It was during the last Winter Olympics that some of us learned how a game-ending tie is broken in hockey. Unlike other sports where the outcome is settled in extra innings or in sudden death overtime, hockey breaks a tie by means of a shootout.
In Olympic hockey, at least, the five best offensive players from each team are each given a free shot at the opponent’s goal. The outcome of the game, therefore, rests in the hands of one player: the goalie. If he can defend against the assault, they win. If not, his whole team loses.
One of the gospel lessons for the first Sunday in Lent features the Temptation of Christ (as recorded in Matt. 4). In some ways this was similar to a shootout in hockey. Here, the archenemy of mankind faced off with the long-awaited Messiah.
This was not the first temptation Jesus had faced, nor was it to be the last. Here, the devil had a free shot–a special opportunity to attack with his most powerful weapons. The drama was incredible. The stakes could not have been higher. If Satan were the least bit successful, it meant the eternal destruction of every sinner.
The length of this article does not permit a detailed look at the temptations Jesus faced. But there are several conclusions we can draw.
Jesus was attacked by the same temptations that confront us today. Though these temptations were tailor-made for Him, they are merely variations on the devil’s oldest themes: questioning God’s goodness; misusing God’s Word; presenting sinful choices that seem more appealing and much easier than following God’s will.
Nothing new here. These temptations worked well in the Garden; they are just as appealing today.
The Power Of God’s Word
Jesus overcame these temptations–not by means of His almighty power, but with the power of God’s Word. Jesus cited the Old Testament scriptures. In each case He was thinking not of Himself, but of the people He came to save.
Do yourself a favor: take the time to look up the passages Jesus quoted in this section and read them in their context. What you’ll find is that these were occasions where God’s people knuckled before temptation and fell deeply into sin. Then look carefully to see how these very temptations produce the same sinful disobedience in your own life today.
Jesus conquered the temptations in your behalf. He came to be what none of us is, so that each of us can be covered with His perfect righteousness. When the devil condemns you for falling into sin, you can point to Jesus, Who has provided the perfect obedience you lack. When the devil accuses you and haunts your conscience, remember that Jesus fulfilled the Law in your place. He countered every attack and remained true to God. His performance was flawless. Amazingly, this is the righteousness that is now your righteousness by faith.
There’s an old saying that runs something like this:
Jesus lived and died -- that's history. Jesus lived and died for the world -- that's the Gospel. Jesus lived and died for me -- that's salvation.
Keep that in mind this Lenten season. What Jesus did in defeating the devil, He did for you.
–Pastor James Albrecht