Lent 1 Sermon by Fr. Jerry Adinolfi




Our readings today teach us about the lessons of temptation, and how they can work for good or for evil and sin

  • The Rev. Dr. Mickey Anders tells a story of a salesman making his biggest pitch in his boss’s office; can of 1000 BB’s
  • Adam and Eve had the same problem and bit the forbidden fruit
  • Jesus, fresh from the Spirit of God having descended upon him in the Jordan River during his baptism, is now led by the same Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted for forty days and forty nights
  • Temptation is pervasive; immortal; how do we escape it’s clutches or work with it? Endure it?
    • How do we know whether we are being tempted or tested?
    • The Greek word for testing and tempting is the same: peira.zw : and it has a contextual usage
  • our Lenten journey is always about choosing; making choices
    • Not every temptation is as obvious as the BB story above.  Nor is every failure is so embarrassing. But every temptation is a challenge with consequences.  Not even Jesus was spared the choosing. He chose obedience to God! And suffered for it.
    • Overcoming temptation requires self-control; will power; the desire to overcome; and most importantly, guidance and empowerment from the Holy Spirit
  • we can get help if we want it; it’s an internal attitude; our motive
    • “No testing (temptation) has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing (temptation) he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)
  • Listen to Henry Nouwen’s words about temptation: What makes the power of temptation so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love he says. It seems easier to be god than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life. Jesus asks, Do you love me? We ask, Can we sit at your right hand and your left hand in your Kingdom? We have been tempted to replace love with power.


In our Old Testament lesson this morning, God provides trees that were pleasant to the sight and good for food

  • Eve noted they were good for food, a delight to the eyes, but added desirous to make one wise
  • Going beyond, disobeying, modifying, adding to, etc. God’s word is the beginning of sin for it becomes a subtle form of idolatry; we then proceed to blame someone else because of our guilt
  • Keep in mind these words of Scripture from the Letter of James:
    • “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it.” (James 1:13-14)
      • we pray: lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
      • Jesus said that a person is defiled by what comes from their heart; hence in Psalm 32 today, the Psalmist shouts for joy to those who are true of heart, in whose spirit there is no guile.


Look at what those early Christians endured for the sake of the Gospel as reported in the Epistle this morning, in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Because of what Christ did, we have the opportunity to become the righteousness of God by being reconciled to God. The temptations and trials of the Christian life were indeed enormous, but as ambassadors for Christ, as servants of God, Saint Paul and his followers could say to the Corinthians in another letter in the power of the Spirit that they had nothing yet possessed everything. The New English Bible translates it this way: “Penniless, we owned the world!” And why? Because God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not holding our sins against us. Thus when we are tempted, we retort not by revenge but by reconciliation and obedience, as in the footsteps of Christ.


In today’s Gospel, the devil tempts Jesus in three fundamental ways by appealing to his: 1) to physical needs/hunger;  2) safety/protection/fear;  and 3) life purpose/goal/fulfillment

  • clearly, the ends do not justify the means of these demonic temptations for to do them would be sin, and Jesus was sinless
    • the word devil is translated, diabolos, which means slanderer, or given to malicious gossip, or more literally, one who throws apart
      • the devil divides, creates division, scatters, causes chaos while God restores order by recreation and reconciliation
      • simply put, the devil is “D evil” or dee evil!
    • the devil tempts; God tests
      • “Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, the Lord told the people of Israel, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
      • As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, “Are you trying to break this bridge?” “No,” the builder replied, “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.” In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren’t designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He wouldn’t.

–        Jesus’ victory over his temptations resulted in his being able to help us today, as the author of the Book of Hebrews so eloquently states:

  • “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:18)
  • “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
    • How comforting to know that “he has been there, done that”
  • ironically, the very angels which the devil said would catch Jesus if he succumbed to the second temptation came to him and ministered to him after his trial of obedience
    • might that remind us to wait upon the Lord and his refreshment!
  • recall Jesus’ parable about the seed falling on the rock (Luke 8:13): “The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.”
    • At a time of testing, such as Lent 2017
    • Making mistakes often catapults us from arrogance to humility and then renders us teachable, pliable, malleable, useful to God
      • In the 1991 movie The Doctor starring William Hurt who plays Dr. Jack MacKee who had it all, until he himself becomes a patient in his own hospital
      • he was tempted by the power he had as a top cardiac surgeon until he yielded to the needs of others, thereby being humbled and made useful


Our Collect this morning serves as a good summary and closing for these Lenten thoughts

  • “….come quickly to help us, Lord, who are assaulted by many temptations, and as you know the weakness of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save”
  • In the words of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah in his tenth chapter, “…I know, O Lord, that man’s ways are not of his own choosing; nor is it for a man to determine his course in life. Correct us, O Lord, but with justice, not in anger, lest thou bring us almost to nothing.”
  • as you saved your Son Jesus in the Wilderness, so save us now.


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