to crush his head is now pale and lifeless before him.  Here Satan stands, the victor!

No so fast, for from the frailty of death comes the power of the Almighty, satisfying the Law’s demands.  In His sacrifice, our Lord removes the guilt and shame of the same.  In these markers of defeat, the One sacrificed crushes the strength of Satan, proclaims His triumph in the bastion of the Devil’s lair, and rises from death!

Only Christ is the Conqueror over Satan in the desert, in Galilee, and on Golgotha.  Only He snatches victory from the clench of death, rising to a new day for us all.  Sturdier and stronger is He over the demonic foe.

The power we hold contains strength to destroy and seek vengeance, not heal into eternity.  Not so with our Lord, for He is the Prince of Peace.  The Kingdom of heaven will suffer violence, and His rule is the reign of grace.  Still, He is the greatest force in creation, revealing His strength in forgiveness.  By grace, with love, does He rule.

All for His Kingdom, this Prince of Peace turns enemies into friends, declaring former rebels to be His beloved children.  In the cleansing, life-giving water, He washes them clean, poured out in the water flowing from His pierced side.

The dream of Satan, to kill God, becomes real but proves to be too potent a draft for him to drink.  Freed from the Devil’s dishonor, our Lord welcomes failures, losers, and weaklings back into His fold!  The Father, the Son, and the Spirit love you forever.

So, why do you live out your days in this wilderness?  In your disability, you experience hunger, shame, and attack by Satan.  Here’s why.  The student is not above his Teacher, and God chooses to hide His heroes in weakness and His saints in sinners.  Such is our Savior’s faith-requiring way, who hides something inside the opposite.

To believe in the reverse of what we expect demands faith.  So, you follow the Savior in the Way of the Cross.  Not by food alone do you live, but by every Word going forth from the mouth of God.  The Word, Jesus, takes His Word to give you Himself.  How?  By hiding Himself behind what the world understands to be useless.

Think about what Jesus did.  In His incarnation, God becomes human—so He can die.  In death, He saves us to give us life.  Through what the world considers to be a waste, our Lord displays and gives His saving power.

The Tempter approaches Jesus.  “So, if you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  The Savior’s response?  “Man must not live by bread alone but by every word coming from the mouth of God.”

Think about what Jesus does.  The Word from Jesus comes to us, giving us life.  Mere words—and yet in them is eternal life.  With irony on top of irony, the Giver of Life speaks words from His mouth and takes bread, giving us life.  For He doesn’t give us bread alone, which would be useless, but delivers to us what His Word says.  “This is my body, given for you; this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.”

Where God acquits us of our wrongdoing, earned for us in His death, He delivers us His life and salvation.  Eternal Life hides within bread, grain crushed and cooked, to our eyes, lacking in life.  To believe Jesus gives You Himself in such a way demands faith.  For you must believe what He says instead of what your mind thinks can be true.

So, because of our Lord’s victory in death, you don’t go to slaughter.  For you don’t live by food alone but by what He speaks to you in His words—Himself, hidden in the loaf.  Only in Jesus, are you are holy, righteous, innocent, and without blame.

Still, as you walk on your wilderness journey, you are not yet in the Promised Land.  The noble work begun in you is not yet complete.  So, you still suffer in this barren place full of evil and enticement, full of sorrow and death.

Amid alluring attractions, God gives you His Word of life, from His mouth and into yours.  Not bread alone, for without God within, you do not receive enough to carry you into the life of eternity.  So, the Word made Flesh delivers Himself to you in the bread, joining you in the battle, providing what you need.

Only your dead-and-risen Champion encourages, strengthens, and nourishes.  From His mouth into yours, and now from your mouth comes the Word He places within you.  Praise of His mercy, thankfulness for His kindness.  For in Him, you are clean.  In this pattern, our Redeemer provides us the pattern of worship, pleasing to Him.

The pastor holds a strange wafer of wheat before you: “The Body of Christ.”  By faith, you believe Jesus feeds you, not only with bread but with Himself, joining you to Himself.  To attend and serve you, He steps forth, here in this place, where He promises to be.  Yes, this is your Savior and how He wants you to recognize Him.

The Devil doesn’t understand the Savior, for he senses failure, not strength.  In His strength hiding in weakness, in His compassion to save you, Jesus endures all.  In the desert, He hungers.  Later, trudging toward Golgotha, He takes whip and scourge—all for you.  For such is Your salvation—His incarnation, fasting, and temptation, His dying and rising—all to make you His.

The Lord’s way is not the way of power and might.  For He is not like the self-created gods made in our image.  The Messiah’s way is not for you to obey well enough to make the cut, but forgiveness.  The goal of Christianity is not to force you to behave but forgiveness and salvation.  The promised Savior received and ate with sinners.  Is today any different?

No secret strategies or tactics will stop you from sinning on this side of glory.  Of course, as Spirit-filled people, we do try to sin less often because of who we are, not to make ourselves worthy.  Still, you will mess up and hurt others you love.  The Christian faith is not a self-help program, but the way of God’s amnesty, mercy, and grace.

So, you find yourself failing at who Christ declares you to be.  Why don’t you do what you want to do and not the evil you don’t?  The bookstores make much money from this dilemma, in an ever-growing, self-help section.  Still, no strange elixir wisps in the atmosphere, no secret formula or magic prayer.  The answer is this—Jesus loves you.

Yes, your Redeemer suffered for you, forgiving your sins, so they aren’t coming back.  On the Day He returns, all creation will experience the real you.  The fallen flesh will be forgotten, with a pure one in its place, and you will shine like the Son of the Father you are.  For you will be clothed with Christ, without corruption, well-pleasing to the Father.

So, what you suffer now—sorrow, compulsions, and failure—are not worth comparing with the glory to come.  Do not the eyes of belief marvel at this panorama?  Yes, even the vast cloud of witnesses and angels surrounding you, encouraging you to press on.

With them, and with the multitude of heaven, you praise and proclaim the Almighty’s glorious name, the name of peace, into which He baptized you.  Sin is not defeated by the Law, by what you must do.  No, only by the Gospel does sin lie in defeat, by what Jesus did and does for you.

The Lord Jesus overcame temptation, which means you are His forgiven child, righteous, and holy.  So, come and eat the sacred Body and Blood of your Lord and Savior.  Be strong, not by your will or understanding, but by relying on the mercy and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Him, all is well into eternity.  Amen.