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Wed, Mar 20, 2019

Bread Alone

Duration:31 mins 48 secs

Our theme for these Wednesday night Lenten services is “In the Wilderness” and we are slowly walking through the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness as we encounter it in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, verses 1-13. So far we have considered our own place in the wilderness and the delusions and corrupting of our desires by the devil. Tonight, we hear the first of three temptations Jesus faced; temptations that perhaps we face as well as we seek to be children of God. Let us hear this Word of God in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, verses 3-4.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

As we enter this text this evening, I want us to remember that we are very early in Jesus’ adult ministry. In this Gospel, Jesus hasn’t preached any sermons; he hasn’t healed anyone of a disease; he hasn’t really done anything since he was twelve years old except show up a little more than a month ago at the Jordan River to be baptized. The only thing Jesus really knows at this point is who he is. Jesus is the Son of God. But what is unclear, at least for those of us reading Luke’s Gospel, is what it really means to be the Son of God, the Beloved, the Chosen one, the Messiah. What is the content of that identity?

And so after forty days of fasting in the wilderness, that is the question the devil wants to talk with Jesus about. When he says, “If you are the Son of God …” he’s not expressing any doubt about Jesus’ identity. No, according to the Greek, what the devil is really concerned about is, “Since you are the Son of God …;” or “Because you are the Son of God …” Jesus, what kind of Messiah are you going to be?

And so, the devil starts with bread. “Since you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” There are a lot of hungry people in the world, Jesus. When the Messiah comes, everyone expects great feasts, free food, and that the poor will be fed. Everybody knows that if you feed them, they will come. Plus, you are hungry yourself, right Jesus? Just turn this stone into bread. What could possibly be wrong with that?

My friends, there’s nothing inherently wrong with people being fed. I know that I am looking forward to communion tonight and then to eating dinner after the service. In fact I would suggest that people being fed is a good and worthwhile thing.

But the temptation for all of us around food, just like it was for Jesus, is to choose the easy way, to go for the quick results. Was Jesus going to be the kind of Messiah who gives people what they want instead of what they need?

Because are what we eat, right? I see many of you shaking your heads. You have heard that before. Then you might be surprised, as I was several years ago, to learn that we are corn. Yes, according to journalist Michael Pollan,

Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the steak. Corn feeds the chicken and the pig, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish and the tilapia, and increasingly, even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that the fish farmers are reengineering to tolerate corn. The eggs are made of corn. The milk and cheese and yogurt, which once came from dairy cows that grazed on grass, now typically come from Holsteins that spend their working lives indoors tethered to machines, eating corn.

Pollan continues:

Head over to the processed foods and you find even more intricate manifestations of corn. A chicken nugget, for example, piles corn upon corn: what chicken it contains consists of corn, of course, but so do most of the nugget’s constituents, including the modified corn starch that glues the thing together, the corn flour in the batter that coats it, and the corn oil in which it gets fried. Much less obviously the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and triglycerides, the attractive golden coloring, and even the citric acid that keeps the nugget ‘”fresh” can all be derived from corn.

Yes, if we are what we eat, then we are corn. So, it is no wonder, as Jane Howington reminded me this week, that obesity is a leading cause of death in America today.

If that is what we feed our bodies, what are we feeding our faith?

If you are, if I am a follower of Jesus in the wilderness, then we must do more than feed ourselves cheap substitutes for faith. There is always the temptation to give people what they want instead of what they need; to feed ourselves with a Messiah of our own desires instead of Jesus Christ our Lord. But in the wilderness, Jesus said no to being the kind of Messiah who cut corners and provided fast food when he knew that hearts and souls and minds needed a feast.

Jesus was the kind of Messiah who said yes to obeying the will of God. He was the kind of Messiah who said yes to humility and silence. He was the kind of Messiah who even said yes to suffering and death on a cross.

For Jesus’ own journey did not ultimately lead to crowds of adoring people and packed sanctuaries, but to a hill outside Jerusalem where criminals are left to die, where even friends flee in fear, and where blood and water flow as the sky grows dark. Yes, this Messiah will give his life for you and for me. Yes, He so loved you and me ...

My friends, since you and I claim to be children of God, this is the path we must take. What are you feeding your faith? The temptation is so attractive to just take the Messiah we want instead of the Christ we need. Surely we can live on bread alone, right? What could possibly be wrong with that?

Only a cross and the Son of God who says “Follow me.”

Thanks be to God. Amen and Amen.

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