Blessed with the Gift of Salvation

03-01-2020Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

When we hear or read the great stories of the Book of Genesis, we need to remember that there are always religious truths contained in these grace-filled stories. They are not about history and reality, but are about religious truths. In the story about the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were unable to resist the seduction of the serpent. Alas, they were tested and they failed miserably. We find in our Gospel passage of today a strong contrast in that, despite the three appealing circumstances (food for the hungry, sensationalism, and power), Jesus resisted Satan's tempting challenges. Also note that the selection from Paul's Letter to the Romans contrasts for us the differences in these two situations. The contrast is: one human's disobedience brought about sin and death and another human's obedience freed us from sin and death. Surely when thinking these truths over, we come to realize that we are blessed, even in our human condition, with the gift of salvation.

In our first passage, we learn that the serpent is clearly used to awaken the desire of Eve to eat. Neither one of the couple, Adam or Eve, could resist tasting the fruit of the forbidden tree. Their disobedience to God's command is considered to be the original source of sin in humankind. This story certainly at least symbolically locates original sin in our human willfulness.

We see a direct contrast in the Gospel passage because the tempter is Satan himself; there was no symbol involved. Satan offered Jesus three seductive tests. First was that Jesus had to have been starving because he had not consumed anything for 40 days. Satan offered what looked like a winning temptation. He offered food. But Jesus resisted. Satan then tried a very dramatic temptation and said to Jesus, "Throw yourself down from the temple roof and show everyone how God will save you." Jesus refused the second time. With love of money being the root of all evil, Satan then tempted Jesus with all the power and wealth of the world. When Jesus resisted and obeyed God for the third time, Satan could absolutely do no more and he left Jesus.

Paul offers an insight that is similar to these events in scripture. Both Adam and Eve and also Jesus are tempted, but Jesus resists. We learn in the first story that Adam "initiates" sin with disobedience and that darkness mysteriously permeates the world. We learn God is no longer directly accessible to people, and people fall into sinful ways without God. Then, in this era of the New Adam, a great transformation occurs. Now there is salvation through Christ. Jesus saves us from sin because he obeyed. He brings us new life; once again we have a direct connection with God. All has been restored.

Bear in mind that Satan in the story with Jesus made everything appear as "nothing special or it did not really matter." But it did matter and it was special. Two thousand years later, we're still being tempted at times because it does seem to matter or it is not really that special. What we are doing in fact is lowering our standards, the standards which Jesus showed us, for ourselves, our children, our loved ones. Why do we do this? The answer is for all kinds of reasons. We live in a time when instant gratification and personal pleasure are not expected, but required. If we have the money or the position, there are few things we say "no" to. We forget that we can only serve one God. Jesus knew this and Adam and Eve found out. Do we let other people or things become our masters?