In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Jesus, the Christ, belongs to God. He is begotten of the Father from all eternity. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. He is of one substance with the Father. But in His suffering on your behalf He belongs to you. For in those six hours on the cross He suffered physically for your sins and spiritually through temptation. There, then, He was tempted like no other has been. He was tempted to get down from the cross, to not drink the cup of God’s wrath being poured out on Him, to not be the saving Son of God. Because of these extreme temptations—the same temptations Satan had set before Him during His 40 days of fasting in wilderness after His Baptism—He understands temptation for He has suffered it. He is yours in this temptation. For He can be merciful to you by aiding you, by understanding your temptations, by forgiving you when you fall to them.
That means He was tempted for you and me, for we, who are torn by temptation, our hearts and minds split in two by it. In faith as the declared righteous saints of God we long to be faithful to our God, to say no to temptation. Yet your flesh presses its desires upon you, constantly hounding you. And Satan is always lurking to fan the flames of those desires. The world is always pressuring you to live like them according to the desires of the flesh. So to be a Christian on this side of heaven is a constant battle. For the temptations come both from without and within. And so often peace from this battle is only gained when you laying down your arms, by not fighting, by giving in to the temptation, by just doing it. But though temptation departs for the moment, that is not peace. For in the quiet after the skirmish with temptation Satan sneak attacks you with guilt and shame. Shame that once again, you’ve done that pet sin. Once again that yappy, little dog who constantly follows you around barking at your heals has bitten you. Has bested you. And then Satan whispers: “You are no Christian. Look what you’ve done. You can’t even stand up to that simple temptation.” And in that moment he tempts you to unbelief. For that is his ultimate goal, not only for you to sin against God or your fellow man, but to give up the hope of salvation in God’s Son.
Jesus Christ suffered and was tempted in every way. Therefore, He is merciful to me in my temptation. He provides a way out, a way to turn away from temptation, to flee it, to reject, to conquer it. For whether you suffer in the time of temptation, or in the guilt and shame after falling to a temptation you are already its conqueror! For your high priest, Jesus Christ who belongs to God, releases you from guilt, from shame, from the consequences of your sin against God. Those consequences are alienation from God your Father. But through Jesus Christ your temptations are conquerored. He resisted them all. He conquerored them all for you. In Him you are free. Even though you fall to them He is your way out. He releases you from the suffering of temptation, before temptation and in the midst of it. You are free. No guilt. No shame. Just freedom.
For He belongs to God. He was the firstborn child of His mother. He belongs to God. Like Samuel He was not redeemed. Instead, He was presented to the Lord in the temple to be used by the Lord God for His purposes. For the purpose of freeing you from sin, from guilt, from the suffering of temptation. Freeing you by His living for you how you can’t. His living perfectly.
Ever since the Exodus and the death of the firstborn all Israelite firstborn sons of both people and animals, belonged to God (Exodus 13:2). You had to redeem them from the Lord (Numbers 3:12-13). You had to purchase them back with a lamb (Leviticus 12:12-13). Otherwise they belonged to the Lord God. They were His priests. His servants who dispensed His salvation.
So Mary was purified with two doves. But Jesus her firstborn Son was not redeemed. He belongs to God. Not merely because He is God, but because as an Israelite male He was not redeemed. He belongs to God, just like Samuel. Neither Samuel nor Jesus were of the tribe of Levi. Yet they are priests of our God. Because the tribe of Levi was only taken by God as priests in place of the males who were supposed to be redeemed by a lamb (Numbers 3:45).
Well, this Son of God, serves God by presenting Himself as the Lamb of God which redeems you. That means His redemption of you makes you, man or woman, a firstborn son of God, born your mother the Church by Holy Baptism. You are God’s Son, whom He loves. With you He is well pleased. You are free of the power of sin. For you are free of power of temptation through Christ our tempted but perfect Lord. He wrestled the power of death out of Satan’s hands. Now Satan is as one locked in abyss of hell we Christians need not be afraid of him.
We are surrounded by death. We’ve lived in the fear of death. The world is a valley shaded by death. Yet we are free from it. We do not have to be afraid of it. For we will not die. We live in Christ even though our bodies should die. We will be raised!
Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the sons of God. (1 John 3:1) For you are His redeemed Son, through His Son, His high priest. Man and woman alike, inheritors of His eternal kingdom. To God be the glory.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON