I.Theme – Dealing with Sin and Temptation
Duccio di Buoninsegna – "Temptation of Christ on the Mountain" (1308-11)
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
Old Testament – Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm – Psalm 32
Epistle –Romans 5:12-19
Gospel – Matthew 4:1-11
One key word this week is “Sin” and it fits in well with Lent. We remember Jesus 40 day fast and resulting temptation by the devil. The 40 days fits in with the period designated for Lent. Lent is 6 days of fasting over 7 weeks with the period at Ash Wednesday. Lent is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter.
As we begin Lent, let’s start at the very beginning and consider why we need to go on this trip in the first place.
What does it mean to be human ? From the Genesis story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, through Paul’s exploration of how Jesus functions as a "second Adam," to Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, these readings cut to the chase of what it is to be human.
The other key word this week is "temptation." As Brian Stoffregen writes “ Wherever it comes, the tempter/tester does not have the power to make someone do something. Temptation is not coercion. The serpent in the garden didn’t make Eve and Adam eat the apple. The devil in our text can’t make Jesus turn stones into bread. "To tempt" means to try and convince someone to do something. It means enticing someone to want to do something. Tempters can’t make someone do something bad, but try to make the temptee want to do something bad. They don’t take away the will. Rather, they try to change one’s will."
"The way [the devil] seeks to change our wills is by lying, by stretching the truth. Generally, [the devil] entices us not to do great evil acts, but to good things for the wrong reasons. It could be argued that none of Jesus’ temptations were to do anything grossly evil, but to do good things for the wrong reasons or at the wrong time."
In essence we need a relationship with God living not by our own whims but by God’s limits. We are also tempted to be self-succient in Genesis by eating of the tree of knowledge as Jesus is tempted to be self sufficient in turning stone into bread, cheating death and controlling the whole world. We are insufficient, We are not complete in and of ourselves, that lack is a permanent part of our condition.
There is more to it as David Lose maintains. "Rather, to be human is to accept that we are, finally, created for relationship with God and with each other. Perhaps the goal of the life of faith isn’t to escape limitation but to discover God amid our needs and learn, with Paul, that God’s grace is sufficient for us."
Lose continues, "Perhaps faith, that is, doesn’t do away with the hardships that are part and parcel of this life, but rather gives us the courage to stand amid them, not simply surviving but actually flourishing in and through Jesus, the one who was tempted as we are and thereby knows our struggles first hand. This same Jesus now invites us to find both hope and courage in the God who named not only him, but all of us, beloved children so that we, also, might discover who we are be recalling whose we are."
Read more about Lent 1