February 23, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills
LENT 1/A (02/26/2023): Ps. 32:1-7; Genesis 3:1-21; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous (v. 19).
You have heard it said, “the road to perdition is paved with good intentions”; but St. Paul says, “Christ’s obedience has paved our way to God.” This is the “great reversal”, Christ’s obedience for restoring man to purity and knowledge of God.
Last Sunday St. Peter warned, “no prophesy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophesy ever came by the impulse of man …” (2 Peter 1:20b, 21). Peter was referencing man’s “enthusiastic” nature, the wellspring of our disobedience over God’s word.
A religious enthusiast is one who engages God’s word through, human reason, personal light, experiential filters, emotion, and extra-biblical insights. Enthusiasm in matters of religion distracts from our Christian calling to poverty of spirit, mourning over sin, meekness, hunger and thirst for righteousness, a merciful and pure heart, peace with God, and bearing-up under persecution for faith’s sake (Mt. 5:3-11).
The contrast in attitude and action between enthusiast religion and orthodox liturgical bodies is patent during Lent. Archetypical enthusiasts are: Satan, who, in Adam’s place, led the woman from God’s word, contended with God over Job’s righteousness, and bandied Scripture with Jesus in the desert;
St. Peter, believing insight granted from the Father of Jesus’ identity gave license to dispute Jesus’ mission (Mt. 16:22, 23), and on Mt. Transfiguration gratuitously and ignorantly inserted himself into heaven’s conversation (17:4);
From Adam and the woman, we inherit our disposition of enthusiasm. As for the papacy M. Luther charged that its pretense of independent authority apart from Scripture, makes that office the church’s chief enthusiast (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-9). But Christ is God’s incarnate word and the fulness of his revelation for our salvation; Scripture is christologically self-interpreted; thus, our Reformation confession, “Sola Scriptura”.
From “the Beginning” God delivered his word to the woman by Adam. But Satan insinuated a different word about our God-likeness for “knowing good and evil”. To know evil necessitates we experience and participate in it; with the result sin’s self-motivated disobedience is consequent.
Observe the progression of man’s Fall: Satan questioned the woman about God’s dietary regulation from Adam; at first, she gave a correct account, not to eat the fruit; but then she, added, “and not touch [the tree], lest you die” (Gen. 3:4a). By altering God’s word, she created what lawyers call a “negative pregnant”; the command “not to eat the fruit” became pregnant with the possibility that “not touching the tree” would vitiate the entire command if only the fruit were eaten.
Loosed from restraint not to eat, the woman could rationalize consuming what seemed “good for eating and wisdom”, and to doubt God’s clear injunction. Satan, exacerbated her doubt, becoming less subtle; he urged the woman to reject God’s word entirely, “You will not surely die” (v. 4b), rather, she should accede to the “lust of [her] eyes” (v. 6).
Satan was offering the woman, what was not his to bestow, the prerogative to establish standards of right and wrong; good and evil, according to her personal lights. The woman explained her new understanding of God’s word to her pastor-husband; it seemed to make sense, at which Adam surrendered his authority over God’s word in favor of the woman’s insight; failing a son’s primary metric, filial trust in the Father.
In the end, Adam would prove faithful pastor in the exercise of his naming prerogative with a gospel appellation, calling the woman “mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:20).
On Ash Wednesday the church applied ashes to you, providing a visual, verbal, and tactile reminder in the “secret place” of our communion (Mt. 6: 6, 17) of death’s separation, “remember, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19c).
Adam’s declaration of grace to the woman of God’s gracious character would in Truth trump sin and our participation in “knowing evil”. Jesus continues to pray for grace, saying to his disciples, “And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3).
Knowledge of God comes outside us; by the knowledge of him who came out of heaven, the man Jesus Christ, who is the Word, Speech, Thought and Conversant of God. Following the Resurrection, Peter would reflect on our enthusiastic inclination saying, “we have something more sure [than the Mountain-top experience], the prophetic word … knowing this first of all, that no prophesy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:19, 20).
With Peter, James, and John we have descend Transfiguration’s “holy mountain” to continue the road to glory, Jesus’ crucifixion. At the cross Jesus became God’s new tabernacling place with men. In his crucified flesh, men cannot approach God as religious enthusiasts; rather in the joy of forgiveness as repentant Eucharistics.
The HS led Jesus into the wilderness, recapitulating Israel’s failed desert experience. Jesus weakened was confronted by satanic blandishments; yet steadfast of God’s word, Jesus proved true Son in Adam’s, Israel’s, and our place. Jesus was tempted to sate his hunger by turning stones to bread, but responded, “It is written …” (Mt. 4:4a).
Jesus, knowing himself “Beloved” and “Son of God” (v. 17) remained faithful even at his Father’s abandon in bearing the sin of the world (27:46). Like Isaac’s binding by his father Abraham, Jesus trusted God to be “God … of the living” (Lk. 20:38) in the Resurrection.
In Christ the church possesses God’s word in Truth. We proclaim Jesus’ crucified glory through baptismal lives. By faith we reject any personal enlightenment that urges a glory apart from the cross; all else is enthusiasm. Amen.