Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance


 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office.  And He said to him, "Follow Me."  So he left all, rose up and followed Him.  Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, "Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." 

Then they said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?"  And He said to them, "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?  But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days."  Then He spoke a parable to them:  "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.  And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better.'"

- Luke 5:27-39

Yesterday, we read that it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."  Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed."  Immediately the leprosy left him.  And He charged him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded."  However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.  So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.  Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem.  And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.  Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.  And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his be through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.  When He saw their faith, he said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God alone?"  But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" -- He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."  Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.  And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today!"

 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office.  And He said to him, "Follow Me."  So he left all, rose up and followed Him.  Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, "Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."    Levi, also known as Matthew, answers Jesus' call, "Follow Me."  He leaves what he's doing as tax collector and becomes a disciple.  My study bible says that from the beginning of His ministry Christ has been a friend of tax collectors and sinners, which is one of the Pharisees' complaints against Him (and their scribes, as the text says).  It's possible that Levi was one of the tax collectors who came to John the Baptist and were prepared for Christ (see this reading).   Matthew's feast for all of his friends expresses his joy and gratitude.  My study bible says, "The guest register is a stirring demonstration of the fruit of Jesus' love and forgiveness."  Jesus' reply to the Pharisees gives us an entire picture of His ministry and its aims, to call all to healing and repentance, restoration.

Then they said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?"  And He said to them, "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?  But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days."  While Jesus is with His disciples and those who hear Him, it's a prefiguration of the great wedding feast of heaven, a time of great blessings and joy.  There will come a time when His followers will practice the fast.

  Then He spoke a parable to them:  "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.  And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better.'"  Jesus explains His startling ministry with a parable; everything begins anew with His ministry for healing and restoration, the calling of sinners to repentance.  The final sentence here, about the preference for the old, is found only in Luke.   It gives us a flavor of human nature, or of resistance to the new.  My study bible says it illustrates the difficulty with which the Jews would accept the new covenant, and also the inner resistance a person faces in turning from a sinful way of life -- as well as the general stubbornness of the human heart.  Perhaps it is an important reflection overall on Christ's ministry of paradox, the "strange things" people are seeing contrary to their expectations and given understanding (see yesterday's reading, above).   It fits also with Jesus' rejection at Nazareth, His statement that "no prophet is accepted in his own country."

What is it about the familiar and the accepted that has such a deep hold on us?  Does this have to do with neuroscience and the understanding of how our brains work?  We certainly form ingrained patterns of thinking; some modern anti-depressants may work to "break up" those patterns.  But psychologically we can see in the Gospels the understanding of the human heart and mind.  Jesus says here in Luke the Physician's Gospel:  "No one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better.'"   There is no better psychological profile of human beings than the Gospels.  But what we're given here is the response of human beings to revelation of the divine.  As in yesterday's reading, when the people responded to Jesus' work of healing and forgiveness, they said, "We have seen strange things today!"  As noted in yesterday's commentary, this word for strange used in the text is one that is literally "paradox."   For the early Fathers of the East, there is no deeper truth than the paradox of the divine breaking into the worldly.  It is in this paradox that we find the truth of God who can't be contained, the action of God the Word in the world.  Jesus' ministry of healing and reconciliation, that which does not condemn but rather calls sinners to repentance, teaches us about God's love.  It doesn't fit with what people know already.  Why is He hanging out with tax collectors, of all people?  You can just imagine how despised such people were:  working for the Romans, oppressing their own people with the scandalous taxation, regularly taking more for themselves than was required by the foreigners in order to make a profit, backed up by occupying power.  And yet Matthew/Levi is called by Christ:  "Follow Me."  Clearly Jesus sees something in Levi when He calls him to discipleship.  Christ is the knower-of-hearts; He must read the repentance in Levi.  What is interesting is just how Christ puts His faith into human beings, and the picture of the Gospels isn't just the other way around (how we put our faith into Him).  Calling Levi is a bold move, and Jesus must be aware of how the religious leadership will respond.  He sees what they can't.  And that's perhaps where the great paradox is found, in that deeper seeing into the heart and depths of what it is to be human, and the relationship found there with Creator.  Matthew/Levi's longing is to be restored to such relationship, and thereby to right-relatedness with others.  Jesus' call to discipleship is not a call that embraces the sinfulness or sinful behavior that harms community.  But it is a call to healing, to a better way, to going back where we belong.  And that's the great paradox that is hard for people to accept.  They know Levi one way, but Christ knows him another way.  To get to that place of depth and healing is really to reach into ourselves in a place of true identity, a place that acknowledges who our Creator is and where we long to return in good grace and right relationship.  He pulls us back, in some sense, from the places where life has taken us and into our true selves, where we are truly at home, and where we can truly serve.  The wedding banquet is just that:  the time of feast and joy at the union of Creator and creature, a depth of self that is "home."  What we appear to be to others may be all kinds of things.  We may wander to many places searching for whatever it is we hope to find.  But Christ calls us to who we truly are, the place where we are set to rights, so to speak.  The question is if we can take Him at His word to "follow Him" and start on the road to discipleship, no matter what it looks like to other 'worldly' views.  So much depends on how we are called and Who's doing the  calling.  Do we have ears to hear?   The depth of reach in the call also holds the power to take us back.




Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We have seen strange things today!


 And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."  Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed."  Immediately the leprosy left him.  And He charged him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded."  However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.  So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem.  And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.  Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.  And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his be through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.  When He saw their faith, he said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God alone?"  But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" -- He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."  Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.  And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today!"

- Luke 5:12-26

Yesterday, we read that, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.  Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the land.  And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.  When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."  But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net."  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.  So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.  And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid.  From now on you will catch men."  So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

 And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean."  Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed."  Immediately the leprosy left him.   Leprosy, says my study bible, was one of the most dread diseases of this time.  It not only brought terrible physical suffering, but it was also cause for complete banishment and isolation from society.  Leprosy is also symbolic of our sin.

And He charged him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded."  However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.  So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.  Christ gives the command to follow the law of Moses.  Cyril of Alexandria comments that by doing so, it will convince the priests by a tangible miracle that Christ is superior to Moses.  They held Moses to be greater than Christ, but Christ heals the leper immediately and with His own authority, while Moses healed Miriam only with help from above and after seven days (Numbers 12:10-15).    The text notes that Jesus increasingly withdraws into the wilderness for prayer; this is where His strength comes from.  He also takes important time for rest in prayer.  It's an important example of true health for all of us.   In Saturday's reading, the text also mentions that Jesus departed and went into a deserted place.  It reminds us of time for withdrawal as a necessity for His work, particularly time used for prayer.

Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem.  And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.  Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.  And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his be through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.  When He saw their faith, he said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God alone?"  But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" -- He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."  Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.  And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today!"  Jesus' fame in His ministry has spread far and wide, so that even the teachers of the Law and the religious authorities now come from all over Israel and are present to hear Him teach.  But so often in Luke's Gospel, healing takes place as part of this teaching ministry, and those who come to Him do so for such help.  In this case, a man's friends bring Him.  My study bible says that faith is collective as well as personal; here a kind of corporate or communal faith is instrumental in bringing this man to Christ and responsible for the healing.  It teaches us a great deal about helping others through prayer, the communion that isn't held back by restrictions of space or even time, nor apparently even of the individual heart in its immediate effects.  There are three signs of Christ's divinity on display here, notes my study bible:  He knows the secrets of the heart, He forgives sins which is a power that belongs to God alone, and He heals by the power of His word.  This is the first encounter with such authorities; in both stories of today's reading Jesus' power is openly on display for members of the religious ruling classes.

Again, as in yesterday's reading, we come back to questions of faith.  What is faith?  How does it work?  How does it work within us?  Today's reading teaches us about two kinds  of faith.  There is first of all the great faith of the leper, by which He understands that Christ can "make me clean," "if You are willing."   This is not just the earnest desire of the heart, but it is also the heart turning to Christ and trusting in Christ, understanding that His will is capable of cleansing; in this context of leprosy with its long associations and history of the Old Testament, that would include the faith that Christ could forgive sins, although the text does not overtly make a connection between leprosy and sinfulness.   But the second story in our reading does quite overtly make some connection between the man's paralysis and sinfulness, although it's not necessarily a direct connection nor a general statement about physical illness and sin.  What we do understand is that paralysis is a very apt symbol for some sort of sin, a kind of way in which we might be stuck in some way of thinking or habitual behavior or even a problem, say, of addiction of some sort.  Sinfulness can take on many forms; we need not associate it with overt or deliberate evil.  Since this is an act of corporate healing, we may also take this man's sins as those which will be found in community, in any community, within our parishes and faith communities.  In that sense, we're taught in some way by this story that sin is a problem for community; within our communities we're going to have many sorts of problems and different types of sins.  In some corporate way, we're all affected one way and another.  But the truly good news here is about our prayer; our prayer also heals community.  The example here shows an effectiveness of corporate prayer, meaning that within community also no one need be alone in suffering, but rather the focus can be on every level of healing.  Our prayers may reach out to help others even when there can be no direct means of opening up communication or action.  In the end, it is God's work that will respond to prayer, known and unknown, and in this we can take trust and learn about love.  There's a profound way in which the story lives on several levels; there is the prayer of the man's friends, which we can liken to private prayer or corporate prayer of any kind.  There is also the judgment of the leadership, and then there is Christ, whose power goes deep into the heart and knows all hearts.  But as the corporate Body of Christ, all of these layers intersect; there is nowhere this connection of communion cannot go.  It's a kind of network, in which each link in the chain is functional and important.  In that analogy, we could view paralysis as a kind of place in which one unit in a network isn't functioning fully or well.  But the action of the rest can help to heal and to restore.  In all of Christ's healing miracles, there is a kind of connection that is made with faith in order to be effective, for His power to work.  It seems safe to assume the power of the Holy Spirit works this way in our midst, in the here and now, as He is "everywhere present and filling all things," as the Orthodox prayer tells us.  Do you have a sense of communion in prayer?  What kind of "net" may we be a part of when we pray (perhaps analogous to the role of the nets of the fishermen who will catch men, from yesterday's reading)?   How do we live and thrive best within this "sea" of those who are connected through the energies of God, and through prayer?  Let us consider the connections and how they work.  They are restricted by nothing but the love and power of God with which they may connect.  If this seems "strange" or unusual, consider the response of the witnesses in today's story: "We have seen strange things today!"  In the Greek this word indicates something unexpected, but more clearly and precisely, something outside of the accepted opinion, not "traditional."  In fact, it is the word "paradox" (Gr. παράδοξα).  Let us remember that God is always greater than we know, beyond our understanding; and yet, God is revealed to us through paradox.





Monday, September 26, 2016

Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!


 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.  Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the land.  And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.  When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."  But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net."  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.  So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.  And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid.  From now on you will catch men."  So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

- Luke 5:1-11

On Saturday, we read that  after teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath (and casting out an unclean demon), Jesus left the synagogue and entered Simon's house.  But Simon's wife's mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.  So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.  And immediately she arose and served them.  When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.  And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!"  And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.  Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place.  And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent."  And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.

So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.   Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the land.  And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.  We remember that Jesus has been in Capernaum, where He teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbaths, and where Peter has a family home, which operates as a sort of headquarters for Jesus' ministry.  The Lake of Gennesaret is also known as the Sea of Galilee.  It's a very large lake, about 13 miles long and 7 miles wide.    The region of Gennesaret, near Capernam, was also known for its abundance and beauty, having a fertile plain in which all kinds of agricultural products grew, and its plenitude of fish as well.  Jesus' position is sitting in the boat, a traditional position for a teacher,  a place of authority.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."  My study bible cites St. Ambrose here, who writes of this command that it is an invitation to give one's life over to the deep mystery of the knowledge of the Son of God.

But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net."  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.  So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  My study bible notes that the Lord draws people to Himself by the things that are familiar with them.  His parables reflect every day life for people.  He drew the Magi with a star (Matthew 2:2), He would draw tax collectors by a tax collector (Luke 5:29).  Here He draws the fishermen with fish (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"   Peter is suddenly cast in the light of Christ.  As a holy person, he recognizes his own unworthiness; his cry is not one of rejection but rather of awe (compare Isaiah 6:5; Revelation 1:17).

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.  And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid.  From now on you will catch men."  So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.  My study bible says that this great catch of fish is an image of the apostles bringing mankind to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  It fulfills the prophecy of Jeremiah 16:16.  In the Orthodox festal hymn of Pentecost, it is sung to Christ, "Through the fishermen, You drew the world into Your net."  These fishermen all willingly respond to His command.

What does it really take for us to respond to faith?  These fishermen respond to an astonishing command and response with the great load of fish. They know the waters; this is their job and the business of their families.  They had been fishing the same all the night.  But a rationalization of this great act of the catch of fish could be quite possible.  Some could say there happened to be a school of fish passing by at this moment, I suppose.  Others could speculate on one way or another there was a "reasonable" and "logical" explanation for this event.  But these men know.  Somehow it is clear to them who Christ is.  One could say that had they not been somehow prepared within themselves for this ministry to which they're called, they would not have responded as they have, with Peter, as usual, speaking for all.  John's Gospel tells us that these men were first disciples of John the Baptist, those for whom the Kingdom and its righteousness is something they have sought wholeheartedly before this moment.  My study bible points out that Peter's response is one of a holy man.  We could assume, then, that somehow, there is preparation for this moment.  There is already something inside of these men that is willing to respond, that can see and hear the holiness in Christ, that responds with faith, setting everything else aside to follow His command, "From now on you will catch men."   What is it that prompts us to respond in faith?  Jesus will say to Thomas, "Blessed are those who haven't seen, and have believed" (John 20:29).   The signs of Christ are not meant to persuade those incapable of faith; they are not magic, they're not meant for manipulation.  They are signs of holiness and the presence of the Kingdom, God in our midst.  This massive catch of fish is meant as a sign to those whom He will call, so that they know and understand, and the connection with Him is unmistakable.  To look at the Greek text gives us some other hints here. The word for "partners" (as in the notation that James and John Zebedee were partners with Simon in their fishing business) is another form of the word from which we derive "communion" (Gr. κοινωνοὶ).  In English, the Greek is translated as Jesus' saying, "From now on, you will catch men."  But in the Greek, the word for men really means human beings (Gr. ἀνθρώπους).  And in the Greek, the word for catch is a word that implies life (Gr. ζωγρῶν), to catch living things, from the root meaning "life."  All these hints in the text tell us about this mission and His ministry.  They teach us about these men who will become His apostles, how their relationships already imply a readiness for depth, for communion, for the life of those for whom they will "hunt" to join them.  But the depth of the heart that responds to Christ remains a mystery, something known and understood possibly only by the author of life, the Source of life Himself, the true "heart-knower."  Where does our faith come from?  That's too great a depth of mystery for me to answer.  But the love that binds hearts to Christ is a depth of communion that is not exhausted in its depth nor its extension.  Where do you find that for yourself?






Saturday, September 24, 2016

I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent


 Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon's house.  But Simon's wife's mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.  So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.  And immediately she arose and served them.

When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.  And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!"  And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.

Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place.  And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent."  And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.

- Luke 4:38-44

Yesterday, we read that Jesus, upon leaving Nazareth, went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths.  And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.  Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon.  And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Let us alone!  What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?  Did You come to destroy us?  I know who You are -- the Holy One of God!"  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!"  And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him.  Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, "What a word this is!  For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out."  And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon's house.  But Simon's wife's mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.  So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her.  And immediately she arose and served them.  The story of Peter's mother-in-law is in each of the Synoptic Gospels.  It tells us that Peter had a home and a family.  This house in Capernaum is often called Jesus' ministry's headquarters in Galilee.  This sense in which Jesus rebukes her fever can be interpreted as one of correction, true judgment, a fitting dispensation.  And what the text tells us -- and does so in other Gospels as well -- is that she is immediately restored to her proper place in the home, which is in fact one of honor and worth.  As Son and Logos, Jesus restores a proper and fitting order, so to speak.  Further as to "rebuke," my study bible has an interesting commentary from Cyril of Alexandria:  "That which was rebuked was some living thing unable to withstand the influence of Him who rebuked it, for it is not reasonable to rebuke a thing without life and unconscious of the rebuke.  Nor is it astonishing for there to exist certain powers that inflict harm on the human body."

When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.  And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!"  And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.    Peter's home seems to become a kind of hospital, a place of care for ailments and afflictions.  Christ heals here by touch.  The tie with the demonic, that which creates destructive disorder, dysfunction, ill harmony, chaos, a kind of imbalance, is clear.  It does not seem strange that this is tied with disease.  Once again, as in yesterday's reading, they know who He is, but He does not allow them to speak and identify Him publicly as Christ.

Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place.  And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent."  And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.   Although He is now known for healing, Jesus' primary mission is to preach the kingdom.  Healings and signs testify to the truth of His message and to the identity of the Teacher (see 5:24).  My study bible adds also that this pattern holds true in the Church (Acts 4:29-30).

What is healing?  Can we separate what it is to be human into the components of mental, spiritual, physical, and consider that they are not inter-related somehow?  I think modern medicine would recognize that disease can be linked through all levels of life, with statistics correlating disease with stress levels, for example.  Even the interrelation of mental health with possible breakdown in genetic patterns is a subject for exploration.  Regardless of how modern (Western) science may view disease or not, Christ as Logos is the one who brings into the world a kind of divine order.  His entire mission is about setting things aright, deposing that which causes affliction, disease, ailment, dysfunction, and disorder on a cosmic scale, which ultimately afflicts individuals on the most personal level.  Christ's work of salvation is that which ultimately heals and restores to good order and true right-relatedness for all things.   Every restoration to health is a sign of the presence of the Kingdom.  That is the way that we must see His ministry.  Various forms of medicine support the concept of "balance" and harmony as integral to health, such as systems of acupuncture, for example.  But what we remember about Christ is that He's in the world as the "stronger man" to fix whatever it is that needs healing, and this extends to humankind's relationship with God.  Working from this cosmic level, we have a power in Christ that is at work in all things, from Creator to creature, and He takes particular care to tell His disciples the importance of "the least of these."   To indicate the kind of power we're talking about, which permeates all things and all places, we take the words from Revelation:  "Behold, I am making all things new."  In the Greek, as regular readers of this blog would recognize, the tenses read more literally, "I am always making all things new."  It is Christ whose work permeates into the "least of these" moments of our lives, to the absolute level of being, to the most intimate secret of the heart.  It is in His love and care we take refuge, and in Him we live and move and have our being.  This is the power we trust and know in our Lord, and His great superseding love that supports the abundant life He offers to the world.  As Logos, He wants what is truly good for all, even in the times we don't.




Friday, September 23, 2016

What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out


 Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths.  And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.  Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon.  And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Let us alone!  What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?  Did You come to destroy us?  I know who You are -- the Holy One of God!"  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!"  And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him.  Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, "What a word this is!  For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out."  And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

- Luke 4:31-37

In yesterday's reading, we were told that after His temptation and forty days in the wilderness, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.  And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.  So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.  And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah.  And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:  "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."  Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."  So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.  And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?"  He said to them, "You will surely say this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself!  Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.'"  Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.   And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths.  My study bible quotes St. Ambrose of Milan on this verse, who writes that Jesus begins preaching and healing on the Sabbaths to show that "the new creation began where the old creation ceased."

And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.   There are many things Jesus does that cause people to be astonished.  But the subject of His authority is an essential to note.  He is unlike the prophets of old and the teachers of His day.   My study bible explains that they would teach in the third person ("The Lord says").  But Jesus speaks from Himself; He teaches in the first person ("I say to you").  See also Matthew 5, the first part of the Sermon on the Mount.

 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon.  And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Let us alone!  What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?  Did You come to destroy us?  I know who You are -- the Holy One of God!"  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!"  And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him.   Jesus commands the demon to be quiet, and come out of him.  Although He speaks with authority and His power is evident, Jesus isn't ready to reveal Himself as Christ, the Messiah.  It's not yet His time.  In yesterday's reading, Jesus read from Isaiah to the people of His hometown, Nazareth.  This lack of open proclamation of His identity was also foreseen by Isaiah (see Isaiah 42:1-4).   My study bible cites reasons for secrecy which include the growing hostility of the religious leadership, the people's misunderstanding and false expectations of the Messiah as an earthly and political leader, and Christ's desire for genuine faith not based wholly on persuasive or marvelous signs.  The demons know Him, and they know His power of judgment, but they do not willingly serve that power.  They, however, cannot resist His command.

Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, "What a word this is!  For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out."  And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.  Jesus expresses His authority and power in what He does, how He ministers.  His is not a ministry of open proclamation and worldly types of persuasion.  Faith must come from those who accept to understand what He does and what He teaches.

Jesus' temptations in the wilderness were all about temptations for worldly use of both His authority and His power.  Satan questioned Christ's relationship to the Father, and His identity as Son; the temptation was to prove it on worldly terms.  In these beginning passages of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, we see the temptations' roots in how His ministry is to be conducted.  He will not give earthly proofs of who He is, although His ministry will express many signs of the divine at work.  He will not declare Himself as a sort of worldly power, commanding armies and legions and using force or manipulation as persuasion.  His ministry is one that calls people to faith, and more.  He calls human beings to use their own capacities for spiritual sight and hearing.  In the unclean demon, we see an example of the spiritual without the true discipline of faith.  It is simply destructive -- and destructive to human beings.  Its work is parasitical, its energy and effect is haywire.  It teaches us that even the "spiritual" does not guarantee good effect, good direction, true healing for human beings, nor good intention and order.  The demon does not love God, nor understand God's love, but only fears destruction -- and therefore does not love human beings.   Ultimately, the real key to faith is love, what we love within ourselves, and the depth of loyalty that builds in terms of faith in the word and teachings of Christ.  In such we come to more deeply know God's love.  Jesus' power and authority come down to the appeal to those who love God, and therefore can know God, recognizing what is before them.  He will repeat this teaching over and over again to the authorities:  that had they known His Father, they would know Him.  So what is this word that is brought into the world by the Word Himself?  How do we really know love, and what is truly good for us?  What is contained in His love that the demon doesn't know?  How is it that we as human beings are capable of discerning this?  There are many reasons why His ministry will unfold as it does, for His way of calling out faith.  But above all, we can see the tie between faith and love.  Do we have ears to hear and eyes to see it?





Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me


 Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.  And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.  And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah.  And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."  So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.  And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?"  He said to them, "You will surely say this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself!  Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.'"  Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.   And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

- Luke 4:14-30

Yesterday, we read that Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit (after His baptism by John), returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.  And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had had ended, He was hungry.  And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."  But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"  Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."  And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan!  For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"  Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.  For it is written:  'He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,' and 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"  And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'"  Now  when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

 Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.  And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.  Jesus' ministry has just begun, and what we notice is the work of the Holy Spirit through all things.  It was the Holy Spirit whose power sent Him into the wilderness to be tempted (yesterday's reading), and by the power of the spirit He is returned to Galilee to begin His ministry.  Nothing begins without the power of the Spirit.  In the Eastern liturgical rites, all begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit.

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.  And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah.  And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
"The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."  My study bible tells us that the words of Isaiah are inspired by Christ to begin with.  He is the eternal Son of God and therefore has always been; He did not simply become the anointed Savior, but has been so from the foundation of the world.  Isaiah writes, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" (Isaiah 61:1) as it was Christ speaking through him.  Jesus does not say, "The Spirit has come upon Me."  When the Spirit of the LORD descended on Christ at His baptism (3:22), it was a sign revealing an eternal truth to the people, not a temporal occurrence.  This is an essential moment in His ministry; Luke tells us that Jesus specifically chose this verse to read in His hometown synagogue of Nazareth.  The acceptable year of the LORD is the time of His Incarnation, when the Kingdom of heaven has come to earth (see 2 Corinthians 6:2).

Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."  So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.  And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?"  He said to them, "You will surely say this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself!  Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.'"  Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.   And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.  We see the response of those in His hometown to His ministry!  My study bible points out that this double response of the people of both marveling (v. 22) and rejection (v. 29) occurs frequently in those who encounter Christ (see 11:14-16; John 9:16).   Being rejected in His own country is a fulfillment of the rejection of the Old Testament prophets such as Elijah and Elijah whom Jesus mentions here.  It foreshadows His ultimate rejection by the Jewish nation at His trial before Pilate (John 19:14-15).  Christ accepts His death according to the will of the Father, not of the authorities or the crowds.  We note that here, as elsewhere, He passes through the midst of them; the hour of His Passion has not yet come.

Right from the beginning of His ministry, we hear of confrontation.  Jesus has great good news that people can't accept.  They know Him, they know His family, they know where He is from.  How can He be the Person He says He is?  By this time of His preaching in His hometown synagogue at Nazareth, He's already well-known.  His ministry has become well-known.  But the people cannot accept the authority in the ministry and the Man; they assign to Him the place they think they know.  This statement made by Jesus, "No prophet is accepted in his own country," is mentioned in all four Gospels.  As my study bible points out, He is rejected as the prophets were rejected.  This 'microcosm' of His hometown is a reflection of what will happen eventually with the authorities and the stirred crowds at the Passion.  But Jesus has a response for them.  He is the Prince of Peace, but this doesn't stop Him from fully defending the authority by which He is sent into the world, and the work of the ministry that will continue when He is gone.  He speaks of the continuing action of God, via the Holy Spirit, in which the Good News of salvation will also be a light to the Gentiles.  He warns the people here in Nazareth with examples from Israel's past, from the Old Testament Scripture, about who is chosen and who is not.  It is an echo of the words of John the Baptist to those who came from Jerusalem to be baptized, not to rely on the ancestry of Abraham for salvation, as "God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." To whom is the message carried? It is carried to those whose hearts are receptive, to those with ears to hear and eyes to see, to refer again to words from Isaiah.  The reality of the Spirit once again reminds us of the power and authority of God that supersedes worldly institutions and "truths," that gives us an eternal truth and not a temporal one to believe in.  How are we all linked in Spirit to believers in other places and other times?  What is "sonship" all about?  How is it conveyed?  All of our temporal assumptions and certainties are called into question by this Good News of Christ, His salvation.  He doesn't shrink from confrontation nor from defending the role the Father has given Him -- even if it provokes outrage among those who've known Him all of His life.  Where is your loyalty?  What teaches you?  The quotation from Isaiah is all about liberty from oppression, setting free the captives, giving sight to the blind, healing the brokenhearted, giving good news to the poor.  What really sets you free?  What would real freedom mean for these who reject Him in favor of what they already know?



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve"


 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.  And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had had ended, He was hungry.  And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."  But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."  And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan!  For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.  For it is written:
'He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,'
and
'In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"
 And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'"

Now  when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

- Luke 4:1-13

In  yesterday's reading, we read that as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John the Baptist, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire."  And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.  But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.  When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.  And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, "You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased."

 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.   There is a dual symbolism here in Jesus' exodus into the wilderness, says my study bible.  First, it fulfills the Old Testament type, in which Israel journeyed in the wilderness for forty years after its "baptism" in the Red Sea.  Second, it prefigures each individual's own journey through the fallen world after baptism as we struggle towards the Kingdom.  Let's note that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  The temptation happens while we are engaged in a spiritual journey; the struggle is part of the road in this world.

And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had had ended, He was hungry.  And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."  But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"  We note that every time Christ rebukes the devil, it is "with the truth and power of Scripture," as my study bible puts it.  As faithful, we become immersed in Scripture in order to resist and drive away temptation (Psalm 119:11).  Jesus' quotations are from Deuteronomy, and speak of loyalty to God.  Here, the devil challenges His relationship to the Father.  Here the quotation is from Deuteronomy 8:3, reminding us of the temptation in the wilderness of the Israelites.

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.  Therefore if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."  And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan!  For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"  Here Christ is tempted with the notion of authority.  This will come up again and again in His ministry, as the leadership in the temple will challenge Him, asking by what authority He does what He does.  But Jesus asserts His own authority as the stronger man, when He responds, "Get behind Me, Satan!"  Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13, asserting both the Father's and therefore His own authority.

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.  For it is written:  'He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,' and 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"  Satan also uses Scripture, but without understanding their truth nor their power.  (The Pharisees similarly use Scripture in error in John 7:52.)  My study bible says that knowing and quoting Scripture without true understanding is worthless and at best ultimately condemnable.  Outside of the work of the Spirit (at work in Holy Tradition), Scriptures are robbed of authority and truth.   The quotation is from Psalm 91:11-12.  We note also the malice and corrupt intent behind the quotation, another important indication that the use of Scripture will be false.

And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'"  Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16.  Again, similarities will occur as the religious leadership repeatedly demands a sign from Christ to prove the presence and power of God, just as in the wilderness the Israelites tempted God (Exodus 17:1-7).

Now  when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.  There will be additional opportune time(s) for temptation.  My study bible refers us to Luke 22:40-46 and Matthew 16:21-23, both times when Jesus is tested when He is facing the Cross.

 How do we think about temptation?  I feel this is not an easy question, because there are so many ways into which we can be deceived into thinking that something is good for us when it is not, or that something is bad for us when in fact it is the way God leads us.  If we look at the examples that Jesus faces, His temptation often comes from "normal" human impulses.  He's fasting as a kind of practice of resisting temptation, a form of devotedness to God.  But every time Jesus is tempted it is in some sense based on the challenge to His identity as Son, testing His relationship to the Father, His identity from the Father.  His hunger may be a source of temptation, but Satan's real goal is something much deeper than simply tempting Christ on the basis of human need or vulnerability.  Satan's real goal is destroying the authority of God, the power of faith and the relationships of all beings, even the Son, in the truth of God.  Challenges and temptations may come in all kinds of forms, but the basic challenge is really to God's authority in us, the heavenly authority conveyed through faith.  That's the real temptation.  The devil in today's reading uses worldly goals to tempt, to deceive, to blind, but the real aim is the disruption of relationship to God, the destruction of saving faith.  And I think that's what we need to remember when we think about what temptation is.  There are all kinds of things in life that we need, that are essentially good, or that are even beautiful in many ways.  But the real question is all about where we find the fullest life, the truest beauty, a depth of joy, and a peace that isn't reliant on what everybody else thinks and does.  All of those things are rooted in salvation, the relationship to God, the life of fullness and abundance Christ offers us.  Real temptations are those things that seek to rob us of that abundance, and joy, and peace, and beauty.  They are the things that ask us to give up what truly fills us, the inheritance of sonship, the authority that offers real leadership in all times.  That is a loss that is eternal -- and internal.  We are asked to give up who we truly are, just as Christ is tempted to do here.  Let us remember where our real treasures are.