Christ, Our Substitute in Temptation

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Your champion steps forward.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:12-15)

The battle is about to begin. One army faces the other. There is sure to be death on both sides. Then, one step forward. Single combat, winner takes all. A champion from one side will face a champion from the other. Everything rides on the outcome. 

But look at the champion from the one side. He’s huge. He towers over the other soldiers. He’s cocky and confident. His weapons are ugly, intimidating, and deadly. He taunts his opponents; no one wants to face him. It’s like when Goliath called out to the men of Israel. No one dared to move; no one until the unlikely champion from the other side stepped forward. He had only a staff, a stone, a sling, and he was only a boy. But he was a boy who went forth “in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.”

We are in Lent, a season of struggle, a season where we focus on the battle against sin and our spiritual enemies. The champion who stands against us is far greater than Goliath. It’s Satan, the Old Evil Foe, who means deadly woe. The prize in this fight is the soul of each and every one of us. He seeks our death and eternal destruction in hell. “Deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight; on earth is not his equal.” He has legions of demons at his disposal, and his strength is greater than any we could muster. His cunning has been honed with thousands of years of practice to exploit every weakness of our fallen human nature so that we fall deeper into his net of sin.  

Who will step forward to fight him, to fight for others? We must confess we’re helpless in this fight, as Luther says in the hymn, “With might of ours can naught be done; Soon were our loss effected.” How can we stand against Satan in combat and expect to be victorious? But also, how can we hope to stand spotless before God when we are covered in the grime and gore of this battle versus sin? Then again, how can we still be standing on that day with Satan intent on devouring us?

But you don’t stand alone. Just as David didn’t stand alone against Goliath, so you have someone who fights by your side or even fights in your place. Your champion steps forward. “But for us fights the valiant one Whom God himself elected. You ask, ‘Who is this?’ Jesus Christ, it is, The almighty Lord.”  

Jesus is fighting for you against Satan in the wilderness at his temptation. He takes him on alone. He confronts every challenge. He never falls for Satan’s false promises. Above all, he never steps aside from the mission he came to complete. He kept battling Satan to the cross and even through death, and he completed the fight in victory. As it goes for your champion, so it goes for you.

During Lent, follow Jesus on his journey to the cross. Every step of the way, Jesus is fighting for you. He calls you to follow. He calls you to battle against sin and temptation. He calls you to believe the good news that your victory is certain because the victory of Jesus, your champion, is your victory, a victory that “Holds the field forever”!