Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Lent - First Sunday
Feb 19, 2020
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where 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.The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And 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. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
Then 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, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
What could be more appropriate than reading the story of Jesus’ 40 days of temptation as we travel through the 40 days of lent? After all, it offers practical help in facing temptation. But to properly frame this help we need to locate this story within the larger biblical story. The 40 years the people of Israel spent in the wilderness provide a sharp contrast to Jesus’ 40 days. At every step where the people of Israel disobeyed and turned away from God, Jesus was faithful and obedient.
When we are honest with ourselves, it is easier to identify with Israel than with Jesus. But before we start comparing ourselves unfavorably with Jesus, we need to remember that Jesus has not come to show us up but to show us the way or better, to make a way to the Father.
Jesus’ obedience not only shows us what God desires of us, it also carries with it the promise that Jesus has opened a way in which his loving obedience ultimately trumps sin and temptation. That doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to struggle with sin and temptation and it doesn’t mean that we won’t find certain habits very difficult to break. It means that Jesus has broken the power of sin to define our lives and that he is with us in our struggle and intercedes for us with the Father. ‘For since he himself was tempted in that which he suffered he is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.’ It is in the light of this larger picture that we travel through Lent learning from Jesus because we find our confidence and hope in him.
Gracious Lord, as we turn to you in repentance during this season of Lent let us see your grace more clearly. In the light of your faithfulness, to us and for us, allow us with confidence to open our lives to you so that we may be renewed and remade in Christ who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
By The Rev. Dr. Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson is the Professor of Proclamation, Worship and Ministry at Wycliffe College. Peter previously served as an associate priest and incumbent in the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Toronto. His current research and teaching focuses on the relationship between mission and formation in the church. He and his wife Tiffany are the parents of Ben, Sofia and Anna.