What is broken in us, Christ restores

Lent 1A: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-21; Matthew 4:1-12

All that we have broken, Christ restores. All that is broken in us, because of sin, Christ restores. And he does this because he knows who he is before God -- and in him, before God, we know who we are.

Today's gospel reading brings to mind the Christ hymn of Philippians. "He did not look on equality with God as something to be seized, but being found in the form of a servant, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death." The prototypes didn't have this feature -- Eve could be tricked. Eve could be made to want more, and Adam was right there with her. But of course, all that story explains is that we don't have that feature. Which you know -- it's quite obvious at a casual glance around our world. We don't do humble well, unless there's no other choice. The word has a sour taste to it. Humility is always very close to humiliation. We want better.

But what is broken in us, Christ restores. We wouldn't bear up well under the temptations we see here. My wife and I keep at least two kinds of bread in the house at all times -- a loaf of industrial wheat bread, and a loaf of something better. There are few things as tasty, in my book, as a nice piece of sourdough toast, lightly buttered and spread with peanut butter. My mouth is watering just to think about it! And I get cranky if I fast for 12 hours. In the fullness of time spent fasting, Jesus was pretty hungry. The rocks were looking good right about then. "Solve your own problem -- you have the ability to make that into a boule of sourdough. It would certainly be the most delicious bread for miles around. What are you waiting for?" Maybe that's a little too obvious. "Gee, buddy. You look awful! I'd give you something to eat, but I don't have anything left. Wait -- aren't you the Son of God? Can't you do something about this?"

But this temptation isn't about fixing myself a harmless snack. What is messianic about me fixing my own hunger? Life doesn't just come from food. Our life can't be built on me feeding myself. "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." What is broken in us, Christ restores, and the Word of God feeds 5,000 people from a few loaves and some fish. That's messianic.

As to the second, I haven't jumped off the top of the Capitol building, but I bet it'd be a great stunt. Especially because nobody else knows about the whole angel trick. Wouldn't work for me, obviously, but I have plenty of stories from my time in the hardware store about cavalier attitudes around casually dangerous power equipment. When I was in the Boy Scouts, we took a trip into the mountains to learn climbing and rappelling. Now, heights scare the socks off me, but not everyone feels that way. One kid really liked the rappelling bit, and kept going back up to do it again -- got so comfortable up there he forgot to lock his carabiner. It's a good thing the guide caught it -- that's a hell of a way to come down the mountain, when the rope slips out. But what if you knew someone was going to catch you, no matter what? And this is no mountain out in the backwoods -- this is Jerusalem. This is the Temple. This might be the greatest news story around, and plenty of people to see it. A great way to announce yourself as the messiah, don't you think?

But what's so messianic about self-aggrandizing publicity stunts? The world has more of those than it needs, and without claiming to be shows of God's power. "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." And again, what is broken in us, Christ restores. And when he next comes to the Temple mount, it is with great popular acclamation for healing and preaching and teaching -- with a little hope of insurrection mixed in, to be sure. But what does he do? Jesus walks around with his disciples, and talks to people -- and sure, he gets a little irritated at the merchandising, but even that is an object lesson for his teaching. He goes about doing the kingdom of God in spite of everything. Because the people's hope in him is based on their need for salvation. Because he really does heal our brokenness. That's messianic.

As to the third temptation, just last week we saw Jesus take his disciples to a very high mountaintop. And they fell down in worship at the sight of Jesus transfigured, with Moses and Elijah standing there. I've heard years of Transfiguration sermons that talk about "the mountaintop experience". Today, Jesus says to the tempter, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, "Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him."" Last week, his disciples said to him, "Hey, let's stay up here, and we'll make booths, and we can just hang out here in the holy." But God had another idea: "This is my son, the beloved. Listen to him." And what is broken in us, Jesus restores: he takes us back down the mountain, back down into the world where it is impossible to believe of ourselves that we're radiant and glowing and cool all by ourselves. Because what's messianic about that? No, Jesus takes us back down into the world, and gets back to work healing our brokenness. Restoring us and raising us to life.

In Jesus Christ, we know who we are. Before God, in Christ, we are people who have no need to artificially multiply our bread -- except to feed our neighbors. People who have no need to "prove" God's great goodness (and our own) -- except by living that goodness toward others. People who have no need to doubt that God will give us all things, and who can therefore go about meeting the world's needs. Christ fulfills in us everything that we lack, and the grace of God overflows from each and every one of us, moving out to restore the whole world.


Popular Posts