Commentary for March 13, 2011
Click here for today’s readings
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
The story of “the Fall” is pretty well-known to most of our listeners…at least, they THINK they know this story. You could always use this little exercise as an attention-getter and sermon opener: “How many of you think that Eve was wrong to pick that first apple off of the tree?”
You’ll get a mixture of confused stares, enthusiastic hands raised, and irritated grimaces from your folks, no doubt; that’s when you say, “Well, of course, we don’t really know WHAT the forbidden fruit was, since the Bible never really SAYS it was an apple.”
That’ll make ’em take a second look — and illustrate the point that we should ALWAYS be sure that the scripture says what we THINK we know that it says.
That’s kind of how the serpent plies his trade here, after all; “did God really say?…” is such an enticing line.
“Well, come to think of it, I’m not really sure what God said; hmm, maybe what God meant was (fill in the blank with your favorite interpretation.)”
I’ve often said to my congregations over the years — remember, this is the Baptist Bubba speaking now — “The devil has never had to come up with a new line. We’re still falling for it after all these years!”
We die just a little every time we surrender God’s good intentions for an experience of our own design.
There are few descriptions more vivid in depicting the struggle that sin brings to our bodies, hearts and minds than Psalm 32. “Body wasted…groaning all day long…strength dried up….” We identify with the aftermath of our poor choices, do we not?
But the good news is also present in this ancient text. Confession does, indeed, restore the soul. Notice vv. 6-7 particularly in relief of the earlier part of the psalm: “rush of mighty waters…hiding place…glad cries of deliverance….”
Better than the words of the old Alka-Seltzer commercial! (Check the original “Speedy” here.)
The Apostle performs some great “theological math” in this passage. One man’s sin, which is a problem for us all, is canceled out by one man’s sacrifice. In fact, the gift made possible by the one man (Jesus) is much greater than the curse brought on by the one man (Adam.)
The sin of the one + the grace of the One = freedom for the many
Grace > Sin
Theological math, I tell ‘ya!
I’m pretty sure that, if I had been there in the wilderness — with the power that was available to Jesus — I would have fallen for the old “turn the stones into bread” trick. Like the humans in the garden, that temptation would have looked so “good for food” and “pleasant to the eyes”…and I’d have succumbed like so many others before me.
But, that’s kind of the point of this familiar passage for the first Sunday in Lent, isn’t it? I wasn’t there, and Jesus was. And he didn’t fail the test.
This is, it seems to me, a crucial point for what Calvin called the “whole course” of Christ’s obedience. It is not only on the cross that “Jesus took my place;” rather, at every point in which he was tempted, the Christ is taking my place. Jesus accomplishes what I could not, completely and in every way.
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
“To do is to be” – PLATO “To be is to do” – DESCARTES
What we do, how be behave, what we believe; is a large part of how others define us.
And how we define ourselves has a major effect on how we behave.
The biblical position is that we act out of our identity; that who we believe ourselves to be is the determining factor in what we choose to do.
Have you ever noticed that when someone behaves in an outrageous or improper or, most often, horribly RUDE manner, the first thing people say is: “Well, just who do you think you are?”
That is the right question. Who we think we are shapes our behavior. And the Bible shows us that Satan knew this. That is why he challenged Jesus on the point of identity in today’s Gospel lesson.
In the last verse of Chapter Three, verse 22, following Jesus’ baptism, a voice comes from heaven and says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
And here just a few days later, the devil says, “If you are the Son of God.” Satan presents Jesus with the opportunity to define what it means to be the Son of God.
These temptations invite Jesus to imitate the Emperors in Rome who secured power by giving the people free food and free entertainment, winning their favor with bread and gladiators.
The temptations with which Jesus was faced are the very ones we, you and I, fall victim to on a regular, I would almost say, a daily basis.
After all, we live in an age in which a grocery store “meet and greet” for a congresswoman was turned into a national tragedy by a lone man with a gun; terrorists blow up innocent people, stock markets plunge and housing prices fall,
A little control over our own lives and a bit of money securely invested, what’s wrong with that?
It comes down to a matter of faith, of trust, of belief and confidence in the promises of God to love and care for us throughout life’s trials and temptations.
The problem is: the things the Devil wanted Jesus to do as the Son of God are selfish, and self-serving and ultimately self-glorifying.
It was during the forty days in the wilderness that Jesus struggled with what it meant to be the Son of God.
When Jesus knew who he was, the question of what he was to do was already answered.
Throughout these forty days of Lent we are called to contemplate the life of Jesus, his path of service and obedience to God, his living out his identity as the Son of God.
As we do that, we must ask ourselves some identity questions, personally and congregationally.
Who am I? Am I a lawyer, or doctor, or policeman, or office manager, or teacher, or truck-driver or nurse, or retiree who happens to be a Christian?
Or am I a Christian; who happens to be a lawyer or doctor or policeman, etc.
It is an important question, and the answer will shape your life.
Likewise, as a congregation, as a community, we struggle with identity questions.
Or are we a people whom God has called together to be the Body of Christ, as Martin Luther says in his Small Catechism:
If that is who we are (and I believe it is) then the things we do will be designed to care for others.
Jesus spent forty days in the Wilderness struggling with the question of identity, struggling to discover what it meant to be the Son of God.
Throughout the forty days of Lent, we are called to do the same. We must ask ourselves,
Church; just WHO do you think you are?
Amen and amen.