As we enter the season of Lent on Sunday, the lectionary for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A, is of course Matt 4.1–11. It is worth noting that the lectionary and seasonal arrangement of the 40 days (46 calendar days minus the feast days of Sundays that exempt us from lenten discipline) corresponding to Jesus’ testing in the desert, then leading straight into Easter, does something quite odd. For Jesus, the days of testing and discipline then led into a time (three years according to the Fourth Gospel) of fruitful and powerful ministry, culminating in cross and resurrection, whereas in the calendar, this middle season is postponed till after Easter.
Perhaps part of the reflection here is that Jesus’ ministry (in healing, teaching and deliverance) is anticipatory of the victory of Easter, and is only released to us by the power of the resurrection and outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, so this re-ordering does have theological value. And, as we shall see, Matthew does make connections between the time of testing and elements of the Passion narrative later in his gospel.
James and Ian discuss the text, what is means, how we should read it, and the implications for our preaching. Come and join the discussion!