Sunday, 14 February 2016

Lent Sunday 1 (Year C) --14 February 2016

Readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 90; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

Each year on the First Sunday of Lent we read about the temptations of Jesus. This is to encourage us at the beginning of our Lenten fasting. We set out on a journey of forty days as Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness. At the end of this he was tempted by the devil. So we do not have a high priest unable to sympathise with us in our weakness but one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin.

People who seek to serve God or to follow Jesus must be prepared for temptation, for testing. This is to help us know who we are, what we stand for, what we are capable of, where our hearts are really given. In response to the temptations placed before him Jesus shows that he loves the Father with his whole heart, with his whole mind, and with his whole strength. He quotes passages from the Book of Deuteronomy where this kind of love for God is asked of Israel. Jesus shows himself to be the faithful one, drawn by the Spirit into the wilderness where the people were first betrothed to God in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy. They were tested there to prove their love for God and so is he. We cannot expect not to be tested by life and in Lent we train for it.

This year we read Luke’s account. It differs from Matthew’s in two ways. The order of the temptations is changed so that the final one is in Jerusalem. As Luke tells it, Jesus’ public ministry is a journey to Jerusalem where he accomplishes the Passover through death to the life of the resurrection. The story of the Church is a journey from Jerusalem, as the disciples become his witnesses not only there but in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Jerusalem is at the centre of Luke’s two part work (Luke and Acts) – it is fitting that the devil leaves Jesus in Jerusalem.

The second difference is that, in Luke’s account, the devil leaves Jesus ‘until an opportune time’. They will meet again in Jerusalem when the final testing of Jesus comes about, the ‘hour’ in which he leaves this world and returns to the Father. Jesus’ final victory over temptation is in that hour, on the cross. Once again his victory is threefold: ‘Father, forgive them’, ‘today you will be with me in paradise’, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’.

First published in The Pastoral Review, January-February 2007

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