Lectio Divina for the 1st Sunday of Lent, Feb. 21, 2021
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert
Depend on the Lord. He will provide. When God led the Israelites out into the desert, they complained about the lack of water and food. God drove them out to the desert so that they could learn how to depend on him. He thus provided them with sweet water and manna. Jesus begins his ministry with a similar exodus. Like John the Baptist, he brings nothing with him but the clothes he wears. His dependence on God is absolute. Jesus would later call his disciples to a similar kind of abandonment and dependence when he tells them to go forth and preach the kingdom of God and heal: “And he said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics’” (Luke 9:2-3). What is it that drives us to do ridiculous things like this: when we are so filled with passion and zeal for something, we are willing to do anything to make it realized by others so our lives could testify to the truth that has changed our lives? Missionaries abandon everything they know to evangelize in a foreign land. Priests and other religious enter orders or seminaries, leaving behind all the comforts of their past life. What is it that drives these people? Often it is not a question of what, but who. The Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert for 40 days. As we begin Lent, meditate on the reckless abandonment Christ exemplifies here, and what he is calling us to, a calling that is in direct contrast to the comforts popular culture expects us to obtain and hold onto.
… tempted by Satan
Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. This is a mystery because, while he had the divine will to resist temptation, that doesn’t mean it was any easier for him to resist the devil than it would have been for you and I. We are tempted in countless ways by the devil, and it stands to reason that the devil knew exactly what to tempt Jesus with to make resisting hardest for the son of man. One temptation we may have here is to assume one of two extremes: either that Christ is so much holier than us that there is no point in attempting to imitate him; or that Christ is just as human as us and therefore we can treat him like one of our buddies. The virtuous mean is to understand that he has conquered sin in his own personal life by resisting all of the devil’s temptations, and we can imitate him just as the saints have; but we will never be his equal because any power to resist sin comes directly from him and by following in his footsteps.
“The kingdom of God is at hand.”
What is the kingdom of God, anyway? Once again we may come to find out that it is not a question of what, but who. In our limited understanding, in our fallen human intellect, we depend on language to convey who God is. It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around a kingdom that is also a person. But this is in fact what God is revealing to us. He says to Moses “I am who am.” He is existence. Our fallen world blurs our vision of God’s existence, giving us counterfeits of his truth, goodness, and beauty. When Christ says “The kingdom of God is at hand” he is saying it is time to restore us to our original state, the way we were before the Fall, so we may partake in his divine life. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Through his words and miracles, Jesus is illustrating the power the gospel has to give us this new life. When he cures a blind man, it’s a symbol of how this gospel helps us perceive the spiritual life with the eyes of the soul. When he calms the storm, it’s to show how the king of the heavenly kingdom is king over all of creation. The rest of Jesus’ ministry from this point on will be the exemplification of his words right here, “The kingdom of God is at hand.”
“Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Christ states the purpose of his ministry at its very beginning. When we read his words here, it’s natural for us to take the word “gospel” for granted. We are reading the “Gospel” according to Mark, afterall. But this is the first time he or any other character in the story says the word. So the good news he is referring to should be contained within the proclamation. And indeed it is. The good news is that the kingdom of God is at hand. He might as well have said, “Repent and believe in the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand.” He is not presupposing that his audience already knew of some other gospel. The kingdom of God is the gospel. Not only is the good news contained in his words here. It is also contained within Jesus himself, the Word made flesh. As Jesus walks and talks he is a living proclamation of the gospel. He is also explaining the requirement for inheriting the kingdom of God: repentance. May Christ’s call to repentance serve as the foundation for our Lent this year and for all Lents to come.
Lord God, make our hearts contrite so we may have true remorse for our sins. Have mercy on us as we approach you with true repentance so we may inherit the kingdom of God. This is our greatest hope, to be your sons and daughters in your eternal kingdom. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
As Christ comes to us in his word, let’s listen to the specific message he has for us. Some of his messages are universal, but other times the words of Scripture speak to us in a particular way that only we can understand, and when we try to explain the significance of what God is trying to tell us, it is lost on others. That is because God wants to speak to each of us directly and build up personal relationships with each of us. Some of the truths you receive through this lectio divina will be for you and for others, but other truths are just for you.
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