The Second Sunday of Lent
Sing along/listen to:
The Collect, Readings and Prayers can be found here:
Sing along/listen to:
‘You are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things’ words of Jesus to Peter, in our gospel reading.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Expectations. What are your expectations? We’ve heard a lot about expectations in these last days and weeks. When can we expect the shops to open? When can we expect to meet our friends? When can we expect to go to the pub? When can we expect distancing to end? And we’ve heard of more personal expectations: the Prime Minister has not met my expectations, the doctor has not met my expectations and so on…
There are two episodes of expectation within the Gospel today, one belongs to the disciples, and the other, to Jesus himself.
What did the disciples expect of their friend, Jesus? Over these last weeks, we’ve heard his call to repentance, his proclamation that the Kingdom, his instructions on prayer; and, we have experienced his glory at the Transfiguration, with the appearance of Moses and Elijah, where his identity as the Beloved of the Father was revealed. In the minds of the disciples, they were great expectations. They had come to think that it was Jesus, who would lead them to their ‘future’ – as the we’ve just heard in the acclamation. Why? Because, they recognised that it was he ‘whom prophets longed and hoped for’, it was he, who would lead them to their ‘freedom’, and give them ‘life’.
They expected that he was the Messiah; the one who would fulfil the promise to Abraham, as we heard in the first reading that he would renew the covenant and make it ‘everlasting’.
We heard in the scriptures, that ‘Kings shall come’ from Abraham. And from the Psalm that Kingship comes from the Lord, whom ‘people would bow down in worship’. So, the expectation of a King, to seal the covenant of Abraham. How would the King, from the line of Abraham go about his mission of renewal?
The expectation of the disciples was that as the Messiah of Israel, would be a great leader, a mighty King, a warrior of the Lord. They expected him to redeem the people of Israel, delivering them from oppression, beginning God’s reign on earth.
From the pages of the scriptures, we hear that the Messiah would have four main roles, there were four expectations on his shoulders:
1. He would gather the people.
2. He would cleanse the Temple.
3. He would deal with the enemies of Israel.
4. He would reign, as King of the nations.
One, the Messiah would draw all people together. What has Jesus done? He has gathered people together. Jesus, in gathering the twelve disciples, fulfils the first expectation of the Messiah. The disciples represent each of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel, all the peoples. And now, fwe hear in the gospel that Jesus’ message is for a larger audience: ‘if any want to follow me’. Any. His gathering is to be extended, ‘to the ends of the earth’ as the Psalm reminds us. The Messiah was to gather all people, everywhere.
So far, so good, expectations are being met. But, what about the cleansing of the temple? We’ll hear more about this next week, as we move ever closer to Holy Week, but suffice for now, that Jesus’ fundamental message has been that of repentance – as we heard last week. Repentance puts us back on the right path – it cleanses… Further boxes are ticked.
What about the enemies of Israel? What about his reign as King? It is here that the expectations of Jesus and the expectations of the disciples diverge.
The disciples understood that the Messiah would defeat the enemies of Israel by force. That he would lead them into battle as a warrior, restoring Israel by conflict, vanquishing the occupying Romans and beginning a wonderful new era of justice and peace, and flourishing of faith, a new Kingdom.
And then Jesus says to them, ‘openly’, that he will face rejection, that he must suffer, and die. Jesus shifts their expectations in ways they can barely comprehend, so they may even be ‘ashamed’ of their association with him. He will not take Jerusalem by force, there will be no ‘battle’ against the Roman occupiers, there will be no restoration of the Temple of old. He will do a new thing. He will defeat the enemies of Israel not through politics, but through passion – he will reign not as war lord, but as the Lord of love. He himself will become the new Temple.
His expectations and those of the disciples differ. What are our expectations of the Messiah? What are his expectations of us?
Our expectations will vary, perhaps we too feel like Peter, that the suffering of Jesus is difficult to comprehend. Perhaps we feel it could’ve been achieved differently? Perhaps we reject it all together, and make Jesus simply into a moral teacher who shows us how to live good lives. Whatever our expectations are, Jesus demands that we place our minds on ‘divine things’, on the things that God has ordained – not what we could conjure up in our own minds. And what God has ordained is this: that the Messiah would fulfil all four expectations – gathering, cleansing, defeating and reigning; and he would do it through his suffering, his death and resurrection.
Jesus, the Messiah, places expectations on us too. I’m going to leave you with two today, to think about how you are fulfilling them in your lives…’
1. How are you gathering people to the Lord in faith, calling them to follow him, so they may be his ‘descendants’ as we are?
2. How are you calling people to repentance? Are you repenting yourselves, as Jesus commands so that you may know the power of his cross, and the glory of his resurrection?
Think on these things. Not human, but divine. And pledge during this season of Lent, to fulfil his expectations on you.
Focus your minds not on human things, but on divine things, where expectations are truly fulfilled and his everlasting covenant is renewed.
Sing along/listen to: