Bible Study: 1 Lent (A)

March 9, 2014

David W. PetersSeminary of the Southwest

“The tempter came and said to Jesus, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’” (Matthew 4:3-4)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7Psalm 32Romans 5:12-19Matthew 4:1-11

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, “God made man because he loves stories.” And what is the first story about humans? It is a story of temptation, disobedience and clothing manufacturing. Other than the talking snake, this story in Genesis always strikes me as so ordinary and mundane. When they eat the forbidden fruit, nothing happens. There is no lightning bolt from heaven. There is only the opening of their eyes to their nakedness.

My temptations are ordinary too. I am rarely tempted with high crimes. Most of my temptations are just like Eve’s and Adam’s, they are my desire for physical pleasure (“good for food”), beauty (“delight to the eyes”) or wisdom (“to make one wise”). Like them, I’m always looking for love in all the wrong places. From my reading of human history, and my own history, this seems to be the story of humanity. Perhaps that is why God loves us so much.

What stories in your life contain tragedy and hope?

What are some of the places you have searched for pleasure, beauty or wisdom, and been disappointed?

Psalm 32

Happiness, for the psalmist, comes after the withering of the bones, much groaning, and drying out like a raisin in the sun. By the time this psalm is written, the psalmist’s sin is old news, but the effect on the body is still felt. In the darkest watch of the night, he/she cries out to God.

Soren Kierkegaard wrote that repentance always comes at the 11th hour. It is after we have run out of back-up plans and exhausted our limited resources that we turn to God. We run to the only place where the great waters cannot reach us, the hiding place.

My experience as an Episcopalian leads me to conclude that pages 446-452 in the Book of Common Prayer, “The Reconciliation of a Penitent,” are seldom used by most of us. Perhaps they would have more use if we connected confession and reconciliation with a chance for happiness.

How is your physical health connected to my spiritual health?

If God is our hiding place, what is God hiding you from?

Romans 5:12-19

If metaphors become too complicated, they cease to be metaphors. St. Paul’s metaphor of Jesus as the second Adam is simple. Just as Adam’s sin brought death to all people, so Jesus’ act of righteousness brings life to every person. The savvy reader will notice in the Old Testament lesson a small problem. Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, how did sin get passed on from generation to generation, especially when my newborn baby is so cute? Perhaps it is better to keep Paul’s words simple. Perhaps it is better to put them into a Christmas carol as Charles Wesley did in 1739:

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

How does Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection help us get back to how we were in the Garden of Eden?

Where did you first hear about the free gift of grace in Jesus Christ?

Matthew 4:1-11

Every time I go near the railing on a high balcony a thought pops into my head: What would it feel like to jump? Then I get a nauseating feeling in my stomach and back away from the edge. Every time I skip breakfast because I’m late for work, I long for an egg and bean breakfast taco and hope that it might magically appear on my dashboard. Every time I hear that a former high school classmate of mine won an award, I wonder what it would be like to get it instead of her.

The devil mocks me to force God to accept my timeline for my life, rather than wait for God to show up in God’s time. The devil mocks Jesus to do something spectacular to prove he is the Son of God. He tempts Jesus to force God’s hand to declare him to be the Son of God – or just fall onto the hard stones of the Temple. Jesus needs no more proof of his sonship than that which is written.

Martin Luther wrote about the devil in his words to the hymn, “A mighty fortress”: “One little word shall fell him.”

Jesus quotes the word, thus proving that he is the Word, and the devil disappears.

Both the devil and Jesus quote scripture in this story. How has scripture been used in your life for encouragement or temptation?

Jesus’ temptations take place in the wilderness, far from other people and creature comforts. How is temptation greater when we are alone and uncomfortable?

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