February 21, 2024

Jesus the Son of God

Prayer for Understanding

God of wisdom, send Your Spirit to prepare our hearts and minds to hear Your Word. Teach us to see You more clearly and love You more deeply as we follow Christ, Your Living Word. Amen

A few days ago, I read a dialogue forum about the observance of Lent. One person wrote, “I was at a luncheon with a colleague from work who turned away a delicious peach tart with the words "I gave up sweets for Lent." She is a member of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, which as far as I can tell is analogous to the liberal PCUSA. It all sounds very Romish to me.”

And another person commented, “I think it is a bit Romish. I also think it diminishes Christ's sacrifice.”

What do you think? Why is the Lenten season significant? Or is it significant?

Lent is a season of spiritual preparation in which we remember Christ’s temptation in the desert, the last week of Jesus’ life, suffering, and death. Many Christians around the world use the 40 days of Lent as a time to draw closer to the Lord through various spiritual disciplines, such as reading a daily devotional, praying through a Lenten calendar, giving generously, fasting, repentance, giving up certain luxuries, and so on.

In the Old Testament, Moses went to Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights to pray and fast before receiving the Ten Commandments. Likewise, Prophet Elijah went into the desert and mountains for forty days and nights to fast and pray "until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God" which was Mt. Sinai, and "the word of the Lord came to him."

In today’s text, after being baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit sent Jesus out into the desert, and he fasted and prayed for forty days.

The Christians in the Middle Ages observed Lent very seriously while fasting. In AD 339, Athanasius of Alexandria, one of the early Church Fathers wrote that the Lenten fast was a forty-day fast that "the entire world" observed. Saint Augustine, a well-known early theologian, wrote that: "Our fast at any other time is voluntary; but during Lent, we sin if we do not fast."

However, the Reformers objected to Lent because people observed it as part of penitential practices that were understood as good works. They believed that they could earn God’s favor through good works.

By contrast, the Reformers, as Apostle Paul said, argued that we are saved by grace through faith and not by our own good works. We can’t earn God’s favor by denying ourselves or giving up certain luxuries, pleasures, or conveniences during Lent.

So, while observed for centuries by Catholics, for Protestants, Lenten traditions and practices have evolved over time.

In recent years though, Lent has resurged in importance among mainline Protestant churches. In a time that some call the “post-Christian era,” Christians have taken the season of Lent to reflect on their need for the cross and to prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. For all faithful observers, Lent is about Jesus and what He did.

As we participate in the season of spiritual preparation, we are reminded of God's amazing grace through Jesus Christ. As we are reminded of the story of Jesus, as we focus on Jesus and on what He has done for us, we do what Jesus would have us do, being reshaped into something more like Christ.

Whether we observe Lent or not, what really matters is our embrace of Christ crucified and the empty tomb. And today, let us look at Jesus’ baptism and temptation through the eyes of Mark.

We studied before that the Gospel of Mark is the shortest book and most action-packed book in the Gospels. ‘What He did’ was more emphasized than ‘what He said’.

V 9 “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” When John the Baptist was doing his ministry in the desert near the Jordan River the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him and were baptized. He proclaimed the message of judgment and repentance.

And one day, Jesus appeared. It was his very first public appearance. Mark doesn’t tell us about the genealogy or the birth story of Jesus. Right into the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

One of the major themes running through Mark’s Gospel is that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. That identity is proclaimed boldly in the events surrounding the baptism of Jesus.

Why did Jesus need to be baptized? John’s baptism was the baptism of repentance. Jesus was sinless. He didn’t have to be baptized by John. Mark doesn’t tell us, but in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.

He identified with sinners. His baptism symbolized the sinners’ baptism into the righteousness of Christ - dying with Him and rising free from sin - and being able to walk in the newness of life. His perfect righteousness would fulfill all the requirements of the Law for sinners who could never hope to do so on their own.

Moreover, the perfect embodiment of the triune God - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit - revealed and was active in Jesus’ baptism.

The testimony directly from heaven of the Father’s pleasure with the Son, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am well pleased,” and the descending of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is a beautiful picture of the trinitarian nature of God.

It also depicts the work of the Triune God in God’s redemptive plan. All the glorious truth of the mercy of God through Jesus Christ is on display at His baptism.

The second scene of this story occurs immediately after Jesus’ baptism, and it is kind of unexpected. The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where He was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

What I find fascinating in this account is that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. This reminds us that not everything God leads us to do is going to be easy.

In fact, sometimes we will be led into the wilderness—but those times are not meant to destroy us, but to strengthen us, to help us find our strength in Him.

Though Mark doesn’t give many details about Jesus’ temptation, he does mention that Jesus was out among the wild animals and that angels took care of Him. Why mention wild animals?

It could’ve been to describe the inhospitable wilderness just like the wilderness the Israelites journeyed for forty years. It could’ve been to tell us how the wild animals allied with Satan to test Jesus.

Whatever Mark’s intention was, it is true that the 40 days in the wilderness was not a simple task for Jesus. Some people might say that Jesus could do it because He was God. But remember, Jesus was fully human as well - He felt hungry, thirsty, sleepy, upset, angry, sad, and tempted just like us.

The following verse says that John the Baptist was imprisoned. Then, Jesus went back to His hometown, Galilee, and proclaimed the Good News of God. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, Jesus proclaimed. Repent and believe the Good News!

Last week during our Bible study class, we talked about how our week was. Most of us shared how their Valentine’s Day was. One person said, “Every day is Valentine’s Day. We are grateful for each other always.” It is true. Every day should be Valentine’s Day.

Likewise, each day, we should repent our sins before God and be reminded of the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ our Savior. And every day, we should proclaim the Good News to our loved ones, at work, in our community, and wherever we are.

But in our daily lives, we sometimes become numb to sin - insensitive words, arrogant attitudes, selfish desires, unforgiveness, ungratefulness, greed, indifference towards others, being judgmental, or not sharing the Good News of Salvation with our neighbours.

I had strange incidents last week. I went to a washroom, and I found a trail of poop on the washroom floor. The washroom is usually quite clean, but I don’t know how it happened.

I went home that night and found a piece of poop beside my bed. It wasn’t me. It was my cat. She didn’t clean herself properly. In one day, I saw two poop trails.

It was a good lesson. Because of the small piece of poop, the whole washroom and my bedroom were not clean anymore. It was smelly as well.

Most of the time, we seem like good people. But as little sin as a small white lie can make us sinful. Before the presence of the Holy God, we are just sinful people. None of us are sinless. We needed the Cross. We need Jesus every day.

Jesus, the Son of God came to us, was baptized, was tempted, and declared, “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent, and believe in the Good News!”

As my friend said, every day should be like the Lenten season, remembering the life of Jesus and becoming more like Jesus. But let us take this season as a gift. We do not become Catholics or diminish Christ’s sacrifice because we participate in the season as a reminder of who Jesus is.

Go back to the time when you didn’t know Jesus personally - How your life was before Jesus came to your life, how you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord of your life, how you were baptized in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, how God adopted you as His beloved child, how your life has transformed since then, how you’ve been sharing the love and grace of Christ to people around you.

Friends, in this season of Lent, reflect on Jesus’s life and follow His journey to the cross. And let us follow Him with our lives.

Let us pray.

Abba Father, teach us and remind us that we become righteous before Your Holy presence only through our faith in Christ Jesus Your Son. Help us proclaim the Good News of Salvation to the people around us. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.