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1ce72-ashwednesday-christThere is a salvific equation at work in the readings for this first Sunday of Lent and it is important to recognize as we begin this Lenten season and our journey to Easter. The equation is this: we sinned by trying to grasp the glory of God and God saves us by letting go of His glory and becoming a servant.

Adam and Eve are tempted by the serpent in the garden. “You certainly will not die! No. God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” We try to grasp the glory that is due to God alone. We try to make of ourselves little gods – controlling our world, controlling everything, answerable only to ourselves! It is a form of pride and it is the root of all sin. We sin by trying to claim the glory of God for ourselves.

God answers not by condemning nor by destroying all of sinful humanity and starting anew. No, God answers our insult by coming even closer than before. God enters into his very creation in the form of a servant. In the temptations in the desert we find Jesus taking on the mantle and role of the servant.

The servant is the one who is never satisfied in his own needs because he is required first and foremost to see to the satisfaction of his master. The servant is the one who claims no special status. He is just a servant after all. The servant has no power. In each of the three temptations we see our Lord taking on the mantle of the servant.

“Command that these stones become loaves of bread,” tempts Satan. “You are hungry. You have been fasting. See to your own needs first. Satisfy your hunger, turn these stones into loaves of bread!” Our Lord refuses. He will be a servant and a servant does not see to his own needs first. Jesus overcomes the devil’s temptation by falling back on the word of God.

“Throw yourself down from this parapet,” tempts Satan, “God will protect you! You are his son after all.” “Claim your special status and make sure all the world sees it and acknowledges it!” Jesus refuses. He will not put his Father to the test. Jesus is the one “who though in the form of God did not deem equality with God something to be grasped, but rather took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.” Jesus will be a servant. He will not claim special status.

In the final temptation, the devil shows our Lord all the power of the world and offers it to him if only Jesus will bow down in worship. Jesus will not claim the power and he will not worship the tempter. “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” Jesus is to be a servant.

By the end of the temptations, Jesus has fully vested himself in the mantle of the servant – the one who does not seek his own satisfaction, the one who claims no special status, the one who has no power. Now, he begins his journey toward Jerusalem and the great work of our salvation.

We sinned by trying to grasp the glory of God. God saves us by becoming a servant.

One further thought as we begin these weeks. Let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees. It is easy to get focused in on what we are going to do for these next forty days – what we will give up, how we will pray, what we will do – that we actually lose sight of the great work that has already been done! Yes, there is importance to prayer, fasting and almsgiving – none of this is being denied – but make sure these next forty days to also leave space for wonder. Make sure to take time to wonder, to just be amazed at what God has done and continues to do in Christ our Lord! How we are saved by this God who became servant. Wonder (and out of that gratitude) is also an important aspect of the Lenten journey.

We sinned by trying to grasp the glory of God. God saves us by becoming a servant.