Thursday, February 22, 2007

First Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Luke 4:1-13

[Most weeks, I present as many updates on my reflections and study of the Biblical texts on which our weekend worship celebrations will be built as I can. The purpose is to help the people of the congregation I serve as pastor, Friendship Lutheran Church of Amelia, Ohio, get ready for worship. Hopefully, it's helpful to others as well, since our Bible lesson is usually one from the weekly lectionary, variations of which are used in most of the churches of the world.]

The Bible Lesson: Luke 4:1-13
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

General Comments
1. Having gone through the Epiphany season, in which the Gospel lessons are composed of incidents from Jesus' earthly ministry that demonstrated Him to be not just a human being, but also the long-promised Messiah and God-in-the-flesh, we entered the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday just yesterday. For a discussion of the history and meaning of Lent, go here.

2. Just a reminder: The lessons appointed for the Sundays of the Lenten season are always referred to as the Sundays in Lent, rather than of Lent. It's a bit of a fine point, but the idea is that no matter what season of the year, Sundays are always celebrations of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, "little Easters."

3. If among the themes of Epiphany is the reminder that God Almighty has entered our world in the person of Jesus Christ, one of them for Lent is that this mighty God also voluntarily accepted the limitations and pains of our humanity. In Christ, God experiences want, hunger, thirst, rejection, suffering, and death. Just like us.

In doing so, God expresses His solidarity with His children, gives an example of what true, God-dependent humanity looks like, and most importantly, becomes the perfect sin-sacrifice for the entire human race.

The New Testament book of Hebrews says of Jesus:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus' pain and His voluntary subjection to the death sentence we deserve--as well as an explanation of why Jesus suffered and died--are described eloquently by Paul in Second Corinthians:
For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (Second Corinthians 5:21-22)
4. Lent is a call to respond to the undeserved grace and favor of God by allowing God to crucify our self-will and sin so that we can live in utter dependence on Christ, the only Savior Who can give us life with God that lasts forever.

5. The appointed Gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Lent is always one of the three accounts of Jesus being tempted/tested in the wilderness. The accounts are found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Mark, whose book I've often described as that of a journalist, written in a breathless, Wolf Blitzer-style, has the shortest account of Jesus in the wilderness. He tells the story in just two verses. He also seems to say that Jesus was tempted during His forty days in the wilderness. Matthew and Luke both tell of Jesus being tempted after He had fasted in the wilderness for forty days.

Matthew and Luke also reverse the order of the second and third temptations. This may reflect their varied theological emphases, something I may go into in the verse-by-verse comments.

It's been and will continue to be a busy week. So, I have to cut this short and hope to present the verse-by-verse comments tomorrow.

1 comment:

Spencer Troxell said...

"Mark, whose book I've often described as that of a journalist, written in a breathless, Wolf Blitzer-style..." Nice.