First Sunday of Lent

For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.

Sometimes, when I am in a large crowd or on a busy highway, I look at all these people and consider, 
how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many
Could one man save so many? As horrible as Jesus' death was, he was neither the first not last to die in that manner. We are not saved by his crucifixion but by him, this most unusual man.

Today's gospel takes us back to the beginnings of Jesus' ministry and a study of his character. We find him alone, hungry and thirsty in the desert after forty days. We can only imagine him as nakedly human. He has not seen another human being, man, woman or child, in weeks. If " is not good for man to be alone," his situation is dire. After such intense and perilous solitude we can wonder if he is still human. Perhaps this man has reverted to an animal state of desperate existence.

We see that kind of thing happen often in our lonely cities. Some people, for whatever reason, have lost their connections to other people. No one checks on them; family, friends and neighbors have drifted away. Sometimes, in desperation, these lonely souls try to reach others by social media and get no response; or none that is remotely satisfactory. Wandering homeless in the Internet, which can be a fool's paradise, they become all the more desperate until they stumble into the truly depraved areas of pornography and radical religious terrorism. It's only a half-step from there to perdition.

At the beginning of his ministry the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into this maddening solitude. What can such an isolated figure mean to the people we see on the highways or packed into stadiums?

But isn't he enjoying freedom? There in solitude he can think, say and do whatever he wants. There are no constraints. He has apparently been released even from the usual dependence on food and drink. Isn't his isolation complete freedom, that liberty for which many would die?

In that solitude, this nakedly human being receives a visitor.  A contest follows -- a rabbinic argument between two bible-quoting scholars -- and we learn who Jesus is. He is the obedient Son of God. The wily tempter offers whatever the suffering man might want: food, political power and religious authority. But Jesus, reduced to his essential identity, chooses compliance to the Father's will.

Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
Obedience means that Jesus must still rely on others for food, companionship and purpose. He is not self-sufficient. As Saint Paul said, "...though he was in the form of God he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped."

Being superior to others meant nothing to him. It was not interesting, fascinating or intoxicating. Rather, he delighted in being one of us; in being like us in all things but our absurd efforts to be free of others; to be "like gods. If that meant working for others, taking responsibility for difficult situations, making sacrifices that no one else would make, and so forth, he threw himself into it.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.