Morning Prayer Thursday, 18 February 2021
The Messiah is Called the Servant
‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.’
Isaiah 42; 1- 2, 3-4 NIV®
We are in the season of Lent and for some Christians it may not be a popular time
in the Christian year because the need for ‘repentance’ should be uppermost in our minds.
The English word ‘penance’ is the translation of a Greek word ‘metanoia’.
The root of ‘penance’ is the Latin word ‘poena’, meaning punishment, penalty, pain, grief.
‘Metanoia’ however, does not mean punishment or pain: literally, it means a change of mind.
So Lent is not meant to be a time for punishment and pain,
but a time for changing our minds, changing our outlook and attitudes, a time for change of heart.
Oh God, Why? by Gerard W. Hughes
Both the Old and New Testaments emphasise the importance of repentance;
a change of behaviour, asking God to forgive our sins,
and forgiving those who have sinned against us;
drawing closer to God through prayer and meditation on his Word.
In Luke 5: 32 Jesus said, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’
The prophet Joel counselled that God didn’t want an outward display of penitence
without true inward repentance:
And rend your heart
and not your garments.
Now return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness
and relenting of evil.
Joel 2:13 NASB
Jesus is a young man of thirty, who has spent his years in the small town of Nazareth,
where he is well known as the son of Joseph, the carpenter.
He goes to the river Jordan where John, his cousin is baptising people who have repented.
Jesus asks to be baptised; Johns is reluctant because Jesus should be baptising him.
John baptises Jesus, and as he is coming up out of the water, he hears the voice of his Father:
‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
Matthew 3: 17 NIV®
These words were repeated on the Mount of Transfiguration before Jesus’ ultimate battle with death and crucifixion. (Matthew 17: 5 NIV)
The WILDERNESS – a place of testing, rather than temptation to sin.
Then Jesus felt compelled by the Spirit to go to the wilderness,
a terrifying place that is called ‘The Devastation’.
It is located on the way to the Dead Sea,
a place of sand and shingle with twisted shapes of limestone and undulating hills;
the heat is intense during the day, the nights are chilly.
The way ahead is fraught with challenges: Satan comes to test Jesus,
not only in the wilderness but throughout his ministry.
The Spirit intends that Jesus will emerge from the test with clarity of vision and clear goals,
equipped and empowered for the challenges ahead.
Satan has other plans.
The struggle would most probably have been an inner struggle; engaging body, mind heart and soul.
Two of the temptations are prefaced with the words, ‘If you really are the Son of God …‘.
Had not God just said, ‘You are my beloved Son’?
But isn’t this how Satan works, making us question who we really are?
‘Call yourself a Christian? Who do you think you are?’
It is vital for Jesus to know who he is and John’s Gospel, in particular is full of declarations.
The ‘I Am’ sayings: for example, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ (John 11: 25 NIV®).
The words, ‘If you are the Son of God …‘ three years later,
spoken at his trial by the high priest (Matthew 26: 63);
by the crowd at his crucifixion ( 27: 40):
‘Let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son”’ (v.43).
But so sure was Jesus of who he was that he had no need to defend himself.
FIRST TEMPTATION: to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4: 1–4).
The flat, round stones that litter the wilderness remind Jesus of the bread that is baked locally.
After Jesus has fasted for forty days and forty nights, Satan comes to tempt Jesus who is hungry:
‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’
Jesus has the power to turn flat stones into bread.
It is right to look after yourself, but he summons up the strength to resist,
knowing that he must not use his supernatural powers to gratify himself.
Jesus counters the temptation with Scripture,
‘It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4: 4 NIV®).
Similar words were said by Moses to the children of Israel
after they had spent forty years in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8: 2–3).
So then, how did resisting this temptation influence Jesus’ future ministry?
1) Jesus laid great importance on teaching the people the things of God,
nurturing them, feeding them with spiritual bread.
2) He did use his supernatural powers to multiply bread on two occasions:
feeding the 4000 and the 5000 – not to draw attention to himself –but out of compassion,
because there was a real need among the people.
3) He used the image of bread in his teachings: (John 6: 32–33, 35, 38).
The significance of bread at the Passover supper: ‘This is my body given for you.’
This we remember every time we participate in the Eucharist.
- Take time to think about what Jesus meant when he said, ‘I am the bread of life.’ (John 6: 35).
What does that mean for you?
- How do you interpret the line in the prayer that he taught his disciples:
Give us this day our daily bread?
- Jesus said, ‘Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.’
What are you hungry for? How can Jesus fill that hunger?
- In what ways is our world hungry and in need?
How can God use you to feed the hungry?
This is a prayer from workers in community soup kitchens in the shanty towns of Lima, Peru:
God, food of the poor; Christ our bread,
give us a taste of the tender bread from your creation’s table;
bread newly taken from your heart’s oven,
food that comforts and nourishes us.
A fraternal loaf that makes us human,
joined hand in hand, working and sharing.
A warm loaf that makes us a family;
Sacrament of your body, your wounded people.
Church family, I will be sharing with you commentaries on the next two temptations, on successive Thursdays. Excerpts are from Time for Reflection: Meditations to use through the year by Ann Persson.