Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Devil in the details: Lent 4

This Lent, our theme is finding the Devil in the details of the Sunday gospels. On the first two Sundays, it was easy since Satan was mentioned explicitly. Last week, we had to look harder to find the devil in the shadows, working to corrupt and obstruct the worship of God. We’ll also have to look carefully for him again.

Today’s gospel is the story of the miraculous feeding with loaves and fish. But note how it ends: “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”

The congregation became a mob who wanted Jesus to be the kind of Messiah they wanted, not the kind God the Father gave us. They wanted a revolutionary, a worldly king. God the Father wanted a willing servant, a sacrificial Lamb.

The devil has many tools in his arsenal to try to thwart God’s will. The other side of leading and luring one into temptation is pushing one toward sin with flattery and peer pressure.

Notice how Jesus responds. He does not stand around to hear the flattery and praise of adoring fans. He does not stay among them to be pushed into doing the wrong thing. Jesus retreats to the mountain —- to that place where he had so often found strength and comfort in solitude and prayer. Let us not listen to those who would stroke our ego and set us up for sin or who would force us into doing wrong.

Perhaps it was some of the same people in the crowd, calling him to be king, who would later call for his execution at the Praetorium. And how ironic that Jesus would end up taking the place of Barabbas (who actually had attempted a revolt) and was ultimately crucified between two of Barabbas’ disciples rather than Jesus' own disciples (whom the Lord had previously urged to take up their crosses and follow).

It happened the way it happened because Jesus ran from peer pressure and embraced the will of God the Father for us and for our salvation. Let us also flee from the diabolical pressure to reject God’s will.

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