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Behold The Man Who Was Tempted As We Are

Children's sermon
Behold The Man
Sermons And Object Lessons For Lent And Easter
A man who owned a small town grocery store saw a little boy come in one afternoon. The little fellow stood near the front door looking at a barrel of apples. He would look up at the man and back down at the apples. Finally, the man went over and said to him, ''Son, are you trying to steal one of those apples?'' The boy replied, ''No, sir. I'm trying to keep from it.''

There are times in our lives when we are tempted to be less than we are. There are times when we are faced with the possibility of settling for less than the best; when we are more concerned with reaching goals than how we reach them; when we think that all that matters is results.

Today is the First Sunday of Lent. On these Sundays we will be thinking about Jesus heading toward Jerusalem. As we do this, I remind you of the words of Pilate as Jesus was brought out wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe, ''Behold the Man!'' Today we look at Jesus at the very beginning of his ministry. Behold the man who was tempted as we are.

One day the carpenter laid down his tools and walked out of his shop. He went down that little dusty street out to the edge of town, and took that road which headed south. He went down along the Jordan River where his cousin John the Baptist was holding a meeting. There with the other folks he was baptized in Jordan creek. Then he went back up into the hills where, as Matthew tells us, ''Behold, angels came and ministered to him.''

The time had come for him to begin his ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. But before he began this work, it was important for him to be alone for a while to decide exactly how he would carry out his mission. It was during that time that he faced what we call ''the temptations of Jesus,'' when he had to choose what to do and how to do it, when he was faced with great decisions about his life's work.

Since Jesus was alone, there were no eyewitnesses, and what we have here in the gospels is the account Jesus gave his disciples about this experience. He told them what happened and how he felt.

He described that incident in vivid terms. He gave them a picturesque description of the inner tension, the pulling-apart-ness of great decisions as he tried to choose his method and his message. Can you imagine him at the end of that time standing on the Mount of Temptation looking back up toward Jerusalem?

I have been to that place several times. When I stand on the tell at old Jericho and look at that mountain I remember the words from a song in a Broadway play, ''On a clear day you can see forever.'' I think about Jesus being there at the end of those 40 days looking out toward forever.

The temptations Jesus experienced at that time were real temptations. We sometimes think Jesus knew nothing of the things we face. But the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus was ''tempted in all points like as we are.'' His temptations are described in the gospels as being a struggle with the devil.

Jesus, of course, was never tempted to commit murder, mayhem, or immorality. The temptations he faced were more

subtle than that. They had to do with the wrong use of his powers, giving in to easy solutions, achieving great ends by means which were below him and what he stood for.

Are not those the temptations most of us face these days? Few of us would be tempted to commit some real crime. We go by the bank every day without ever considering an illegal withdrawal at gunpoint. I have never thought of smuggling a gallon of milk out of the store under my coat.

Back in the days of the Old West an outlaw boarded a train. He said to the frightened passengers, ''I'm going to rob every man and kiss every woman on this train.'' A gentleman stood up and said, ''Sir, you can rob the men, but you're not going to kiss these ladies.'' One lady spoke up and said, ''Now, you leave him alone. He's the one who's robbing this train.''

Those are not the temptations we face. But we are faced with those subtle temptations to be less than we are. We are tempted to seek popularity, to be comfortable, to never go against the grain, to see only our side, to live for what we will eat and drink and wear, and to never look beyond any of that. We are tempted to reduce life to its lowest level -- survival. In doing that we become less than we are.

How do we face such temptations? The answer lies in the way Jesus faced his own temptations, for he was tempted as we are.

First, he understood the deepest hungers of the human heart. Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness 40 days. When he came to the end of that period of thought and reflection he was hungry. He heard those devilish words, ''If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.''

Jesus was tempted to use his powers to satisfy his own hunger. But there was more to it. It was not just the matter of his own hunger. Even as we are moved with compassion for those who are without food today, so Jesus was concerned for the hungry people of his own time. How easy it would have

been for him to respond to that by providing food for them all! There were many people who would have been willing to follow any person who could supply bread. He could have easily won a following this way. But this was not the way for him to choose. He knew he must not use bread in this way.

How easy it would have been for Jesus to yield to that temptation! He was the Son of God being tempted to become a magician. That was far below him. He knew the real hungers were much deeper than that. He knew the real need was for bread which came from Heaven. And so, he answered, ''Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.''

You see, here is one of the problems we continually face. Whenever we forget the deepest hungers of the human heart, we become less than we are.

Oh, we have amassed a great assortment of things which do not satisfy. Over the last few decades we have been led to believe that we must have more and more. But the more we have, the greater our hunger becomes for the things which do not satisfy the deepest hungers of the human heart. And so, we become less than we are because we live for things which are below us. But those are not the things we really want.

A young man graduated from college. His father threw a great party for him out at their farm and invited everyone to come. As part of the entertainment he filled the swimming pool with alligators and said to all the young men, ''Anyone who swims across this pool can have this farm, or all my money, or the hand of my daughter in marriage.'' Just then a young man hit the water, and swam across the pool, and jumped out on the other side. The man ran around to him and asked, ''What do you want, this farm, my money, or the hand of my daughter?'' He said, ''I want the guy who pushed me in this pool.''

What is it we really want? Isn't it something far richer than what we can possess?

A work crew in India was repairing a railroad near a small town. On a train coming toward them was a Hindu who had found a New Testament. He read some of it and then tore it

up and threw the scraps of paper out the window just as the train went by the work crew. One of the workers saw the little pieces of paper floating to the ground. He picked one of them up and saw the words, ''Bread of Life.'' He knew that was what he needed, Bread of Life. He went into town and found the Christian church. There he was served the Bread which satisfies.1

Jesus said, ''I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.''

He fulfills the deepest hungers of the human heart.

Second, Jesus knew the importance of keeping God in his rightful place. Here is the second temptation. The devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would worship him. He said, ''If you will worship before me, all will be yours.''

In Palestine in those days there was a great deal of unrest, as there is today. There were many people who wanted to overthrow the Romans, start a war, and drive them into the sea. They were waiting for the Messiah to come and lead them in this kind of campaign. If Jesus had only spoken the word, he could have become that kind of leader. He could have become the political savior of Israel, the new King of the Jews. But, no, Jesus knew the kingdom he represented, the Kingdom of God, was much greater and more far-reaching than any political kingdom. He refused to take up the sword and become a political savior.

So he answered the devil, ''You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.''

We become less than we are when we forget that. This is one of our major problems today, filled with such dangerous possibilities.

At the outbreak of World War II Winston Churchill said, ''Someone took Mussolini to the top of the mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world.''

That continues to be a problem in our world today. But this does not happen to our enemies only. It happens to us as well. Our lives become filled with dangerous possibilities whenever we fail to keep God in his rightful place.

When any of us loses sight of that fact we become less than we are. But when we do keep God in his rightful place in our lives, our hearts, our plans, then life is in God's hands, and we need not worry about what God will do with us.

Back in the 1950s Alan Walker, a Methodist preacher in Australia, gave up his church to lead a preaching mission there. He also came to the United States to preach in a number of places. As he prepared to return home, he had no church and the future seemed to be uncertain. He was invited to become the pastor of several large American churches. But he did not feel it was the thing to do. On the way home he received word he would be sent to a church in Sydney. He would do his greatest work there. He said he felt God was a part of those decisions, and that God gave him the work to do in Sydney.2

Jesus had that same conviction. He knew that God would open up the way and lead him where he should be going. We can know that if we keep God in his rightful place.

Finally, in facing temptation, Jesus realized there were no shortcuts to where he must go. There was no easy way for him to reach his destiny. And yet, there was still that nagging voice, ''If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.''

Jesus knew, however, there could be no shortcuts, no easy way out, no favoritism because he was the Son of God. So he replied, ''You shall not tempt the Lord your God.''

Instead he would travel the long, lonely, difficult road to the cross. He would not become less than God's Son by trying to avoid all that life was to mean to him. He had a mission to carry out, the necessary and inescapable result of which would be an agonizing death on a cross in shame and dishonor. There was no way around that, no way to avoid that.

There are no shortcuts for us either. There is no easy way out of life's dangerous and difficult situations. If Jesus had to bear a cross, we need not expect anything else. This will call for courage on our part.

A young lady whose father was a general in the army was to marry an officer. She begged her father to promote him, knowing he would not want her married to such a low-ranking officer. He said, ''I can't promote him. But if he's going to marry you, he does deserve a medal for bravery.''

We need courage. But even more than that we need the kind of courage which comes out of faith in God, for there are times when this courage we muster up gives way, runs out, is not enough. We need the kind of courage which is the result of faith in God, for there are no easy ways for us to be disciples of Jesus Christ today, no shortcuts to where he would lead us.

When the Salvation Army first went to India, the British authorities were concerned and issued orders that they were to hold no open meetings or marches through the streets. But Commissioner Tucker knew they must not obey such an order. So one day they came marching down the street. They were met by soldiers. An officer said, ''In the name of her Majesty, Queen of England, I order you to disperse.'' And Tucker answered, ''In the name of His majesty, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I command you to stand aside.'' They stood aside.3

One day Jesus said to those temptations he faced, ''Stand aside.'' Because he did, you and I can say to everything which tempts us and to every form of hatred, bigotry, and ignorance, ''In the name of the King of kings stand aside.'' And they will stand aside.

1. Leslie D. Weatherhead, Over His Own Signature, Abingdon Press, New York, Nashville, 1955, p. 25.

2. Alan Walker, Jesus The Liberator, Abingdon Press, Nashville, New York, 1973, p. 124.

3. Walker, Ibid., p. 78.

Pastoral Prayer
Almighty God, who is the hope of all who believe and the help of all who trust, we gather here to worship thee, for thou art the hope of the world and the help of all humankind.

On this First Sunday in the season of Lent enable us to begin a journey that will lead us to behold the Man. Lead us to the knowledge that as Jesus faced temptation he identified himself with us, and was tempted in all points like as we are.

O God, we offer to thee our worship, our prayers of thanksgiving and our songs of praise, for all thou hast done for us. For thy bountiful blessings upon us, for all thy gifts of love, mercy and grace we thank thee, O God.

We give thee our gratitude, our worship, our service, not out of any sense of obligation, but because of our love for thee, for thy ways, for thy kingdom and because thou hast laid thy hands upon us and called us by name, given us a new name and made us thy children.

Continue to be at work in our lives, and give us all the faith we need. Make us to be people of courage and hope, even in the face of some of the things which some of us are up against.

Be with those of our church family and community who bear special burdens, who are sick, or who may be in sorrow. Bless them, and help them, and may they know of thy love and our love.

We make this our prayer in the name of thy Son and our Savior. Amen.

Children's Message

''An Apple A Day''

Object: an apple

Good morning, boys and girls. I am so glad you have come to Sunday school and church today. This is a special day. Who knows what it is? It is the First Sunday in Lent. This is a time leading up to Easter Sunday. On these Sundays we are thinking about Jesus on his way to the cross in Jerusalem. Today we are thinking about the temptations of Jesus.

Look at this. Who knows a saying we use about apples? That is right. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

There is a story at the beginning of the Bible about Adam and Eve being tempted by the devil to eat some fruit from a tree God told them not to touch. The devil tempted them. He said, ''Go ahead; it will not hurt you. You will like it.'' So, they ate and had to leave the garden. I think you know this story well.

Jesus had a time when the devil tempted him also. He was tempted to use his powers for his own welfare. But he did not give in to that. He said, ''Get behind me, Satan. Worship only God.'' Jesus remained strong and did not give in.

I think for most of us there is an apple a day. There is a temptation every day, often more than one a day, to do something God would not want us to do. A temptation a day we give in to keeps us away. It keeps us away from God and those we love.

But, we can be like Jesus as we face temptation. We can keep our faces turned toward God and be true to God. We can live the way God wants us to live, and be his children.

May we pray. O God, help us to keep our eyes upon you, and always be strong for you, in Jesus' name. Amen.

Order Of Worship

Chiming Of The Hour
The Hymn Of Praise ''O Worship The King''
Affirmation Of Faith
The Apostles' Creed
Moments Of Fellowship
Pastoral Prayer And The Lord's Prayer
The Children's Message ''An Apple A Day''
The Anthem ''I Will Remember Thee''
The Prayer Of Dedication
The Offertory
The Doxology
The Hymn Of Preparation ''O For A Faith That Will Not Shrink''
Scripture Lesson Luke 4:1-13
Sermon ''Behold The Man Who Was Tempted As We Are''
Invitation To Christian Discipleship
Hymn Of Invitation ''Be Thou My Vision''
The Choral Response

Discussion Questions

1. Have someone read the scripture lesson again: Luke 4:1-13.

2. What did Jesus do in the face of temptation?

3. What are the temptations you face?

4. How do you respond to the things which tempt you?

5. What is the real danger of temptation?

6. Share the value of prayer in the face of temptation.

7. When are our temptations really faced and overcome?

Close with each person saying a sentence prayer asking for the strength to overcome temptation.

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