Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

40th Day of Great Lent (40th Friday) - Temptation of Christ

Volume 4 No. 208 April 8, 2014

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Death Valley National Park Copyrighted Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World ©

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

Journey to Calvary and to the Empty Tomb

2. Bible Readings for 40th Day of Great Lent (April 11)

Bible Readings for Fortieth Day of the Great Lent
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_40th-Friday.htm

3. Sermons for 40th Day of Great Lent (April 11)

Sermons for the Fortieth Day of the Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_40th-Friday.htm

4. Inspiration for Today: A Kingdom of Paradox

5. Featured: Temptation of Jesus by Fr. Mark

See the new Adam, driven into the desert wilderness in search of the old. Jesus goes alone into the desert of all our refusals of the Father's Will to reclaim it by his obedience. He goes into the desert to make it flower again by His unconditional "Yes," to purify it by His fasting, to irrigate it by His prayer, to render it fertile by His temptation, to vanquish it by His weakness, to make it a place of communion by His solitude, and a place of dialogue by His silence. Because Jesus is there, the barren wastes of the desert become the garden of the Father's delight. ...

6. Christ's Temptation and Ours by Fr. George William Rutler

Christ was tempted three times as an act of love to prepare his Church for three temptations which would assault her in every generation.

The Spirit that "drove" Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan (Mark 1:12) is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the bond of love between God the Father and God the Son. Christ was tempted three times as an act of love to prepare his Church for three temptations which would assault her in every generation. ...

7. Five Lessons We Should Learn from Christ's Time in the Wilderness by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

Immediately following the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days. When he was sufficiently weakened in the flesh, He contended with the devil who tempted Him. This models the life each of us who believe and are baptized are to live. ...

8. Temptations Can Be Defeated With Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving

Where Our Lord led, we are to follow and He has given us tools to help us on the journey. What can we do to control temptation and the occasions of sin? We can focus our efforts on the opposite of the sins mentioned here...

9. Jesus Wept

For a long time I'd had a false view of Jesus. I'd always pictured him as this tall, soft-spoken man who was completely serene no matter what the world threw at him. I didn't understand that when God became a man, he embraced all human sensation, even the ones that hurt.

Jesus got hungry, just like us (Mark 11:12). He got frustrated, just like us (Mark 11:14). He got sad (John 11:35), and angry (John 2:16-17), and scared (Luke 22:44). Jesus probably laughed with his friends, and grew stern with the Pharisees. The Bible says that Jesus lived a sinless life, but that doesn't mean he wasn't human...

10. Fourth Servant Song in Isaiah - Part III: Israel's Penitential Confession by Bill Randles

The confession of the nation will acknowledge that there was nothing in Jesus, of the greatness, charisma , power and beauty that they had expected to see in the Messiah. Jews were looking for something else, The same is true for all men. It is only possible to see the beauty hidden in Jesus the Messiah, when one is allowed to see the desperate need for salvation from sin and it's power and consequences. ...

11. Malankara World Passion Week Supplement

Malankara World has a supplement that provides detailed information about Passion Week including articles, prayers, sermons, etc. You will find it here:

Passion Week Supplement in Malankara World
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lent/Passion/Default.htm

Malankara World has developed a daily plan of bible readings, meditations, reflections, and prayers for Passion Week. You will find it here:

Today in Passion Week
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lent/Passion/Passion_Today_archives.htm

12. About Malankara World

Foreword

Journey to Calvary and to the Empty Tomb

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Editor-in-Chief, Malankara World

We are approaching one of the most sacred days of the church calendar. We had been preparing for this week by fasting, praying, introspection and charitable giving. The Passion of Jesus and the subsequent Resurrection from the Dead are the differentiator of Christianity.

Malankara World Journal is planning several special/supplement issues to highlight the significance of these days and what they represent. Here is the plan:

Issue 208  - Temptation of Christ - Fortieth Friday (Apr 11) - This issue
Issue 209  - Lazarus Saturday (Apr 12)
Issue 210  - Palm Sunday - Hosanna (April 13-15) and Monday and Tues of Holy Week
Issue 211  - Pes'ho - Maundy Thursday (April 16-17)
Issue 212  - Good Friday (Apr 18-19) and Holy Saturday
Issue 213  - Kyomtho/Easter (April 20) - He is Risen!! The Tomb is Empty

In order for you to focus on this week, we are only providing spiritual articles or articles of immediate interest to the events in these special editions. With Issue 214, we will pick up the usual format.

40th Day of Great Lent in Church
Bible Readings for 40th Day of Great Lent (April 11)
Sermons for 40th Day of Great Lent (April 11)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: A Kingdom of Paradox
It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn't want our success; He wants us. He doesn't demand our achievements; He demands our obedience.

The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.

- Charles Colson

Featured: Temptation of Jesus

by Fr. Mark, Vultus Christi

Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11 Mark 1:11-13

Draw Me After Thee

Today we look at the mystery of Our Lord's forty-day fast in the wilderness. But we are not here as spectators. We haven't come to church to gaze on the temptations of Christ from a safe distance. We have been baptized into Christ, and so the mysteries of Christ are our mysteries. All that has happened to the Head must be embodied - played out - in us, His members. The Church borrows the words of the bride in the Song of Songs and addresses them to Christ. "Draw me after Thee," she says, "let us make haste." (Ct 1:4).

Christ in the Wilderness

This is exactly what is happening in today's Mass. Jesus is drawing us after Himself into the desert of His temptations, His hunger, and His thirst. The fasting of Jesus is ours. The prayer of Jesus is ours. The temptations of Jesus are ours. The Church, during the forty days of Lent, is Christ in the wilderness.

The Voice of the Father

Saint Mark's account of Our Lord's temptation in the wilderness is short - only two verses - but it is packed with meaning. It follows his account of Jesus' baptism: His going down into the Jordan and His coming up from the water; the heavens opening over His head and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove; the voice of the Father saying: "Thou art my beloved Son; with Thee I am well pleased." (Mk 1:11).

The voice of the Father at Jesus' baptism recalls the voice of the God speaking to Noah and his sons in the First Reading and, beyond that, it recalls the voice heard in the garden of paradise on the sixth day of creation: the voice of the Father after He had created man in his image and likeness. "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31).

In Paradise

In the beginning, Adam was the Father's beloved son, the delight of His eyes, and Eve was full of grace, lovely in the eyes her Creator. In both of them the Father beheld, as in a mirror, the image of his Eternal Word, His only-begotten Son. And the Father was well pleased.

Original Sin

And then tragedy struck. Sin. Adam and Eve turned their backs on the One Who gave them life. They wanted to be "free" - the old lie - of the embrace of Love itself. Instead of raising their hands to the Giver of every good gift, they began to tighten their fists around the things that caught their eye or excited their pleasure.

God created our first parents with their eyes on Him but, tempted and deceived by Satan, they chose to look away from the Face of God and to narrow their field of vision to themselves and to the things they wanted or thought they needed. And so, all of creation fell out of balance into chaos, out of harmony into strife, out of communion into division. And this was the great primeval tragedy: the original sin.

Into the Wastelands of Sin

How could Love remain silent when confronted with the wreckage of His creation? With the voice of one wounded by an unspeakable sorrow, trembling with the grief of a Creator spurned by his creatures, God said, "Adam, where are you?" (Gn 3:9) Then, Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise into the wastelands of their sin, into a desert wilderness.

The New Adam

This is where today's Gospel comes in. Saint Mark wants us to see Jesus as the New Adam. He makes a point of saying: "He was in the wilderness . . . and he was with the wild beasts." (Mk 1:13).

See the new Adam, driven into the desert wilderness in search of the old. Jesus goes alone into the desert of all our refusals of the Father's Will to reclaim it by his obedience. He goes into the desert to make it flower again by His unconditional "Yes," to purify it by His fasting, to irrigate it by His prayer, to render it fertile by His temptation, to vanquish it by His weakness, to make it a place of communion by His solitude, and a place of dialogue by His silence. Because Jesus is there, the barren wastes of the desert become the garden of the Father's delight.

Christ regains, Christ reclaims the paradise that Adam lost. Christ is the new Adam. He is our new beginning. Christ took on our humanity, twisted and distorted by sin, so as to bring us all with Him back to the Father. Christ is the Warrior-Prince locked in hand-to-hand combat with the powers of darkness. He puts Himself in the front line. He goes before us through every temptation, through the illusions and deceits of Satan, through His bitter sufferings and Cross, to draw us after Him out of darkness into Light.

Confession

If you want to experience the grace of Lent this year, go boldly into the desert of your weakness, into the wilderness of your sins, into the wastelands of your fears and brokenness. Make a good Confession and do it soon. It is there that the Lord Jesus waits for you. He comes to meet us in our deserts in order to lead us back into The Garden.

When you are lonely, when you are weak, when you have fallen into sin, the only way out is to remember that Jesus chose to experience the desert with us and that He awaits us there, to take us by the hand and lead us out.

Saint Anthony of Egypt

Saint Athanasius tells us that when the great Saint Anthony of Egypt was living in the desert in fasting and prayer, the devil assaulted him with violent and frightening temptations. Anthony struggled and fought to the point of exhaustion. Soon after, Our Lord appeared to him. Bewildered, Anthony asked: "Why did you leave me alone in this desert waste to fight off the Evil One and struggle against his attacks?" Our Lord answered: "Anthony, you were not alone. I was invisibly present to you in your temptation and it is through Me and because of My grace that you came through your trial victorious."

That He Might Bring Us to God

So it is in our lives. No matter how dark the night, no matter how terrifying the desert, no matter how miserable our weakness or how shameful our sins, Jesus Christ is invisibly present to save and deliver. Saint Peter said: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." (1 Peter 3:18)

The Holy Sacrifice

What begins in the confessional is perfected at the altar. In every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ, Warrior and Prince, Priest and Victim brings us to God. Receive His Body and Blood and you will pass through Him and with Him out of the wastelands of sin into the Garden of the Father's delight. In Paradise Lost the old Adam heard the grieving Father ask, "Adam, where are you?" (Gn 3:9). In the Mass - the very heart of Paradise Restored - the New Adam raises His voice to offer the Father the one answer He has been waiting for: "Father, the hour has come." (Jn 17:1). And to the voice of the New Adam, a New Eve joins her voice: it is the voice of Mary His Virgin Mother. It is the voice of the whole Church, and in it the Father hears your voices and mine.

Who Is This?

The Song of Songs asks two prophetic questions relevant to the Great Lent. "What is this coming up from the wilderness like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?" (Ct 3:6). We know the answer: it is the priestly prayer of Christ once tempted and forever victorious, ascending to the Father in this and every Holy Mass? And then, "Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved? " (Ct 8:5) Again, we know the answer. It is the Church - all of us - ascending with Him to the Father. Lent is about more than going into the wilderness with Christ. It is about coming out of it, leaning on Christ, and sharing in His victory.

Irrigated Gardens

Fear not the wild beasts. The angels of God will minister to us even as they did to Him. And after forty days we will see our deserts irrigated by the Blood and Water flowing from His open side, and changed into gardens, for our joy and for the Father's delight.

© 2013-2014 The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. All Rights Reserved.

Christ's Temptation and Ours

by Fr. George William Rutler

Christ was tempted three times as an act of love to prepare his Church for three temptations which would assault her in every generation.

The Spirit that "drove" Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan (Mark 1:12) is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the bond of love between God the Father and God the Son. Christ was tempted three times as an act of love to prepare his Church for three temptations which would assault her in every generation.

Satan tested Christ to figure out if he truly was divine: "If you are the Son of God . . ." So Satan also tempts the Church, not to discern her holiness as the Body of Christ, but to test whether Christians will be faithful to that holiness.

Satan first tempts the Church to turn stones into bread: to reduce the Church to a human creature devoid of supernatural charisms. The Church is the world's greatest feeder of the poor, but unless she feeds souls, she is redundant in a materialist culture. Satan wants to replace Communion lines with bread lines, as if the Body of Christ were nothing more than temporal sustenance. But Christ is Our Saviour and not Our Philanthropist. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you" (John 6:53).

Secondly, Satan tempts the Church to mock herself, as he wanted Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple and survive. This test will see whether Christians will take up the daily crosses of life with Christ in a broken world, or engage grace as a kind of New Age energy arrogated to ourselves without moral obedience to natural law. To fly against nature is to live in an unreal world, claiming to be Catholic without living as Catholics. Satan wants us to "take Communion" on our terms rather than "receive Communion" on Christ's terms. St. Paul would not fly that way: "He who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks his own condemnation; and for this reason many of you are weak, and ill, and some have died" (1 Cor. 11:29-30).

Thirdly, the Church is tempted with earthly power. Cardinal Consalvi reminded Napoleon that the Church's power is not from earthly rulers. Pius XII said that Stalin would be able to count the Church's divisions only after he died. The two Thomases, Becket and More, made similar remonstrances with their own blood. In the history of the Church, Judas was the first to accept a government grant in exchange for doing evil. The Church is entering a time of severe testing, and she will be crucified in ways more tortuous than nails, for she will be jeered by journalists and patronized by politicians and menaced by false messiahs, but in the end the Church's despisers will hear severe words: "You could have no power at all against me, were it not given you from above; so he who delivered me to you has the greater sin" (John 19:11).

About The Author:

Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford.

Five Lessons We Should Learn from Christ's Time in the Wilderness

By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

In the Temptation of Christ, we are given a lesson of what it takes for us to attain salvation through the saving work of Jesus Christ.

"Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry" (Luke 4:1-2).

Immediately following the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days. When he was sufficiently weakened in the flesh, He contended with the devil who tempted Him. This models the life each of us who believe and are baptized are to live.

Time in the Wilderness is Essential for those Baptized in Christ

St. Ambrose reflects on this truth when he writes:

"There are three things which united together conduce to the salvation of man; The Sacrament, The Wilderness, Fasting. No one who has not rightly contended receives a crown, but no one is admitted to the contest of virtue, except first being washed from the stains of all his sins, he is consecrated with the gift of heavenly grace" (St. Ambrose; Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aquinas, Luke 4).

Through faith and the grace conferred by Baptism, we are welcomed to the life of grace and communion with God, sharing in the Divine life. But, that is not the end of our salvation experience; it is simply our new beginning. Satan will continue to tempt us, so we must be ready to persevere in grace deepening our conversion as we continually turn from sin and to God.

Our reliance is not on ourselves, but on God, so like an athlete preparing for his contest, Christians need to prepare for the life of faith. In order to practice the virtues in daily life, we are in need of spending time in the desert - or wilderness - to become strong through weakness and surrender to the Lord. Let's look again to Christ's example.

To prepare for his public ministry, Jesus submitted to be baptized, even though he had no need to do so; for He was without sin. We begin our life in Christ through the Christian sacrament of Baptism, the work of God by which we receive Sanctifying Grace and become justified. Unlike Christ, we are in need of baptism which cleanses us from all sin, original and actual.

We read that the Spirit then led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In overcoming these temptations, Jesus recapitulated the life of Israel and accomplished what God's Chosen People had failed to do. The grace of Jesus Christ makes it possible for Christians to do the same.

Denying the Body Strengthens the Soul

But here is what I want you to see - before Jesus was tempted, he fasted for 40 days. To prepare for these temptations of the will, Jesus weakened the desires of the body. The bible tells us that after fasting, Jesus was hungry… then he was tempted. What he shows us is that the hunger that we experience after denying the body its "wants" no longer has the same power over our appetites that it did before. Jesus was and is incapable of sin, but we are, so our following His example equips us, by His grace, to resist temptations. So we too should fast in order to prepare for our public ministry, our Christian life. Fasting, the practice of self-denial by grace, does not lead us to more greatly desire that which we have given up; it trains us to control our disordered appetites.

Key Lessons to Remember

  • The lessons taught by our Lord through the example of His time in the wilderness include:
  • We enter the life of grace through faith and the Sacrament of Baptism.
  • We must deepen this life of grace by spending time periodically in the wilderness.
  • Fasting and other acts of self-denial, through faith and by grace, performed out of Love of God, strengthen us to grow in faith and charity.
  • Through surrender of our will to the Lord, we are able to more deeply advance in prayer and communion.
  • Thus equipped, we are able to resist temptations and avoid sin and perform the good works of mercy God has prepared for us.
 
About The Author:

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center's Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

Temptations Can Be Defeated With Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving

by pgyanke

In the Jewish tradition, there are three main ways in which we are all tempted to sin:

lust of the flesh,
lust of the eyes, and
the pride of life (note in 1 John 2:16).

The lust of the flesh represents the desires of our appetites (ie: gluttony, sexual pleasure, et al). The lust of the eyes represents our desire for all we want (ie: greed, envy, et al). The pride of life is our disordered desire to be greater than we are (ie.: pride, vainglory, et al).

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were tempted by the Devil to disobey God. When Eve considered the fruit, Genesis 3:6 records that she "saw that the tree was good for food [flesh], and a delight to the eyes [eyes] and that the tree was desirable to make one wise [pride of life]...". In other words, from a Jewish perspective, she were tempted in every way... and the Bible records their failure.

In preparation for His earthly ministry, Our Lord spent 40 days in the desert. Luke 4 tells us He was led there by the Spirit for the purpose of temptation by the Devil. Jesus fasted for that whole period. When the Bible says He was hungry, note that he wasn't just ready for a meal... there comes a time without food where the body begins to consume what it can of itself. After 40 days, His Body was ravenous. Enter the Devil.

Satan's first temptation is for Christ to turn rocks into bread. Here, he is playing on the lust of the flesh -- and he knows Jesus is VERY hungry. How easy it would have been to give in to the desires of his body.

In the second temptation, the Devil took Jesus to a high mountain and offered Him all of the kingdoms of the world in return for Christ's worship. This temptation is challenging Jesus through the lust of the eyes as Christ came to call all people to Himself -- but definitely not this way. Would it not have been easier to take the Devil's offer rather than suffer for it on the Cross?

In the third temptation, Jesus is taken to the pinnacle of the Temple and told to throw Himself down since the angels will rescue Him from harm. This is the temptation of the pride of life by tempting Jesus to reveal His Glory to all before His hour had come.

Luke 4:13 tells us that "all temptation" was ended after the third one. I have heard many people say that Christ was only tempted in three ways... what gives? Again, Christ suffered temptation in all ways possible as known from the beginning of time... and He succeeded where Adam and Eve failed.

Where Our Lord led, we are to follow and He has given us tools to help us on the journey. What can we do to control temptation and the occasions of sin? We can focus our efforts on the opposite of the sins mentioned here... when we are focused on fasting and abstinence, we won't be focused on the lust of the flesh. When we focus on alms-giving, it would be hard to also focus on thoughts of greed and envy in the lust of the eyes. When we turn our hearts to God in humble prayer, we acknowledge our lowliness and leave behind the pride of life.

So, in following Christ, listen to the Church, His Bride, as She exhorts us to lives of fasting, alms-giving and prayer. She is leading us to deeper faith and closer communion with Her Bridegroom through self-denial, supplication and sacrifice.

Source: Knights of Columbus council Newsletter

Jesus Wept

by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Entertainment Editor

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. – Matthew 4:1-2

I once heard a story of a woman who lost her only daughter in a tragic accident. After the funeral she fell into deep despair, and many of her friends began to worry about her safety. In desperation, one of them asked their local priest if he would go to her house and speak with her, but the moment the woman saw him she flew into a rage.

"Get out!" She screamed, "I already know what you're going to say. You're going to tell me that everything happens for a reason, that this is God's will, and I don't want to hear that." The priest did not move. Eventually the woman began to calm down and started to sob. It was at that the priest spoke, quietly and gently.

"Listen," he told her, "I don't know why your daughter died, and I do not know why God allowed it to happen, but I do know that God understands what it is to lose a child, and that he is standing next to you, and that he cannot stop your suffering but that he loves you and he loves your daughter, and if you let him into your heart you will see her again."

What really struck me the first time I heard this story was that God really did understand the pain of losing someone. I realized that for a long time I'd had a false view of Jesus. I'd always pictured him as this tall, soft-spoken man who was completely serene no matter what the world threw at him. I didn't understand that when God became a man he embraced all human sensation, even the ones that hurt.

Jesus got hungry, just like us (Mark 11:12). He got frustrated, just like us (Mark 11:14). He got sad (John 11:35), and angry (John 2:16-17), and scared (Luke 22:44). Jesus probably laughed with his friends, and grew stern with the Pharisees. The Bible says that Jesus lived a sinless life, but that doesn't mean he wasn't human.

Some of you may be having a fairly nice day while reading this and some of you may be having a pretty miserable one. Regardless of what is happening to you, know that God understands how you feel, and that he will always love you.

Intersecting Faith and Life:

Follow Christ through his years of ministry. Take note of the times when Christ displays his emotions.

Further Reading

Matthew 4:1-11

Source: Crosswalk.com - The Devotional

Fourth Servant Song in Isaiah - Part III: Israel's Penitential Confession

by Bill Randles

Scripture: Isaiah 52:13-15

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(Isaiah 53:1-3)

We have been looking at the 4th Servant Song of Isaiah, the first part of which is God's introduction to the one whom He designates as "My Servant," in the beautiful yet mysterious words of Isaiah 52:13-15,

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

We come now to the second part of the prophecy, which is the penitential confession of the nation of Israel. It occurs at the end of the tribulation, when the chosen nation will be brought face to face with the realization that the one they had rejected and pierced, was and is their Saviour and Messiah.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

The whole tone of this prophecy is that of heartfelt remorse, godly sorrow and a bitter sense of regret, as the Nation is caused to "look on Me, (The LORD) whom they have pierced and mourn as for Him as for an only Son…", in that last day when God grants his long estranged people, a complete and lasting repentance.

Who has believed our message? And to whom is the Arm of the LORD revealed?

The implied answers to these questions is, "few if any at all…" have believed in the message of a lowly Servant who has bought full salvation for God's people, through his own suffering and death.

Those who do believe in the message, do so only because of a gift of revelation, "Flesh and blood didn't reveal this to (them), but the Father in heaven", has shown them that hidden in the spectacle of the defeated, crucified servant, derelicted of all friends, lovers and even God himself, is all of the power and wisdom of God.

The "Arm of the Lord", is personified and appealed to directly earlier in the prophecy of Isaiah, for it is a metaphor for God in His mighty power.

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?
(Isaiah 51:9-10)

Israel wanted to see the power of God, or as Paul put it "the Jews seek after a sign"

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (I Cor 1:18)

But for the most part, the nation couldn't perceive the power of God in the figure of the suffering, Servant. He wasn't what they considered to be "powerful", he didn't fit the ideal that they held of the Messiah. They had misread the prophecies, so they rejected Him , as the confession that they will soon make affirms,

For He grew up before Him as a tender plant- The servant's development was in lowliness and obscurity. Slowly and quietly, without fanfare, He lives before God, and among an enslaved and humiliated nation. He is born in Bethlehem, but raised in Nazareth, literally "Shootsville".

A tender plant is a frail shoot, a "sucker" coming out of a trunk or branch, merely a twig that normally would be pruned.

By contrast, Isaiah had earlier predicted that the Messiah would be as a vigorous shoot out of the stump of the felled house of Jesse, and would become an "Ensign" for all to see and seek God thereby,

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord…And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious."
(Isaiah 11:1-2,10)

But that is a prediction of the Messiah as revealed in glory.

Here in Isaiah 53, Israel confesses that all they could see of Jesus of Nazareth, was one as a root out of dry ground, that is an unlikely growth, in an unpromising environment.

Israel in the first century had certainly become "dry ground" spiritually speaking. The Priesthood had become corrupt, rationalistic and self-serving. The people of Israel were defeated and occupied by a pagan power, Rome, and there hadn't been a prophet, nor a "Son of David" upon the throne for more than four centuries. No one expected anything of the tiny shoot, (Netzer) from Nazareth.

He has no form or comeliness, there is no beauty that we should desire Him…

The confession of the nation will acknowledge that there was nothing in Jesus, of the greatness, charisma , power and beauty that they had expected to see in the Messiah. Jews were looking for something else, The same is true for all men. It is only possible to see the beauty hidden in Jesus the Messiah, when one is allowed to see the desperate need for salvation from sin and it's power and consequences.

Source: Bill Randles Blog

Malankara World Passion Week Supplement

We are at the beginning of Holy Week. If we want to truly be Christian, this week ought to be a time when we share in a special way in the passion of Christ. We do this, not so much by indulging in pious feelings, but by bearing the burdens of our life with simple fortitude and without ostentation. For we share by faith in the passion of our Lord precisely by realizing that our life is a participation in his destiny. We find this difficult, because so often we fail to understand that the bitterness and burdens of our own life do - or should - give us a mysterious share in the destiny of all human beings … If we were aware of this … we would understand that his passion is the unique acceptance of the passion of humankind, in which it is accepted, suffered, redeemed, and freed into the mystery of God. (Karl Rahner)

Malankara World has a supplement that provides detailed information about Passion Week including articles, prayers, sermons, etc. You will find it here:

Passion Week Supplement in Malankara World

Malankara World has developed a daily plan of bible readings, meditations, reflections, and prayers for Passion Week. Please click on the link below for the day to read the reflection for that day.

Fortieth Friday

Lazarus Saturday

Palm Sunday

Passion Monday

Passion Tuesday

Passion Wednesday

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Gospel Saturday

Easter

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