The text for the first Sunday in Lent is an easy one to remember--the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The three year series easily rotates around the texts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But the Matthew text, the one for this year, is perhaps the most easily remembered.
That's not too unusual because Matthew is first in the order, and Matthew was also the most popular account in the history of the early church. There's an aspect of that temptation that I would like to have as a focus.
It seems that the middle temptation, that of the one on top of the temple, seems to have been the most difficult. Certainly all of them were difficult, although the point often made within the Lutheran Church is that Jesus, as the holy Son of God, could not sin at all. And so, the point of the devil was not so much as getting Jesus to sin as to getting him to be the Savior in a different way than that of a cross.
The way of a popular Savior would have been to jump down from the temple, have the angels help him safely to the ground, and then he starts his ministry with countless numbers of dedicated followers. That would be the way of power, not the way of the Savior who was sent as the son of Mary with a humble birth, with some magi(cians) coming to worship him.
One should also not forget the important connection of Jesus to the temple. It's the middle one in Matthew because, in Hebrew literature, the middle thing is usually the most important. It's the turning point.
This temptation is also important enough to have Luke switch the order. The theme in Luke is Jesus as the ox, leading the way, going on ahead of his people, heading in a straight line, as it were, toward Jerusalem. And, in Luke's account, the temptations are ordered so that this temptation is the last one.
It's also important to remember that the actual order that the temptations were in really shouldn't matter. The gospel account wasn't written to be a history lesson. It was meant to be a gospel account, something that brings GOOD news. This isn't bad news if you don't remember the order. It's bad news if you forget that you need a Savior. That's what this text gives, in Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins....