Gathered into Love
1st Sunday of Lent, Year A
6-9 year olds
We have entered a new season in the church called Lent, a time of preparation for the great feast of Easter. At Easter, we will celebrate Jesus dying and rising to new life--so full of the life of God that he can never die again! But before we celebrate, we prepare. There will be six purple Sundays to prepare for the feast.
On the first Sunday of Lent, we hear about what happens right after Jesus is baptized. Jesus goes into the desert, a place where very few people live, where it gets very hot during the day and rains very little. For 40 days and 40 nights he stays in the desert, eating very little, spending time alone with God. When he is extremely hungry, the devil--the tempter--comes to him with three very attractive suggestions. We call these temptations.
(You may want to read about the first temptation, too.)
Let's look at the second temptation that St. Matthew tells us about.
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.’”
We can imagine how weak Jesus must feel after living for 40 days and 40 nights with very little food and water. He has spent 40 silent days and nights listening only to God. He knows who he is and what God needs him to do--to gather all people into God's love.
Now this guy is telling him to prove himself? Prove that he is the Son of God? Seriously?
Wouldn't that be great, though, to just show this guy--the devil and everyone else--who he is? Can you imagine seeing Jesus fling himself off the Temple only to be caught by God's angels? Who then wouldn't believe that he is the Son of God? Everyone would know who he is.
But would everyone be gathered into God's love?
Jesus is weak and hungry, yes, but he has spent all that time in the presence of God's love. Even now, his feet rest on the top of the Temple, the most holy place in Israel. God's place. His Father's house.
He knows who he is and what he must do. He answers,
“Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"
The second temptation prepares Jesus for another moment just before his death. As he is hanging on the cross, people pass by, making fun of him, saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
Sounds similar, doesn't it?
When I was a child, I used to wish that Jesus would come down off that cross, to prove to everyone that he could do it. I thought that he could just prove himself, say, "See? I am the Son of God," and then hop back up on the cross. I didn't understand that that would not be an act of love.
His death is a tremendous act of love, following God's will the whole time. And it leads to the greatest moment in history, a moment that will gather everyone into God's perfect, abundant love:
I don't know if it is the tempter's plan to prepare Jesus for the moment of his death. I don't know if he realizes that Jesus will recall the 2nd temptation and stay focused on God.
I wonder if the 40 days of Lent help us prepare to stay focused on God? I wonder if resisting temptation helps us to listen more closely to the Word of God? I wonder if we will be gathered up into God's Great Plan of Love?