Tuesday, February 26, 2002
MEDITATION FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
The Household of God has now completed sixteen days of fasting for Lent. And once more on this Lord’s Day, we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus and seek the increase of faith, hope and love/charity.
The GOSPEL, Luke 11: 14-28, contains three items: an account of how Jesus successfully faced the accusation of his enemies that he cast out demons by the power of Satan; further teaching of Jesus as to what happens if the new, cleansed disciple of the kingdom does not pursue holiness (24-26), and the response of Jesus to an enthusiastic outburst concerning his mother (27-28).
The three are linked together by the theme of the blessedness of the obedient disciple of the kingdom of God for he is led by the Holy Spirit into holiness and is thus free from demonic influence or possession.
Beelzebul or Beelzebub may mean either “Lord of the heavenly habitation” or “Lord of the dung [i.e., of idolatrous abomination].” It is not certain whether the Jews identified Beelzebul with Satan or saw him as a subordinate evil angel. Whatever be the true meaning of the word, this evil power was for Jesus an enemy to be defeated not an ally with whom to cooperate!
From the second item we learn that, unless exorcisms “by the finger of God” [and we may add “conversions” and “decisions for Christ”] are followed by the entry of the Holy Spirit into the soul and commitment by the new disciple to holiness before the Lord, then the danger is that the latter state of the person will be worse than the original state. Instead of one demon there will be seven!
From the response of Jesus to the cry of a woman concerning the blessedness of his mother in having such an admirable son as Jesus, we learn that the human and understandable joy of a mother in her son’s success is before God nothing like the profound joy of those who hear, receive and obey the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Jesus does not say that Mary is not blessed – how could he (see Luke 1:42 & 48)? – but that her motherly joy, based upon what she sees him achieve as the travelling prophet, is not to be compared with the true and permanent joy of the genuine disciple of the kingdom. In fact, Mary also has that profound joy for she is both mother and disciple, but it is not necessary for Jesus to make that point here.
The EPISTLE, Ephesians 5:1-14 underscores the themes of being filled with the Holy Spirit and of the genuine blessedness of those who hear and obey the word of the Lord. It is an exhortation to baptized believers to live as those who truly are “in Christ Jesus.” They are to “walk in love” and to “walk in the light” and when they do though they will be tempted by Satan they will have the resources to resist temptation.
And the COLLECT puts into prayer much of what is gleaned from the biblical texts. The “hearty desires” of the Lenten people of God are desires for cleansing, holiness, love and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. And these desires will be the more effectually realised when the same Lenten people are protected “by the right hand of thy Majesty” from their enemies, the enemies whose presence and work cause not only demonic possession but evil and sin of all kinds.
So we go into the six fasting days of Lent III, looking forward to Mothering or Refreshment Sunday, knowing not only who is the enemy of our souls but also and more importantly who is the Victor of that enemy, and therefore we are fully prepared to serve the Lord in joy and consecration.
The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon February 27, 2002.
Posted by John at 7:23 PM