The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
This is the Gospel of Christ
This is the first Sunday of Lent.
We talk about Lent being a time for self-examination and reflection, don’t we?
It’s kind of like taking your car in for a mid-winter check-up,
Let’s face it, the weather has been pretty bad, and the old car has been out in the snow and ice, and it’s not performing up to scratch.
Like our lives, at times.
We have gone through some ups and downs, some trials, some stress, and maybe we are not firing on all our cylinders.
So maybe a spiritual check-up wouldn’t be out of line.
I hope though, that your spiritual check-up doesn’t go the same as most of my automobile check-ups have gone.
You put your car in for the special that is advertised. Not a bad price, just to keep things running well – change the oil and filter, flush the radiator and refill it – check the belts and fluid levels – what could be simpler?
Until you go to pick up your car.
The service man looks at the worksheet from the shop, punches a number into the computer and it starts to print… and print… and print.
Either it is printing some student’s essay or you are getting one big bill – again.
There was a lot more wrong with the car than you thought.
The personal check up can be like that too.
Let me see now, I attend church on Sunday – well most Sundays – well at least once a month.
Then I say grace at meals. Well, when the kids are there. You want to teach them to be thankful, don’t you? Then I try to read a bit from the scriptures each day, although it gets to be once a week, or even once a month, if I even open the bible at all.
And I try to be honest in everything, but…..come to think about it ….I haven’t really been straight up honest……and when I think about it, I did do a bit of backroom manipulation to get that job ahead of old Smitty – he’s too old to do it anyway… and come to think about it, I haven’t really been open and honest with the wife – not totally, that is….and it’s like when you pick up your car, isn’t it?
It all begins to add up.
And you begin to wish you had never looked at it.
What the heck, it’s impossible to live a perfect life, so why bother?
I used to think, when I was a callow youth, that the churches made up rules that were impossible to keep, so you could never feel perfect.
Let’s face it, if you were perfect you wouldn’t need to come to church, would you now?
There was method in their madness.
Well I’ve grown a lot since then, and I know that no human being can live a perfect life.
Except the man Jesus. We are told that there was no sin in him. He was perfect. But he was a man, and Satan figured it was worth a try.
So the Son of God was tempted, as we are.
The Gospel of Mark doesn’t spell out how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, but the other gospels do.
He was offered the kingdoms of earth.
How did he manage to resist that one. Human beings have killed and maimed, and died because men have dreamt of ruling the world.
How is it that when people sucked up to him it didn’t turn his head?
How is it that when people said wonderful things about him, he didn’t use the power that he had, to set himself up as a king or something.
How is it that when people condemned him, he didn’t falter?
How is it that minutes before he died, hanging on that cross, he asked his Father to forgive those who had done that to him?
Because who he was, was not dictated by power, or by wealth, or by reputation. No. He knew who he was. When he was baptised, in the River Jordan, God told him,” You are my beloved.”
That is how Jesus defined himself – as the beloved of God. That is who he was and he would let nothing take that from him.
When he rode into Jerusalem, he was greeted by adoring crowds.
He could easily have seen himself as a king. He could have led them in a crusade against the Romans.
He didn’t because he knew who he was.
Days later, people began to conspire against him. To besmirch his reputation.
He wasn’t being called a king now. He was being called a threat to the peace, a rabble-rouser.
How is it that this didn’t destroy his sense of well-being?
He knew who he was.
Soon, the crowds, egged on by those who conspired against Jesus, called for his death.
Surely this must have shaken him?
No, he knew who he was. Beloved of God.
In our own baptism, and in our own surrender to him as Lord, we are acknowledged as beloved of God, We are God’s children, his sons and daughters.
There are acronyms, printed on bracelets, and tee shirts, and bumper stickers. One is WWJD. It used to mean, “What would Jesus do?” Nowadays, it also means, “What would Jesus drive?” It is meant to draw our attention to what SUV’s are doing to the environment.
I can give you another. WWA BOGD.
What Would A Beloved Of God Do?
See, I think Lent is a time to reflect on our relationship to God, and to be defined by that, as Jesus was, and let that relationship direct what we do.
Should you cut out chocolate for Lent?
W W A B O G D
I think a beloved of God would do everything in his or her power to maintain a fit body, so as to be able to serve God better. If that means resisting the temptation to eat harmful foods, or overeat, then so be it.
If we define our selves as beloved of God, as Jesus did, then questions such as that are academic.
It becomes merely a question of what a beloved of God would do doesn’t it?
I tell you, that covers everything. And everybody!
I read a story some time ago that said football great Bubba Smith had sworn off booze.
Not drinking it!
Bubba never did drink, but he sold a ton of beer by making cute television ads. Not anymore. Bubba kicked the habit.
He said, “I loved doing the commercials, but I didn’t like the effect it was having on a lot of little people. I’m talking about people in school. Kids would come up to me on the street and recite lines from my commercials. Verbatim. They knew the lines better than I did.
“It was scary. Kids start to listen to things you say – you ought to tell ’em something that is the truth.
“Doing those commercials, it’s like telling everybody in school,’ Hey it’s cool to have a Lite beer.’ I’d go to places like Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale, on spring breaks, (as a spokesman for the brewery) and it was scary to see how drunk those kids were. It was fun talking to the fans, until you see people lying on the beach because they can’t make it back to their rooms – or tearing up the city.
“As the years go by you stop compromising your principles.”
It seems like Bubba Smith had a spiritual check-up and saw something that needed fixing.
Things come up, don’t they? Temptations. Maybe not to make very lucrative beer commercials, but things come up that are tempting.
Maybe asking the question, “What would a beloved of God do?” would guide us in making decisions about such issues, such temptations.
And God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved and I am pleased with you.”
As imperfect as we are, God could be could be saying that to you and me.