Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent Bible Study Notes - Lent 1: Luke 4:1-13

Here are some brief Bible study notes to be used in conjunction with Sunday's sermon based on Luke 4:1-13.

Some brief background:
Today’s Gospel reading comes from Luke 4:1-13. We hear this story, or versions of it in the other Gospels on this Sunday each year.  We hear of Jesus spending time in the wilderness.

It’s worth noting that this is the wilderness and not the desert. This is not a barren, lifeless wasteland, but the scrubland outside towns and cities.  If Israel’s experience in exile in the wilderness following their freeing from slavery in Egypt is anything to go by, the desert, like mountaintops, is a place often where people go to withdraw and to encounter God for themselves.

Jesus’ is led into this scrubland by the Holy Spirit. His 40 days there mirrors both Moses and Elijah’s time in similar places, but it’s most resonant echo is with the Israelites 40 years in exile led by God Himself to the Promised Land.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, is led there by the same Spirit is contrasted by Luke with the character of the Devil who tempts Him. Temptation lies at the heart of what it means to be human, whether to resist or give in to it - Jesus being tempted is Him identifying with us in every way.

At the end of the passage we are told that the Devil departs from Jesus ‘until an opportune time.’ Jesus is tempted here with words, but the opportune time will come again for the Devil who will tempt Jesus with the actions of others as Jesus faces His Passion and Crucifixion. In both instances Jesus is victorious.

Read the passage again and then ponder these questions:

1.  The temptations that Jesus encounters are personal (for food for his famished body), political (will Jesus submit to the ‘Ruler of this world’ namely the Devil for the good of the people of the world) and religious (will Jesus ‘win’ Jerusalem by showy miraculous power). We are tempted in many ways every minute, every hour, every day - do you find it easy to resist temptation? How do you succeed when you do?
2.  Does contemporary society’s obsession with consumer choice and access to credit make giving in to certain sorts of temptation more likely?
3.  Can you see how easy it is for our faith to become about feeding the hungry, the glory of justice for the nations or for showy acts of miraculous power - how does the church keep these temptations to turn Christianity into a one issue organization, in check?
4.  Being tempted is not a sign of weakness but of strength - we are not tempted to do what we cannot, but what is in our power - can you relate to this statement?

Christ resisted the Devil with words from the scriptures. Take one of the pieces of scripture that Jesus quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy and learn it this week.

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