Today marks Quadragesima or the first Sunday of Lent, so named because it marks forty days until Easter Sunday. The day is also known as Invocabit, named for the first line of the Introit read today. Psalm 91:15a. “When he calls to me, I will answer him.”
Invocabit me et exaudiam eum
The theme of the Sunday is on temptation. The Old Testament reading is focused on Genesis 3 and the temptation and fall of man. Highlighting our great need. Our inherent brokenness and need for salvation.
The Gospel reading then turns and focuses on Matthew 4:1-11. The Temptation of Jesus, from which we can draw several interesting parallels, both with the temptation of man and with the Lenten period.
To start out of order, we see both the temptation and Lenten periods as forty days. This is not a coincidence. This season of fast before the greatest celebration reminds us of that prior forty day fast. Where Jesus prepared for his ministry, where he prepared for all that had to come, with intense reflection and dedication to his father. In this Lenten season, can we be similarly reflective? Can we keep our minds to the severity of what Jesus will endure for our sake? For our blessing?
Secondly, in this temptation, we see Jesus as the perfect counterpoint to Adam. While both Adam and Jesus were tempted, we see only Jesus able to overcome it. Able to resist all that the devil throws at him.
This had to be so. Jesus had to be tempted, to show that he was man. He had to overcome it, to show that he was perfect.
There is, though, greater disparity between Adam and Jesus. Jesus was tempted in harsh circumstances. Jesus’s temptations came in a time of struggle. Where Jesus was testing the limits of his physical body through a fast in the desert. He was hungry, he was tired, his body was stressed. Likely hot and sweating. He was being tempted with food in a time of hunger, protection from a place of danger, and power from a position of submission.
Adam was tempted from a place of plenty.
And yet, Jesus overcame and Adam did not.
Doesn’t this also seem to be the case with us, if only on a much smaller scale?
Not to minimize Jesus’s victory - for I believe none of us could have stood as he did.
But when we are struggling, when times are tough, aren’t those the very ones when we turn to God? And in times of plenty, when things are going well, that’s when it’s most easy for us to trip up. To remove our focus and give in.
It’s why we need these intentional times of refocusing in every season. “To prepare for a truly Christian life, to have God sanctify our heart and cleanse it of self-love and sin.” Jesus’s actions in the desert show us how to achieve this. Through prayer. Through the study of the scripture, to such a degree as to be able to hear when it is being manipulated and to address it with appropriate context. And through utmost dedication to the life to which we have been called.
We can celebrate in knowing that Jesus is rooting for us. He’s been there. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. He’s not aloof, he’s not distant, he’s not unaware of what it is like. He’s caring, he’s close, and he remembers. He knows. He has overcome! And he desires that we should too!
I pray this season of Lent is such a refocusing for us all. Imagine if all Christendom came through these forty days having wholly committed to seeking the Lord’s will through steadfast prayer and petition.
What an amazing celebration that would bring, indeed!