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The Second Sunday in Lent (2/28/2021)

Gen. 17:1-7, 15, 16; Ps. 22:22-31; Rom. 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38

Suffer, [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again (v. 31).

Following baptism Jesus was driven into the wilderness to suffer a forty-day penitential mortification in place of national Israel whose sonship he entered.

In the background of Jesus’ fidelity to God during satanic temptations is the promise of a new creation, a new Eden arising from new Temple worship that waters the desert places in the NT. Angels attended Jesus with wild beasts, portent of heaven’s reunion with the wild heart of man (Mk. 1:13).

Last Sunday, we observed, Jesus, “Aqedah”, God’s obedientSuffering Servant in place of national Israel; promised “provision” of Mt. Moriah for Abraham and his offspring forever (Gen. 22:14).

Jesus, victorious over Satan, departed his desert foothold in the world, God’s warrior proclaiming gospel reign, beginning in Galilee, the outer reaches of the Land. Today Jesus, and disciples are in Gentile territory; it is time their Teacher examine what was learned on mission.

Torah school has only one subject, Jesus; each course advancing on the former lessons. The crowds think Jesus is a prophet, and of course he is, but that is hardly adequate to discipleship.

We, too are Jesus’ students. We love it when the Teacher’s question hints at the answer. Jesus’ question of his identity employed, the Greek “einai” for “being”; that is the hint, especially in translation.

Consider what the disciples had already learned from experience. Part and parcel of Jesus’ proclamation of God’s dominion in the world was a relentless attack on Satan’s faux kingdom, extravagantly exorcizing demons, left and right.

Jesus trod-over the abode of demon’s, the abyss, calming chaotic wind and wild wave; he taught Scripture to erring scribes and Pharisees; and healed the physical wreckage of human sin.

All these are reminiscent of a new exodus out of the wilderness capitalized in the feeding of 5000 Jews and 4000 Gentiles with “bread of angels” (Ps. 78:25) as occurred out of Egypt to suggest a coming communion among all men.

Before their midterm exam, the Apostles would have been wise to consider Jesus’ most recent sign, healing a blind man at Bethsaida. Jesus spat, applying the moisture to the man’s eyes, laid hands and asked, “Do you see anything?” The man saw only partially and unclearly. Jesus touched the man’s eyes, fully restoring his sight (Mk. 8:22 ff.).

Given their history, Jesus asks the test question, “Who do you say that I Am?” Peter piped up, “You are the Christ” (v. 29b). Peter did not fully comprehend the significance of his witness; yet it was a “C+” or “B” grade, sufficient to advance the college onto, “Messiah 102”; so Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (v. 31).

How could this be! The expectation of national Israel was that “Christ” would glorify God by aligning the temple priesthood to rid its worldly oppressors, especially Rome; anything less was defeat, a satanic victory.

Now, within the band of apostolic brothers, the thought must have insinuated, perhaps Jesus, as claimed by the scribes, was only another false-messiah doing the work of Beelzebul (Mk. 3:22 ff.).

The Apostles were at faith’s tipping point. Jesus confronted the crisis; rebuking Peter, for getting-out ahead of his Rabbi and being Satan’s agent-provocateur. Peter, for his extravagant confession, was first among apostolic equals; but his leadership was fraught by wild swings from faith to apostasy, that would later culminate in denial of Jesus; Peter’s volatile faith makes him perhaps most like us.

Jesus’ “Messiah 102”, did not start as auspiciously as did “Messiah 101”; still, in the end the Apostles would comprehend the sign of Bethsaida’s blind man, that God enlightens of Christ in stages.

You and I do not come to this place of God’s Presence one time only, then go our own way. Setting our “minds on the things of God and not the things of man” (Mk. 8:33) we advance from faith to faith, stage to stage, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day.

Why? Because everything of Jesus’ warfare is counter intuitive to our sin nature. Jesus, in an act of new creation watered the blind man’s eyes. Jesus’ creative word is applied to us, abiding in his word; elsewise “a different gospel” and “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) insinuates.

Our enemies are not the corrupted things and conditions of the world; rather God’s enemies are our enemies: “principals, rulers, powers, authorities, dominions, and angels,” (Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 3:22) who rage against God and his Anointed (Ps. 2:1, 2).

Like Peter, we are intuitively horrified at Jesus’ march to the cross; even more, we instinctually desire fleeing our Captain (Mk. 14:10, 29-31, 50). Jesus warns against being scandalized by his suffering; that his crucified and risen body is God’s new Temple associated, not with the old priesthood, but with the Baptized priesthood of believers (1Pet. 2:5, 9), “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (8:35).

Jesus teaches counter-intuitive heavenly warfare. We are like “first responders”. Love is sacrificial, for a lost and dying world, by which God defeats his enemies. When all run from the burning building, schoolhouse carnage, or other evil; in the face of sin the Baptized die to self, run to the sound of battle for love of the Lord and brothers his “armor”, with only the sword of the Spirit, his word (Eph. 6:17).

When a person flees conflict, his back is exposed to the enemy; but in confronting sin, Satan, and death in Baptism your Life is lived victorious in the same death and resurrection of our Captain who leads our way.

Jesus is God’s war Lord, teaching the kingship of cosmic battle for God’s dominion in this and the new creation. At God’s word, Satan is defeated by Jesus his “Aqedah Sacrifice”. We, baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, against every sinful instinct, bind ourselves to the cross’ scandal, a seeming shameful defeat.

Temptation wants us flee to “another glory” to preserve our corrupted flesh; but in faith we are strengthened by stages, trusting in the Lord to safely move us to the final conflagration.

The Baptized run in the direction of our crucified Lord, the Son of man in whom there is either judgment, or Life in his flesh from God’s altar. Amen.


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