Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. – Luke 4:1-13
What do you think the devil looks like?
As a kid, I’d see other kids dress up like the devil for Halloween with the red mask and thin, twirling mustache and it would FREAK ME OUT! I don’t know what is going through that kid’s mind that says, “Hey, this is a smart choice” but I know I would avoid that kid like the plague. Granted, this was back in the 1970’s. But is that what we think the devil really looks like? In the film Broadcast News, Aaron convinced me that this is not the way the devil would look if we saw him in the real world. Aaron is one of the lead characters in the film and in this one scene, he’s trying to convince Jane that this guy she’s interested in is so wrong for her and he says this about him, “Tom, while being a very nice guy…is the DEVIL.” She’s about to storm off but Aaron keeps going, “What do you think the devil’s going to look like if he’s around? Come on, no one is going to be taken in by a guy with a long, red pointy tail… He will be attractive. He’ll be nice and helpful. He’ll get a job where he’ll influence a great, God-fearing nation. He’ll never do an evil thing, he’ll never deliberately hurt a living thing. He’ll just bit by little bit lower our standards where they’re important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along. Flash over substance. Just a tiny little bit…and he’ll get all the great women.”
No one actually knows what the devil looks like.
Except God. I’m sure God knows. But the Bible doesn’t give us a physical description and I think that’s on purpose. Because the devil doesn’t have to take just one form. He could take MANY different forms. Like a chocolate chip cookie. Maybe that’s the devil in disguise, trying to torture me. But in all seriousness it’s like Aaron said, who would be taken in by a guy with horns and a tail? Wouldn’t it make more sense that the devil would take on a form we would find appealing, even charismatic? Personally I like the Elizabeth Hurley version, but there’s Al Pacino, Robert DeNero, even Viggo Mortensen.
And does the devil even exist?
Some believe the devil is a physical being. Some believe that the devil is a spiritual being. And some believe it’s just the personification of evil in the world. There are a ton of references in the Bible to evil but surprisingly very few specifically about Satan or the devil or any of the other names we’ve come to associate with him. And none which actually tell us that these different incarnations of evil are all the same. But no matter what you believe, we can agree evil exists and that wherever it exists it must be stopped. Maybe there are some anarchists or fringe philosophers out there that would say evil is necessary, but if you believe in Jesus Christ we feel compelled to stop this evil that pervades the world to keep from growing because we believe that this is what separates us from the love of Christ. When Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil, he was challenged in many ways – and none of them what we would probably think of as “evil.” The devil didn’t torture Jesus. He didn’t attack him. He simply tempted him with rational arguments and promises of an easier life. That is the real trick of the devil – not to come at us with attacks but to tempt us in our weakest areas.
Sometimes I think it’s better if we don’t believe in the devil.
At least not as some sort of physical being like we read about in this passage this morning. Not that he does or doesn’t exist. Not that he might be a physical or spiritual being. But for us to combat the evil in the world around us, we are better off not believing that there is one being orchestrating all of it. Because when we believe in the devil as a being we can fight, it relieves us from any personal responsibility for the horrors we either allow to happen or don’t do anything to prevent. It is so easy for us to say “the devil made me do it” when (let’s face it) you did it. Or I did it. Or someone else did it. The devil didn’t make you do it. In fact the devil doesn’t hold any power over any of us. The only way the devil succeeds in his schemes is because we give him the power to do so – either by our actions or inactions. We can justify it any way we want, but it amounts to the same thing. We stood by and allowed to be used to advance the cause of evil.
Humanity loves to avoid responsibility.
Just turn on the news any day of the week and you can watch the circus of blame as people keep pointing fingers at one another. Whether the issue is healthcare, homelessness, or racism, everyone is blaming someone, but no one is getting anything done. It’s like that poem about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done (insert your favorite cause here) and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did want Anybody could have done.
I don’t believe in mixing politics and the church.
I think it makes a recipe for disaster. But there are times when what we are learning about from God coincides with what is happening in the world around us and this is one of those times. I’m going to ask you in advance to hold back your judgement and listen with open ears to what I’m about to say. But the tragedy that just happened in Florida to those 17 children could have been avoided if only people had the temerity and bravery to stand up to the NRA and vote for gun control laws that are sensible. I’m tired of hearing the argument that gun control is a slippery slope and that once we institute gun control laws it won’t be long before all guns are banned. I have to tell you the truth, I’d be okay with that. But most people are not arguing for that at all. No one is trying to take away hunting rifles. No one is trying to take away personal firearms for protection. No one is banning the sport of skeet shooting. It’s a crazy argument but for whatever reason it’s one that works. Because even after the Las Vegas shooting where the guy converted a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic one with a bump stock, legislators could not agree on legislation to outlaw it. Is there an instance anywhere other than killing mass amounts of people to need a bump stock? Are you really afraid that deer will get away if you can’t shoot 50 rounds a second? Maybe you should learn how to be a better marksman instead of becoming a more deadly one. What’s the rationale for assault rifles in the first place? People who carry handguns for protection aren’t going to need them and a hunter doesn’t either. Except again for killing massive numbers of PEOPLE quickly there isn’t a need. Every country in the world with strict gun control laws has far fewer gun deaths per capita than the United States. And you know what? They have crime. They have drugs. They have people who are criminally insane. They just don’t kill as many people as ours do. Even my friends who own guns (and I do have them) believe gun control laws make sense. And that’s the real evil. The people of the United States support gun control. Since 1993 when Pew Research first started asking about it the majority of Americans have supported stricter laws against owning a gun. And yet gun laws have only become more lax. Why is that? Because the NRA is powerful and can rally people against a candidate and our representatives in government are so afraid of losing their seat in office they would rather sacrifice the lives of innocents than vote for the will of the people. It really is as simple as that.
We may not all agree on guns in America.
But we can all agree that what happened to those 17 children in Florida was a tragedy. Those 17 kids didn’t have to die. The fact that a 19-year old can legally buy an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle is a sad and scary story. That he used it against a bunch of innocent children who didn’t do anything to him is horrific. But we cannot lay all the blame on him. We have to shoulder it ourselves for not doing more to stop him. We have the power to do it. Christian or not, we have the power to do what is right and no gun lobby or anyone else can stop us. We just have to want to do it. It’s like the movie A Bug’s Life where the grasshoppers are making life miserable for the ants and Hopper, the leader, makes a speech to the other grasshoppers and says, “You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life! It’s not about food, it’s about keeping those ants in line.” We are the ants. We have the power to make change in the world. We just have to want to do it. We have to stop pointing fingers and blaming everyone else and find a way to get it done. We know what’s wrong with the world – poverty, homelessness, disease, addiction, pain, suffering – so let’s DO something about it. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.