Lectionary Text for First Sunday in Lent:
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16:
1You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
2will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.’
9Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling-place,
10no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
11For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12On their hands they will bear you up, so that you
will not dash your foot against a stone.
13You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.
15When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.
16With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.
Jesus, 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.” 5 Then 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.” 9 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, 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.”
COMMENT: Can we compare the season of Lent with Jesus’ experience in the wilderness? If we understand that Lent is characterized as a time of prayer and sacrifice, the answer is yes. Then it is good to accept that temptation to stray away from the ideals of Lent will also come.
As we commemorate this first Sunday in Lent, I would suggest that we look back at the scene before Jesus went into the wilderness. Jesus was standing in the baptismal waters of the Jordan. As John poured water over his head we read, “...the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22.”
Jesus did not go into the desert alone. He took with him this baptismal confirmation and in the presence of the personification of evil, the devil, Jesus was also protected by promises of Psalm 91, “Because you have made the LORD your refuge…no evil will befall you, no scourge will come near your tent.”
Yearly, as Christians we enter the ‘wilderness of Lent’, aware of the reality and power of evil. That evil can take the form of anything or anyone, all that hinders a fuller relationship with God. However, like Jesus, we can trust in the presence of the Holy Spirit of God to guard our hearts against evil with the guarantee that “Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them and show them my salvation.”
The gospel of Matthew 4:11, records the fulfillment of another promise of Psalm 91, “Then the devil left him (Jesus), and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” Jesus survived his wilderness experience, more prepared to carry out his ultimate calling. With the sacrifice of his body Jesus conquered evil. Through resurrection power, Jesus proved that life is always more powerful than death.
So, we commit ourselves to the Lenten disciplines of prayer and sacrifice. Our intent is to come away from this season more transformed into the image of Jesus our Savior.
Keep vigilant! Look for your angels; they also come in many shapes and forms, ready to ‘bare you up’!
© February 19, 2010
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