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Scripture and a reading from Luther's sermons and devotional writings

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From the Word

16 And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; 17 and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Matthew 3:16–4:1, RSV

From Luther

Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, that he might there fast and be tempted; but no one should imitate Christ’s example of his own choice and make it a selfish and arbitrary fasting; but instead wait for the Spirit, who will send him enough fastings and temptations. For whoever, without being led by the Spirit, wantonly resorts to the danger of hunger or any other temptation, when it is truly a blessing of God that he can eat and drink and have other comforts, tempts God. We should not seek want and temptation, they will surely come of themselves; we ought to act honestly, and always do our best. The text reads: Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness; and not: Jesus himself chose to go up into the wilderness. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” God gives his blessings that we may use them with thanksgiving, and not that we let them lie idle, and thus tempt him; for he wishes us to fast by the Spirit or by a need which we cannot avoid.

This narrative is written both for our instruction and admonition. For instruction that we should know how Christ has served and helped us by his fasting, hunger, temptation, and victory; also that whosoever believes on Christ shall never suffer need, and that temptation shall never harm him, but that we shall have enough in the midst of want and be safe in the midst of temptation; because his Lord and Head triumphed over all these in his behalf, and of this he is assured. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

This is written for our admonition, that we may in the light of his example also cheerfully suffer want and temptation for the service of God and the good of our neighbor, like Christ did for us, as often as necessity requires it, which is surely accomplished if we learn and confess God’s Word. But we have practiced fasting as a good work, not to bring our flesh into subjection, but as a meritorious work before God to atone for sins and obtain grace. This has made our fasting a stench, a blasphemy, and a disgrace.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 65–66.

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