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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Believe This, Then Live

In the early second century an explanation of salvation was provided based on the concept of "recapitulation" (which means to sum up, especially as in the  lawyers final argument). In a sense, we can say that Jesus' life is a "re-do" of human history and, in particular, Israel's history. Jesus gets right what we and they got wrong. This is why the Jewish Scriptures are vital to understand the Christian Testament.

Mark 1:19-35 briefly tells us that Jesus came and was baptized by John. As He comes out of the water the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit descended on Him like a dove. This reminds me of Isaiah 64:1 ("O that you would tear open the heavens and come down..."). The plea for God's salvation the heart of all human longing. Come down O Lord! And suddenly there He is.

The Spirit hovers over the waters, just as it does in Genesis 1 at creation and in Genesis 8:8-11 at the "re-creation" after Noah's flood. The recapitulation of creation/salvation is manifest in Jesus, through Whom all things came to be, will redeem the world, He is the New Creation.

The voice from heaven declares Jesus to be, "My Son, the Beloved" echoing the Genesis 22 account when Abraham is told to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. Jesus (recapitulates) completes that story in the perfect sacrifice of His life.

Now, Jesus is driven into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The wilderness, of course, is where Israel sojourned for forty years. It is a time of trial and testing. In Exodus 23:20ff we read that God sent an angel ahead of the people to guard them. The presence of angels with Jesus confirms the recapitulation of Israel's wilderness experience. Some think that the presence of the wild animals may be a reference to the Garden of Eden, a connection to Jesus the New Adam. Jesus recapitulates the two stories in His perfected obedience as New Israel, New Adam and true King.

Though not in Mark, we know that Jesus fasts for forty days (recapitulating and) perfecting Israel's experience. Recall, they complained (murmured) about food (bread and meat) and water, producing a wrathful response from God. Jesus willingly embraces no food. He knows that man does not live by bread alone (something found in the parallel accounts of Matthew and Luke).

It is that fasting in the Wilderness which I would like to spend a moment reflecting on now.

If Jesus recapitulates Israel's history, it is also true that you and I 'recapitulate' the Jesus story in our lives. Like Him, we are baptized, like Him we are become beloved children of God. (and here is where it breaks down. We cannot believe we are beloved children with whom God is pleased. We cannot imagine that He delights in us and treasures us. Yet what parent disowns their child? We love them in spite of their mistakes and errors. We lover them even if disappointed. If so for us, even more so for God!)

 And like Him, we are in our own time of struggle in our own wildernesses. Like Him we are called to face our choice: to be God's or to belong to another master?  

Jesus is our Messiah King. He represents His people and takes upon Himself all that is needed to make us whole. Our relationship to Him is central to everything. God calls us to 'come home' to Him. Repentance is at core turning back around and walking to Him. For so much of my life I have worried and fretted about what God wants from me. What am I supposed to do? In the readings this week it is stunningly clear. What God wants from me is me. He does not want me to do anything. He wants me to be His son....

Once we believe His words: my beloved child (son or daughter) then the process of testing takes place. In the desert God learns if we love Him. In the desert we become what we are, His beloved children. The forty years is a lifespan in the ancient world. Few lived much longer than two generations. You and I must see Lent as a special time of being proved and perfected. It is a time to fast and be purified. It is a time to connect with the deeper hunger underneath physical hunger. It is a time to actively pursue God through embracing self-negation (the Cross, love, self gift) and seeking communion with God. One-with-God.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent, it is time to be deeply involved in your own practice of cleansing your life (of sin and death: the world, the flesh, the devil) and of loving your Lord. The paradox is that to reach the Promised Land we must first be nomads in the desert. Desert conditions can be brutal and difficult, but we know God is with us. God is with us because He wants us to trust Him for everything.

Believe you are His child. Believe the desert is a place of transformation. Live!

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