1st Sunday in Lent
The Hebrew people were terrified of water. The psalms, for example, are full of water as a metaphor for danger. Whilst being a nation on the Mediterranean coast, they only had a navy under King Solomon. The story of the exile, with the destruction of all and the return of a small, faithful remnant to start afresh is well retold using an ancient flood story. God has been shooting the arrows of his flood at his people. Now God hangs up his bow in the clouds.
1 Peter 3:18-22
Verses 18 and 22 appear to come from a hymn or creed.
Verses 19-21 requires familiarity with the Book of Enoch. This book is quoted in Jude 1:14-15 and by many Church Fathers. It is held to be part of the Bible by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Genesis 6:1-2 reads: “When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose.” In Enoch’s understanding, the sinning angels had intercourse with humans who gave birth to giants. This sets up the original sin punished by the flood. God eternally imprisons the angels who continue to encourage sin on earth. Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24) is taken up into heaven where he tells the angels that they will be imprisoned (1 Enoch 6-21). In today’s text Jesus is another Enoch.
Jesus has left the safety of his kinship group and will establish another form of kinship group. Joining John the baptiser, Jesus has an experience of altered state of consciousness (cf. Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1). The Mediterranean reader of Mark, the first and here simplest Gospel account of the Temptations, would see the honour ascribed to Jesus at his baptism inevitably lead to that honour being tested. Honour requires acknowledgement by others – as there is no such acknowledgement within the story, the readers of Mark’s text are challenged to grant Jesus this honour.
John is Jesus’ mentor (cf. John 3:22; 4:2). Jesus picks up the leadership of John’s movement and transforms it when John is arrested. Jesus, of course, attracts followers to himself, posing a dilemma for John and John’s disciples (cf. Luke 7:18-23). This longer process is telescoped into todays summary. “Believe” is not to be understood as a merely mental excercise. It is be loyal to, be commited to.
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Don’t forget: each week I also publish a reflection on the collect/opening prayer.