Engaging the Word: 03/05/17 (The First Sunday in Lent)

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 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.

Lent 1 Lent (literally “springtime”) is the time when we Christians symbolically go into the wilderness with Jesus for forty days. We prepare to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ by means of repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, spiritual study, and giving to the poor. I think of it as an inner “spring cleaning,” a time to eliminate the extraneous in my life that I may draw closer Jesus during this holy season.

The Temptation by William Strang, 1899. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Temptation by William Strang, 1899. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7: Our reading this week has two excerpts from the second creation account and describes The Fall—the first act of human disobedience. In this story, God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him. In our reading, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’”

Then God made Eve from Adam’s rib. (The man and the woman are not named in this second creation story, but I’m using them for the sake of convenience.) They became one flesh and they “were both naked and were not ashamed.” Life was good in the garden.

Enter the serpent, “more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made.” He starts with a question to Eve, “Did God say, `You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Eve replies, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent entices Eve, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve ate, and Adam ate. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” Thus sin and shame came into the world.

Psalm 32: This week’s psalm is one of the seven penitential psalms. Confession of sin and God’s forgiveness bring happiness and a restored relationship with God; holding back brings an intolerable burden of guilt and misery.

St. Paul by Wolfgang Sauber, 1520. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul by Wolfgang Sauber, 1520. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 5:12-19: Paul’s Letter to the Romans became a gift to the world. Written c. 57 AD, it’s Paul’s longest and most important letter. In this week’s reading, Paul compares Adam, who brought sin and death into the world, with Jesus, who brought—and brings—life.

When Adam sinned, sin and death entered the whole human race. Therefore, “death exercised dominion” even before God gave the law to Moses—this included everyone even though they didn’t disobey a direct command from God like Adam did. Paul contrasts Adam’s sin with the free gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

The Life with God Bible comments, “Sin and death, introduced by Adam, as extensive and terrible as they are, turn out to be a puny business compared to the free gift of life accomplished by Jesus Christ. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. There is nothing stingy or pinched about this Christ life. The deeper we live into the free gift, the larger and more interesting our world becomes.”

Matthew 4:1-11: The Gospel for First Sunday in Lent is always a story of Jesus being tempted by the devil. Here’s the account from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Temptation on the Mount by Duccio, c. 1310. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Temptation on the Mount by Duccio, c. 1310. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

After Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Angels ministering to Christ by Thomas Cole. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Angels ministering to Christ by Thomas Cole. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Here we have the important contrast between Adam and Jesus. Adam disobeyed God, and Jesus obeyed God, no matter what the temptation—food, protection, or power. He never caved. This is the way the true nature of Jesus as the Son of God became clear.

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