The First Sunday in Lent (2/21/2021)

Gen. 22:1-18; Ps. 25:1-10, 14; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15

Offering, And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (v. 7)

Christians know the answer; this is arguably the most poignant of OT passages. Translations label the Reading, “KJV-Abraham Commanded to Offer Isaac”, “NJB-Abraham’s Sacrifice”, “NKJV-Abraham’s Ultimate Obedience”, and “ESV-The Sacrifice of Isaac”; all emphasizing Abraham’s faith; and this is fine.

Jewish commentators, on the other hand, focus on Isaac’s acceptance of his father’s will, designating the passage, “the Aqedah” or “the Binding of Isaac”.

Jesus’ Baptism and crucifixion accords with the “Aqedah” of Isaac. Jesus is God’s obedient Son in whom he is pleased. Jesus at Baptism and Gethsemane accepts sacrificial binding as God’s Lamb answering Isaac’s question, “Behold, the (HS’s) fire and the wood (of the cross)”; it is Jesus who is God’s Lamb for the burnt offering.

Isaac is Scripture’s singular man chastised by God; prophetic of Jesus whose blood sprinkles the entrance of our NT house for the pass-over of death.

St. James distinguishes, divine “testing” from demonic “temptation”. Satan and our fleshly nature internally conspire, tempting to sin. God, tempts no one, but allows testing by external worldly conditions. To this end Scripture teaches, “[D]o not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:5, 6).

Jesus’ Baptism begins the new age succeeding the old aeon; it marks a sea-change for discerning God’s “wisdom” (James 1:5), that Jesus alone is God’s human instrument worthy to oppose Satan’s claim of authority in the world and to usher-in God’s new creation.

Jesus, rising out of the Jordan and the HS descending on him opened heaven. The Spirit’s hovering-descent, as at the first creation, commenced the new creation at the Father’s word to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”. Jesus, in water and Spirit, reunited heaven and earth after ages of separation buffered by layers of the OT law and animal sacrifices.

The Spirit then “drove” Jesus into the wilderness to confront God’s Adversary claiming “dominion” in the world. There Jesus commenced to be “Aqedah”, the binding of a Man so profound as to please God for restoration of all who receive his offering.

It was Adam with the woman, not an angel, whom God called “son” (Luke 3:38b), assigning them dominion on earth. However, with the Fall, heavenly “powers” and “devils” pretended to the grant of man’s authentic authority (Gen. 4:5, 6; Luke 4:5).

Later God would call national Israel “son” (Ex. 4:22, 23). But at his Baptism Jesus, the singular Man, entered the son’s office, new Israel in place of failed Israel to that a son’s service (9:1). Jesus, in the wilderness reprised Israel’s faithless forty-year journey, and by a forty-day fast of repentance trusted in God for all.

The desert for Jesus was “training day”, a boot camp of privation and testing in the Spirit until Satan came to engage the Man, covered in the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11), but only armed with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (v. 17). St. Mark does not iterate the temptations of Jesus; yet he is implicitly victorious, proving himself the Man stronger than Satan (Mt. 12:29).

By Jesus’ victory, the new creation has begun. At his birth Jesus was surrounded by domestic beasts; in the desert he was in the presence of wild animals, served by angels, indicating dominion of the new Man; that on the Last Day the wilderness too will be restored as new Eden.

After Satan’s defeat, Jesus re-entered the Land promised to Israel. On JB’s arrest, Jesus proclaimed humanity’s dominion in earth, laying-down the gauntlet before Satan and men; asserting his Father’s word, rule, and reign in the world, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15).

The new creation in the new aeon would now advance to the place of God’s completed “Aqedah” victory, where Jesus would be exulted on the cross in place of Isaac, the Lamb of God for a burnt offering; giving over the HS for man’s new begetting in the Resurrection, when for the first time since the Fall, mankind would participate of the fruit of the tree of Life.

In Baptism, Life is gift; there is no question of earning status as children of God; still as with all weaning, there is process that includes training and testing for sonship.

Christians distinguish the wisdom of new Eden from that of the world’s wilderness. Against all appearances new Eden is where we experience chastisement for making us like God’s Son; as Jesus applied to himself, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20b). But in new Eden, we continue on to the goal, participating in the church’s Eucharist wilderness feeding (Mk 6:30 ff., & 8:1 ff.).

In Lent, we advance in formation (Rev. 7:5-8) following Jesus’ forty-day fast to the old creation’s desolate place: Good Friday’s “Aqedah”, Jesus, the wood-bound Man, suffering in the fire of the Spirit, drained of blood, crying out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34).

Jesus, the “Aqedah” of God reveals the old creation’s end; more importantly, our baptismal participation in God’s reign in Christ assures our Abrahamic faith: believing God, “kills to make alive” and “new”.

These forty-days in Lent, we are being formed under the cruciform rule of Christ, to “remain steadfast under trial, for when [we have] stood the test [we] will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

The “wisdom” imparted by God, drives us, by the Sprit, from the world to serve him in new Eden. To all the world, our sojourn appears a place to be avoided. But for the church, new Eden is where we find God reforming us to the likeness of his beloved Son.

In Christ we are eucharistically nourished from strength to strength to withstand Satan’s false claim of rule, who would entice our weak flesh. God permits testing for faith’s sake, binding us to Christ, his one faithful Man. In Christ, we are given a faith, that looks to the resurrection for new and spotless flesh before God. Amen.