The Scripture for this week's service :
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness
4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
New International Version (NIV)
1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it,because the time is near.
Greetings and Doxology
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Preparation For Easter
Today is the first Sunday in Lent, the season that extends from Ash Wednesday up to the eve of Easter Sunday. The word lent is derived from a German word meaning spring. Lent is a time of purification. It's a time to examine ourselves and our inner thoughts in preparation for the renewal in spring. Some Christians use this period of Lent to give up something in order to remind themselves of what Jesus gave up for us on the cross. The first day of Lent occurs on Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Easter Sunday. The number 40 has a lot of significance in relation to the story of Jesus and the preparation of Lent. According to scripture, Jesus was 40 hours in the tomb before his resurrection, 40 days from the resurrection to His ascension and 40 days fasting in the wilderness.
When Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, he encountered Satan, wild beasts and angels. It sounds like a spiritual journey, similar to walking a labyrinth. A labyrinth is a spiritual tool. It's not the same thing as a maze, which tricks the walker with false starts and dead ends. A maze has many paths, a labyrinth only one. When you walk a labyrinth, you walk slowly, and pray or observe what happens within yourself. Labyrinths are a way to journey the inner self, observe or realize spiritual reality, and then return to ordinary life. A labyrinth can be used as a meditative tool even if you only have a picture of one and follow it with your finger.
A labyrinth involves lessons of trust and patience, and often gives insight into some issue that might be troubling in your life at the time. It takes time and effort to follow the path and reach the center. When you reach the center take time to rest and consider your new understanding of the journey, of preparation and persistence. Did you miss something along the way? The wilderness experience of walking the labyrinth seems a good modern-day way to connect with the spiritual journey Jesus made in the wilderness. We can picture His time in prayer, His need to face the wild beasts that snapped at His heels, the temptation of Satan, and finally receiving the blessing of the ministry of angels. When Jesus came out of the wilderness, He spoke from His spiritual center, He called people to become aware of the presence of the Kingdom of God, as He was. His time in the wilderness was a time of testing and reflecting. His time in the wilderness prepared Him to walk fearlessly through the trials that were to come.
The Bible is full of wilderness journeys. This seems to be something God loves to do with His people. He calls them out of the places where they were settled and s nds them into the wilderness, saying, "Get up! Go out! Go from your country and your family ard your father's house to the land that I will show you," is what God said to Abraham and Sarai. So Abraham went.
The Israelites were called out of Egypt, out of their bondage and slavery and into the wilderness for 40 long years. And when God called to Moses, he went up to the mountaintop to speak with God. Moses spent 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai. Then there's the story of Elijah who flees to the desert, running for his life. He, too, spends 40 days and nights in the wilderness before hearing God's command; "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Even Noah and the animals endured 40 days and 40 nights of rain.
It is the tradition in Christian churches to read the story of the temptations of Christ on the first Sunday in Lent. The temptations of Christ are about two things: the naming of the three types of temptations and the threefold overcoming of those temptations. Christ overcame the temptations as we can, if we know that Christ is in us. The grace which Christ has given us is not given in vain as long as we act upon it.
The Gospels tell us that Christ's temptations followed His baptism. Immediately after the baptism, Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. Luke describes it as being thrown into the wilderness and suggests the violent aspects of sin as well as the determination to achieve our reconciliation.
We might ask why the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days and nights. If the wilderness is a place where we are transformed from just ordinary people into God's people,
then why was Jesus sent there? Jesus is already God's person. Jesus knew this because after he rose from the water after His baptism, he saw the Spirit descend upon Him like a dove, and He heard a voice say, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
We know that Jesus went to the wilderness to prepare Himself for the mission God sent Him to accomplish, to establish a new covenant that would supercede all the previous covenants which God had made with His people. Satan, in turn, did his best to entice Jesus to choose His own will over the will of God. Despite His weakened condition, due to fatigue and lack of food for 40 days, Jesus steadfastly rejected Satan's subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, temptations. Where did Jesus find His strength to survive the desert's harsh conditions and the devil's seduction? He fed on His Father's word and found strength in doing God's will. Remember Jesus' answer to Satan; "For it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested, tempted and to be humbled. It's important to remember that Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Fasting is the most effective way of passing through the wilderness. Fasting helps to focus on the spiritual matters related to the flesh. So even though Jesus was physically weak, he was spiritually strong.
We all go through wilderness experiences in our Christian walk through life. It can be very exhausting and draining. It deprives us of all the comforts that we may usually enjoy. It
tests the deepest secrets and convictions of our heart to test what lies in our walk with God. Next, we find ourselves in spiritual turmoil, our own personal wilderness. During these times of testing, we need to put our complete trust in the Lord.
This was no ordinary moment for Jesus. But what was His calling, and what was His kingdom? That was yet to be made clear. And the explanation came in the wilderness. In the clear simplicity of the desert, away from all the familiar distractions, the conflict becomes an open one. The devil is manifest, and in the temptation of Jesus the nature and forms of that conflict are made clear. Satan pulls out his entire bag of tricks to try to get Jesus to forget who He is and what He's there for. Satan does his best to distract Jesus from His true identity. But Jesus doesn't take the bait. He knows who He is and to whom He belongs.
Jesus, in preparation for His ministry on earth, faces temptation in the wilderness, but the Holy Spirit is with Him. The devil's first temptation asks, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus proves that He can take on the wholeness of total humility. Jesus pointed out that life is not just about the physical needs, but that there's more to it. The Word of God is life-giving, and we can build and live our life on His Words. We have both physical and spiritual needs, but only God can satisfy our spiritual hunger. The Holy Spirit is with Jesus.
The second temptation is to test the divine powers. The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and says, "If You, then, will worship me, it will all be Yours." But Jesus proves that His mission on earth is not to be political. It's a divine mission, God's mission to us. In this temptation, Satan used the Word of God to prove his point. The devil knows the Word of God, he can use it, twist it, misinterpret it and present it in such a way which is contrary to the will of God. Today we see many people being fallen away by misinterpretation of the Word of God. The key aspect of Satan's argument was, and is, the use of the Word of God out of context. The second temptation, at its core, is about testing God and testing His words. Rightly so, Jesus reminded Satan that "it is also written, do not put the Lord your God to the test." The Holy Spirit is again with Him.
The third temptation is the most basic and essential. Satan says to Jesus,"If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here, for it is written, He will command His angels concerning You, to protect You and on their hanky they will bear You up, so that You will not dash Your foot against a stone." This temptation brought the innermost desire of Satan, to become God. He wants to be worshipped as God. He is with the desire of being like God. And he offers the biggest lie to all who follow him, that they can also be God. How often have we seen rulers, Kings or Emperors of the mighty kingdoms at their peak, wanting to be worshipped as 'God?' Unfortunately it can only lead to self-destruction. So Jesus rejects the idea that, as the Son of God, He could have some special protection. His total humanity is as fragile as yours or mine, making Him obedient to death, even death on a cross. The devil's proposal was a direct breaking of the first commandment; "You shall have no other gods before me." Jesus, in His reply, quoted the first commandment, in effect, saying, "enough, you're crossing the line!" The Holy Spirit is still with Him. In all three of Jesus' answers to Satan, He insisted on the written Word of God. Today, we have so much resources available related to the Word of God, that we are sometimes distracted from the actual 'Word.'
These temptations of Jesus represent the fundamental forms of all temptation. They are our temptations. In the Bible, the wilderness is the classic place of encounter. Encounter with ourselves. The wilderness is the place where we are put to the test. In this season of Lent, we are led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, where we should be made free from our temptations. A certain wilderness is necessary for the clarifying of the Spirit. Turn off the noise for a few moments and shun the continual distractions for awhile. Lent calls us to participate, at least in a small way, in that flight to the wilderness, to try to see ourselves clearly in the undistracted light of God's word.
Jesus goes out into the wilderness to show us how it's done. He shows us how to walk through the wilderness with our eyes trained straight again. God's Spirit is driving us into the wilderness now, just for a little while, just until we know, deep down, who we are, that we are the people of God. Oscar Wilde once said, "I can resist anything except temptation!" If we let God into our lives, we will be able to resist temptation.
God called Abraham to the wilderness to make him into a nation as numerous as the stars in the sky — God's nation, God's people. God called the Israelites into the wilderness to make them into His chosen people. God called Moses to the wilderness to shine His glory right down on him until Moses' face lit up like a light bulb. He called Elijah through the wilderness to Mount Horeb in order to brush against him as He passed by. God told Noah to build an ark and Noah was obedient to Him. Noah loved God, so he remained obedient and did exactly what God had commanded him to do.
Perhaps the most important task for us this Lent is to realize that God loves us, all of us..... We will all have wilderness experiences in our life, and we need to be ready for them. We can do this by knowing God is near and that He wants to help us. May our temptations be seen as clearly as Jesus saw the temptations of Satan and may our responses be as the resolution of Jesus. God calls us out of the places we were in order to dwell among us and to be our God. God called us here today because He is about to pass by.
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