Signpost for 5th March, 2017, 1st Sunday in Lent: Gen 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Ps 32; Rom 5:12-19; Matt 4:1-11.
Not very subtle the lectionary this week in some ways. It’s Lent, and you’re facing a month without chocolate or wine, or whatever. Now come these readings all about temptation and sin.
The good news is that we don’t have to guilt trip. As usual, it’s not all about you and me. It’s actually more about Yeshua. That Jew whose crucifixion by the Romans led to the beginning of the Christian faith we know today.
Matthew is writing for the Jews who joined that very early church, and the question of who Yeshua/Jesus really was, even in AD 80, was a tricky one. ‘If there’s only one God, who was Jesus?’ some people were asking. Matthew gives them a clear answer. Jesus is the chosen one, the son of God. More than just Yeshua the Jewish holy man.
That message runs all the way through his gospel. Even though the temptation story also features in Mark (1: 12-13) and Luke (4: 1-13), Matthew is the one who tells us that he will be called “Emanuel” (1:23), which means “God with us,” and that he is “with us” even to the end of time (28:20).
That’s why here the words Satan uses in the first two temptations are so important, “if you are the son of God…”
So much for what Matthew intended for his immediate audience, but what about us? I came across one interpretation of this passage that I think is worth sharing.
The thought is that real bread takes time. “Place seed in the ground. Wait for rain and sun. Weed and harvest. Thresh and preserve. Grind. Add ingredients. Knead. Bake. Serve. Enjoy.” Let’s call it God bread. But, stones turned into bread are just trickery, a quick fix that won’t really do the job.
The analogy goes further and ends with these words, which I liked:
“We won’t solve any of our current problems with the stone-bread of hatred, but we may do so with the God-bread of reconciliation.
We won’t create community with the stone-bread of anger, but we may do so with the God-bread of reconciliation.
We won’t bring positive change with the stone-bread of fear, but we may do so with the God-bread of hope.
We won’t grow as a society with the stone-bread of alienation and separation, but we may do so with the God-bread of acceptance.”
You can read the whole thing here if you’re interested.