Yesterday we finished our two weeks of Serve at Home. Five teams worked five shifts at four work sites and accomplished a prodigious amount of work and left behind a bunch of blessings. My thanks go to our Serve volunteers who organized and coordinated all this work, and to our congregation who responded so well and did so much. As Molly said, “What an awesome church.” Glory to God. Why do we do things like Serve? Jesus said it is more blessed to serve than to be served and He set that example for all of us. We serve because we want to be Christ-followers. During these past two weeks you noticed the email devotionals were prepared by the Serve volunteers and followed the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are Jesus’ definition of what a Christ-follower is. These eight beatitudes are a bold declaration of what it means to be a Christian and how we can be supremely happy, of how we can live a supremely blessed life. These Beatitudes test and challenge the reality of our Christianity and our views of what will make us happy. There are several lessons that can be drawn from the Beatitudes. Let’s consider five this morning.
There is a word that has snuck into our vocabulary over the past couple of months. We are hearing this word used a lot lately by politicians, the news media, medical people. In fact, you could almost say that the frequency of the use of this word is unprecedented. That’s the word, unprecedented. And of course, what is being called unprecedented is the Covid-19 pandemic. The word means without precedent, unique, unparalleled, without previous instance. Nothing like it before. Cancelling the CRC Synod meeting is unprecedented in our 160 year history. Now there is some truth to that. None of us in our life time have experienced anything quite like what we are going through now. It has some of the financial implications of the great depression, some of the life restrictions like the rationing and blackouts during WWII, some of the fear of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some of the long school closures like the blizzard of 1950. But when you put all of that into one event and then spread it all over the globe it can certainly have an unprecedented feel to it. This will go down in history as a recognizable seismic event. One for the history books. One you young people will tell your kids and grandkids. But any student of history will tell you this pandemic is not so unprecedented in human history. There have been countless plagues and pestilences, epidemics and pandemics. Millions of people died in the Spanish flu and in various bubonic plagues and many others. Scripture says there is nothing new under the sun, except one thing, one truly unprecedented event, one event like no other before it or after it. One event without parallel.
Why are we in the garden on Palm Sunday? Remember we have been focusing on Satan’s attacks and lies, first on us by saying “did God really say,” and twisting Scripture. Then we looked at Satan’s attack on Jesus in the three temptations where Satan was again twisting Scripture. Now we are finishing with two other times when Jesus faced serious, strong temptations, last week from Peter telling Jesus He would never suffer as the Son of God. And now this week when the Son of God wrestles in a garden with the temptation to avoid suffering if possible. Human history began in a garden. Human history was completely rewritten in a garden. The first Adam ignored the will of God and results were disastrous. The second Adam sought the will of God and the results were hard but very good. Adam ate of the fruit in the garden and plunged us all into sin and death. Jesus agreed to drink of the cup in the garden and raise us all to holiness and life. In the first garden sin and Satan won and the curse was begun. In the second garden sin and Satan lost and the curse was about to be broken. Adam was put to the test in the garden and failed miserably. Jesus was put to the supreme test of His life and triumphed. We come to one of the most powerfully moving and emotionally charged scenes in the life of Jesus, certainly one of the most human scenes.
Peter makes a stunningly clear and bold confession. You are the Son of God, having the same character and nature and power as God the Father. You are the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God who will save His people from their sins. Jesus is exceedingly pleased and praises Peter while at the same time making it clear that anytime a person declares the truth about Jesus they have been enabled to do so by God through His Holy Spirit. Have we made this profession? Can you say this out loud in sincere faith with all your heart? Then know this, that is the hand of the living God in your life. God has touched your heart and opened the blind eyes of a sinner.
Let me remind us where we are in our Lenten series since we took a break from it last week and the week before seems like a two months ago with all we have been going through. We have been looking at Satan’s attack on Jesus through three temptations in the wilderness. After 40 days of fasting, Satan goes straight for Jesus’ stomach and urges him to turn some stones into bread. After all the Son of God has the power and certainly should not have to suffer and go starving. But Jesus answers, “Man shall not live by toilet paper alone, but by the Word of God.” That’s my loose translation of the Greek. But actually it isn’t so far off. We don’t live by what we think we need most, we live by what God says we need most, the substance of His Word. Then Satan decided to tempt Jesus with Scripture and quoted from Psalm 91 to get Jesus to jump off the church steeple and show His glory when a legion of God’s angels rush down to save Him and keep Him from suffering. But Jesus has some better verses about not being tempted to tempt God. So third time is charm, right? Satan pulls out all the stops, loads both barrels, pushes all the chips in. This is the big one.
Last week we looked at the first temptation of Jesus. The first temptation called into question the Father’s care, provision, love and goodness. Take matters into your own hands, the Son of God should not be starving. It was a appeal to weakness, to intense hunger after 40 days with no food. Satan knows our flesh and our weaknesses and he is always trying to exploit them. But that didn’t work with Jesus. One characteristic of Satan is he is nothing if he isn’t relentlessly persistent. Just because Jesus won the first round, means nothing to him, there is no quit in Satan. If he failed once, he comes right back to it again and again. You can never let your guard down. Never think that if you dodged one bullet there won’t be more.
For several weeks now we have considered Satan’s attack on what God has said in His Word. Satan started his attack in the garden and has been relentlessly doing so ever since. So, it comes as no surprise when the second Adam comes to earth Satan is right there ready to attack again. This morning we start our Lenten series of sermons considering Satan’s greatest attack of all, his attack against Jesus and we begin with three sermons on the three temptations of Jesus and how they apply to us. I will draw a number of observations from our text and then show how it applies to our coming to the Lord’s table this morning.