The readings from the gospels come predominantly from John with the exception of the account of the Temptations of Jesus (which is not included by John) and the arrival in Jerusalem.
John’s gospel is unique. It provides some of the longest dialogues that Jesus had with his disciples in which he is systematically explaining who he is and how his ministry will change the world for ever. In particular, his use of the words “I am the . . .” make really important links for the Hebrew reader to those early encounters that God had with Moses and the great patriarchs and provide a profound insight into the scope of his ministry. Having said that, there are few parables and fewer miracles and much of the gospel is attributed to the time that Jesus spent in Jerusalem rather than in Galilee. Most scholars would agree that this is the last of the gospels to be written and it is therefore understandable that it reflects some of the challenges that second and possibly even third generation Christians were facing in a post-Nero Roman empire.
Sunday 9 March 2014 First Sunday in Lent - Matthew 4: 1 – 11
It’s in a desert place – a vulnerable place for one just starting out as a Rabbi. No disciples. No validation from the Temple authorities. One standing alone with only an echo of a heavenly affirmation: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). So the tests come in three waves – the challenge over the physical domain as Jesus is called to transform stones to bread (temporal), the challenge to the extent of his trust in an almighty God as angels might bring rescue as he falls to the ground (reliance on his Father) and a test about the extent of his power on earth as he is offered control of all nations (majesty). And all this takes place before a word is preached. There would be further trials much later in his ministry, but this encounter is with the devil and not with the leaders who later oppose him. Here we begin to understand the context for his ministry as one who will overthrow the devil. Here, Jesus begins to explain that the Kingdom of God is coming – that its principles are counter-intuitive to those whose experience was steeped in Hebrew history, or those who have been persecuted by the Roman empire. The Kingdom of God would change things for ever.
As we begin our journey through Lent, let us hold as our themes bread for those who are hungry; love for those who live with doubts about faith; and joy for all who lift their hands in praise to God.