FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT
February 10, 2008
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32 (10)
1a. CONTEXT - Matthew 4: 1-11
The dependence of the Gospel of Matthew upon Old Testament texts
and motifs is extensive and has long been acknowledged. Of particular
interest in the text of the day are the themes which link Jesus to both
Moses and Elijah, drawing on familiar covenant stories in order to
emphasize the decidedly new direction Jesus takes - pointing to the
radically different nature of both covenant and Kingdom which Jesus is to
preach. And while both Matthew and Luke (4: 1-13) are more extensive
versions of the temptation than Mark (1: 12-13), the Matthean version
remains more faithful to the images of Hebrew tradition. In fact it has
been noted that the narrative is "almost a mosaic of Deuteronomic verses
applied to the career of Jesus as Israel's true Messiah, one of the most
profound themes in the Gospel" (Grant, p. 307). The place of the passage in
the gospel as a whole reinforces the bridging function of the text and its
message: Jesus is God's beloved son (3: 17), as Israel was God's beloved.
But Jesus will be obedient to the claims of covenant-loyalty, as the story
of his ministry begins.
1b. Text: Matthew 4:1-11
The Temptation of Jesus
4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
GREEK: GreekBible.com Online Text Copyright Info
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
1τοτε ο ιησους ανηχθη εις την ερημον υπο του πνευματος, πειρασθηναι υπο του διαβολου. 2και νηστευσας ημερας τεσσερακοντα και νυκτας τεσσερακοντα υστερον επεινασεν. 3και προσελθων ο πειραζων ειπεν αυτω, ει υιος ει του θεου, ειπε ινα οι λιθοι ουτοι αρτοι γενωνται. 4ο δε αποκριθεις ειπεν, γεγραπται, ουκ επ αρτω μονω ζησεται ο ανθρωπος, αλλ επι παντι ρηματι εκπορευομενω δια στοματος θεου. 5τοτε παραλαμβανει αυτον ο διαβολος εις την αγιαν πολιν, και εστησεν αυτον επι το πτερυγιον του ιερου, 6και λεγει αυτω, ει υιος ει του θεου, βαλε σεαυτον κατω: γεγραπται γαρ οτι τοις αγγελοις αυτου εντελειται περι σου και επι χειρων αρουσιν σε, μηποτε προσκοψης προς λιθον τον ποδα σου. 7εφη αυτω ο ιησους, παλιν γεγραπται, ουκ εκπειρασεις κυριον τον θεον σου. 8παλιν παραλαμβανει αυτον ο διαβολος εις ορος υψηλον λιαν, και δεικνυσιν αυτω πασας τας βασιλειας του κοσμου και την δοξαν αυτων, 9και ειπεν αυτω, ταυτα σοι παντα δωσω εαν πεσων προσκυνησης μοι. 10τοτε λεγει αυτω ο ιησους, υπαγε, σατανα: γεγραπται γαρ, κυριον τον θεον σου προσκυνησεις και αυτω μονω λατρευσεις. 11τοτε αφιησιν αυτον ο διαβολος, και ιδου αγγελοι προσηλθον και διηκονουν αυτω.
2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 4:1-11
Mt. 4: 1-2 - These opening references are critical in that they recall the
Israelites temptation in the wilderness, and Moses' fast of 40 days and 40 nights when he encountered God at Mt. Sinai for the renewal of the
covenant (Ex. 34: 28). Jesus models the law that Moses was commanded to write. The Elijah story of I Kings l9: 8ff. builds on the same imagery as
the Moses tradition.
4:3 - The first temptation. "if you are the son of God - speak in order that
these stones become bread." This temptation is the most basic--the
appeal to hunger, with the promise of satisfaction and well-being; or
success on a very small scale!
4:4 - The response. A direct quote of Deut. 8:3, in which Moses reminds the people that God fed them during their 40 years in the wilderness, when
they were humbled and tested.
4:5-6 - The second temptation. In a subtle but powerful shift in the
scenario, images of the Davidic Dynasty are held up by references to the
temple, the Holy City, and the quote from the Psalter (91: 11-12). Now the temptation extends beyond personal well-being to political power -- to
the promise of David's privilege position.
4:7 - The response. A direct quote of Deut. 6:l6. This chapter of Deut.
contains the Shema of Jewish tradition (v.4- "Hear, O Israel the Lord our
God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your might"); the whole chapter is an
elaboration of the first commandment, obedience to which lies at the
heart of Jesus' response.
4:8-9 - The third temptation. Rising above and beyond the scope of the
second temptation, the third takes place on a "very high mountain"
symbolizing power over heaven as well as earth. It is important to
maintain the strict translation of the Gk. for basileia, kingdom, and doxa,
glory. Both the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are central to
Matthew's theology; here the devil plays his own advocate in pitting them
against all the kingdoms of the world as the most sought after power. The word "glory" appears frequently in the Moses tradition, particularly as a description of God - hence, "the glory of the Lord appeared in a cloud"
(Ex.l6:l0; cf. Ex.24:l6, Num.l4:10, 16:19; see also Ps.24:7-10). To use the
phrase "ten doxan auton" is thus the ultimate affront to the kingdom of
heaven, the kingdom of God, as well as to the source of the only real glory
- the glory of God.
4:10 - The response. Jesus commands Satan to go, quoting Deut. 6:13,
changing "fear" to "worship" (proskuneseis), using the tempter's own word, and adding "only" as emphasis: "you shall worship the Lord your God, and God only shalt thou serve."
3. STRATEGY: Matthew 4:1-11
W.F.Albright and C.S. Mann in The Anchor Bible (p. 36) note the
homiletic mistake of dealing with the temptation of the newly baptized
Jesus as the testing of an individual. They suggest that to view the text
within the context of the OT quotations is to discover an emphasis upon
sonship. Parallels certainly can be drawn between Israel as son, and Jesus as son. But to stop there would be to stop short of the joy that proceeds
from wrestling with a text as though one were reading/hearing/seeing it
for the first time!
And since this passage is so familiar to preacher and hearer alike, a little
news would probably be good. Using Matthew to interpret Matthew is a
viable hermeneutical device - so one might focus on another Matthean
version of a familiar gospel passage in conjunction with this text - the
Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6:7-13). Note the emphases which seem to be Jesus'
response to the temptation - and wise and wonderful words of life for
those of us who wander in the wilderness.
Our Father who art in HEAVEN
Hallowed be THY name
THY kingdom come
THY will be done
ON EARTH as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily BREAD
And forgive us our debts
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us NOT INTO TEMPTATION
But deliver us from EVIL
For THINE is the kingdom
And THINE is the power
And THINE is the glory....forever. Amen.
Texts on temptation are tricky; those in the congregation who are unaware of the petty seduction of their own everyday temptations will be self-righteously detached from the message
-- and the suffering souls who are in touch with their own weaknesses need a word of courage and
strength for the struggle. Eric Springsted refers to Simone Weil's
experience of tentatively reciting the Lord's Prayer every day as the proof
of prayer's efficacy. Such a focus in the face of daily temptation would
take everyone off guard-- by grace. And that would be good news indeed.
Albright, W.F., and Mann, C.S., MATTHEW: THE ANCHOR BIBLE, Garden City:
Doubleday and Co., l971.
Grant, F.C., The Gospel of Matthew, IDB. Nashville: Abingdon, l962.
Hammerton-Kelly, R.G., The Gospel of Matthew, IDBS. Nashville:
Morgan, Vance G. Weaving the World. Notre Dame: University of ND Press, 2005.
Springsted, Eric O., SIMONE WEIL AND THE SUFFERING OF LOVE. Cowley
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS
Hymns that speak to leading would be particularly appropriate. The
first lines of "Lead Me, Lord" are a simple but striking prayer response
which could be sung by the choir. "Jesus, Still Lead On" (LBW 341)
somewhat fits this theme. "All People that on Earth Do Dwell" (LBW 245,
HB 377-8) serves as a familiar affirmation of covenant - loyalty,
especially when sung to the tune of the "Old Hundredth." "Christ of the
Upward Way" reinforces images of guidance and hope. The "Lord's Prayer," if used, would be most effective without the words, allowing for private reflection.
OTHER HYMNS: O LORD, THROUGHOUT THESE FORTY DAYS (LBW 99,HB 142,
cf.HB 150); SAVIOR, WHEN IN DUST TO YOU (LBW 91);LORD , THEE I LOVE
WITH ALL MY HEART (LBW 325); and NOW QUIT YOUR CARE (HB 145).
Exegete: Rev. Dr. Emily Chandler, RN PhD CS, is the 2007 winner of the Dorothy Ford Buschmann Presidential Award presented by Sigma Theta Tau, the international nursing honor society. The Presidential Award is bestowed by the international president of Sigma Theta Tau International to recognize exceptional contributions to nursing.
6. FURTHER READING
One of the many lectionaries available for use inYear A is the
LECTIONARY for the CHRISTIAN PEOPLE:Cycle A of the Roman,Episcopal,
Lutheran Lectionaries (Revised Standard Version Texts,emended).
Published by Pueblo (copyright 1986), traditionally a Roman Catholic
publisher of approved liturgical resources, this lectionary represents a
striking departure in lectionary design. To begin with, it is very much
meant to serve as an inclusive language tool to be used alongside of, or in
place of, An Inclusive Language Lectionary (cited in LEXEGETE as AILL, and used with the permission of the National Council of Churches). Taking the view that the latter was too radical liturgically, editors Gordon Lathrop and Gail Ramshaw-Schmidt have attempted to arrive at something more like a consensus view on non-sexist, generic language.
Thus masculine pronouns for God are removed, the term LORD retained,
masculine pronouns for Jesus used minimally, Father/Son terminology
reserved mainly for trinitarian titles and only a few new terms introduced (e.g., the ungainly "Man of Heaven" for "Son of Man").
In the main, the results are very satisfying indeed and you can expect to
hear more about the LECTIONARY FOR THE CHRISTIAN PEOPLE.
It is well-designed, attractively bound in red pebble-grain leatherette (softcover),
easy to use in worship settings.
Other special features include parallel tables of contents, a brief
introduction by the editors, annotation of all three Sunday pericopes for
each of the three traditions (R,E and L) and a scriptural index.
Of particular interest is the presentation of passages like the Passion
Narrative (Gospel for Good Friday) which is written in parts for a narrator,
Maid, Peter, Office, Servant, Pilate and People.
It has been argued that this kind of reading can get in the way of a simple hearing of the Gospel.
Thus, Krister Stendahl (HOLY WEEK:SERIES A, Phila.: Fortress, 1974, p. 9)
once suggested that "the guiding principle should be quality of reading rather
than method, and the quality should be measured by its being conducive to
meditation and reflection. The drama of the Passion is most impressive
when presented quietly, without rhetoric or dramatics." Whether or not
one agrees with this viewpoint, it is an interesting exercise during Holy
Week to sit down and read the Passion to oneself in this format!
All in all, then, this new Lectionary is highly recommended to LEXEGETE
users for its fresh approach to the quest for inclusive language, its
excellent presentation and above all its ecumenical integrity. Pueblo
Publishing House deserves special appreciation for bringing us this new
resource for worship and preaching!
LEXEGETE © 2008