Sunday' s lectionary Gospel text was Luke 4:1-13. I heard two sermons on it. One was by a Catholic, the other by a Protestant. They were both very fine, each in their own way. Hearing the text read and preached on twice led to all sorts of ruminating on my part. For what it's worth, here's some of the stuff on which I ruminated.
With the exception of a reference from the Psalms, all of the retorts of Jesus to the devil come from Deuteronomy. This seems significant in that in Deuteronomy we find a newly liberated (and baptized...? 1 Cor 10:2) Israel on a wilderness journey, one which will be ridden with temptations. Israel, God's new humanity meant to bring blessing's to Adam's cursed race (Gen 12:1-3), ultimately repeats Adam's story. Adam is tempted-> sucumbs to temptation-> resulting in exile and death. In the wilderness Israel is tempted-> sucumbs to tempations-> which in turn results in exile and death. Jesus, the Second Adam and the New, True Israel of God goes into the wilderness after his own baptism. There he is tempted-> resists temptation-> which results in exile and death?!? Of course Jesus doesn't meet this fate immediately subsequent to his victory in the wilderness. But if the entire life of Jesus can be understood as one of relentless and tireless active obedience, then his life's end is perplexing, for cursed is the one who hangs from the tree (Deut 21:22-23). The one who truly should have received the blessings of the covenant was cut off from the land of the living and seemingly forsaken by the God of the Living as well. Now ultimately the Suffering Servant was vindicated as the Son of God by his Resurrection (Rom 1:3). But the road to his vindication and the covenant blessing had to come through his condemnation and reception of the curse, so that humanity's story could be rewritten from the inside out through union with the one true human. Our tragic legacy of sucumbing to temptation and the exile that comes with it is put to an end with Christ's life, all the while a new story, one of rebirth and new life becomes ours through Christ's resurrection. This is what Calvin calls a wondrous exchange:
Pious souls can derive great confidence and delight from this...that they form one body with Christ, so that every thing which is his they may call their own. Hence it follows, that we can confidently assure ourselves, that eternal life, of which he himself is the heir, is ours, and that the kingdom of heaven, into which he has entered, can no more be taken from us than from him; on the other hand, that we cannot be condemned for our sins, from the guilt of which he absolves us, seeing he has been pleased that these should be imputed to himself as if they were his own. This is the wondrous exchange made by his boundless goodness. Having become with us the Son of Man, he has made us with himself sons of God. By his own descent to the earth he has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, he has bestowed on us his immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, he has made us strong in his strength. Having submitted to our poverty, he has transferred to us his riches. Having taken upon himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, he has clothed us with his righteousness.
The danger when we preach this text is forgetting that the substionary nature of the atonement begins not at Calvary but in Bethlehem from the moment the Incarnation takes place. If we forget this, we will inverse the relationship between indicative and imperative and turn the Gospel into moralism. The Gospel isn't "face tempation as Jesus did and you will inherit the Kingdom of which he spoke." The Gospel is "You are united with Jesus who conquered the temptation and secure your inheritance, now face tempations with courage, securely rooted in God's mercy, grace and steadfast love."