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Wrestling with the Word, episode 105: First Sunday in Lent, Year A (March 13, 2011) March 7, 2011

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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First Sunday in Lent

As I was listening over the past few weeks to some lectures on music, I became particularly interested when the teacher waxed eloquently about Pythagoras, the 6th century B.C, philosopher, mathematician, and most everything else. Pythagoras and his disciples (the Pythagoreans) developed a theory of numbers, often in terms of the ratio of objects to one another. In fact, they looked at numbers as a guide to interpret the world. The sought the mathematical harmony of all things. They spoke of the “Musica universalis,” the harmony of the spheres. The planets and stars moved according to mathematical equations, and they showed the same for musical notes.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 105: First Sunday in Lent, Year A.


Psalm 32
The psalm is a combination of two different genres. The first seven verses make up a song of thanksgiving. That expression of gratitude results from the psalmist’s personal reflections on his own sinfulness and his ultimate confession of guilt, after which the Lord forgave him. The second part (verses 8-9) focuses on Wisdom themes. The personal experience expressed at the beginning leads the psalmist to instruct others so that they too might relinquish their autonomy and submit their wills to the Lord. The conclusion (verses 10-11) exhorts others to be joyful that the Lord is a God who shows covenant loyalty (chesed) to the people.


Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 (ELCA)
Genesis 3:1-21 (LCMS)
Against God’s intentions for a faithful and healthy humanity, God held Adam and Eve accountable for choosing to “be like God, knowing good and evil,” setting the stage for a life of discord.

Following the Priestly account of creation in Genesis 1:1–2:4a, the Yahwist’s account in Genesis 2–3 portrays the story of humanity in terms of a local oasis story.  “J” wrote his epic in the reigns of David and/or Solomon, that is, sometime in the tenth century B.C.

Key Words
2:15.  le‘obdāh ûlešomrāh = “to work it and to protect it”:  The expression demonstrates several important points:  (1) fruitful labor is part of the what God wills for humanity, not the result of human sinfulness; (2) that labor is performed for the production of food; (3) it is the responsibility of humans to protect the soil.

2:17. ûmē‘ēts hadda‘at tôb wārā‘ = “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”:  For the meaning of “good and evil” elsewhere, see 2 Sam. 19:35 where it seems to have something to do with pleasant and unpleasant tastes; cf. also 2 Sam. 14 where the “good and evil” of v. 17 seems to be explained as “all things” in v. 20; see also Isa. 7:15, 16.  As for “knowledge” (Heb. da‘at), the word in the Hebrew Bible has to do with intimate experience rather than with intellectual awareness (see Gen. 4:1; Amos 3:2).

3:1.  hannāchāš = “the serpent”:  Why a serpent is selected for the dirty work is not entirely clear.  Perhaps it is because (1) the serpent was a symbol of healing in ancient times, and so here the critter is put in its place, or (2) in the Gilgamesh Epic it is a serpent that takes the plant of life away from the hero, thus depriving him of immortality.

3:3.  pen-temûtûn = “lest you die”:  The question about what is meant by “die” here becomes significant because when they did eat the fruit, they did not expire. Perhaps death means the separation from God. Or perhaps the grace of God overpowered the judgment of God.

3:5.  wihyîtem kē’lōhîm yōde‘ê tôb wārā‘ = “and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil”:  The plural participle yôde‘ê gives the impression that kēlōhîm is plural also: “gods.”

3:7.  wayyēde‘û kî ‘êrummîm = “and they knew that they were naked”:  According to biblical understandings, they had been intellectually aware of their nakedness prior to the disobedience; now they experienced nakedness in terms of guilt and vulnerability.


Romans 5:12-19
In contrast to the devastating effects of sin when “death reigned,” starting with the first couple, the effects of God’s justification in Christ will enable those who receive it to “reign in life through Jesus Christ.”


Matthew 4:1-11
In the face of the devil’s temptations that Jesus prove he is the Son of God and that he can gain glory without suffering, Jesus proved faithful to his identity and mission.

Immediately prior to our pericope is the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan (3:13-17).  On that occasion the voice from heaven announced to John (and others?) that Jesus was the “beloved Son (of God) with whom (God) was pleased.” That identity established, the temptation follows immediately.

Key Words
V. 1.  Tote ho Iēsous anēchthē … hypo tou pneumatos = “Then Jesus was led … by the Spirit”:  The Q version of the temptation differs from Mark’s not only in length and in discourse but even in the role of the Spirit who “drove” Jesus into the wilderness according to Mark’s account (1:12).

V. 1.  peirasthēnai hypo tou diabolou = “to be tempted by the devil”:  Matthew uses diabolos here in place of Mark’s Satan.  However, at v. 10, Jesus calls “the devil” Satan. In v. 3 he is called ho peirazōn = “the tempter,” a term used also at 1 Thess. 3:5.  In addition to the synoptic parallels, reference is made to Jesus’ temptation also at Heb. 2:18; 4:15.  For the temptations of the devil on people, see 1 Cor. 7:5; 1 Thess. 3:5; Rev. 2:10. For the temptation by Satan on the people of Israel, see 1 Chron. 21:1.

Vv. 3, 6.  ei huios ei tou theou = “if you are the Son of God”:  Note the same temptation raised by the mockers at his crucifixion (27:40).  As a question at the trial, see 26:63.  At 26:63 the high priest demanded that Jesus “tell us, if you are the Christ, the Son of God,” and Jesus responded with “You said so!” and spoke instead of the Son of Man.

V. 8.  eis oros hypselon lian = “a very high mountain”:  In the LXX the expression refers to “high places” that are sacred places for Canaanites or Israelites (see Matt. 17:1//Mark 9:2).  The impression is that each temptation moves to a higher elevation:  the wilderness hills, the temple pinnacle on Mount Zion/Moriah, and finally the “cosmic” mountain, the only spot from which one could see “all the kingdoms of the world.”

V. 10. hypage, satana = “Go away, Satan”: When Peter tries to prevent Jesus from his prophecy regarding the cross at 16:23, Jesus addresses Peter with the words, hypage…, satana, but adds opisō mou = “behind me.” Jesus explains to Peter his accusation and address: Peter is “not on the side of God but of humans.” Here Jesus explains to Satan that the temptation runs contrary to God’s claim to exclusive devotion expressed in the words of the Shema.

V. 11. kai idou aggeloi prosēlthon kai diēkonooun autō = “and behold angels came and served him”: At 26:53 Jesus calms his disciples when soldiers and Judas came to arrest him in Gethsemane by indicating if he wanted, God would send legions of angels to protect him. Even the prophet Elijah knew of God’s protective angels when an angel served him food in the desert (1 Kings 19:5-8). That incident led to the prophet’s sustenance for “forty days and forty nights,” the length of Jesus’ fasting in the desert (v. 2).


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