04 October 2007

Gospel of St. Matthew Bible Study - Lesson 4

Continuing with my notes from class. Father covered the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew today. Not as many notes this week. This chapter deals with Jesus going out into the wilderness/desert to fast for 40 days/nights before He begins His public ministry. Here we find the devil tempting Him.

Some contrasts and similarities are highlighted in this chapter.
We see the temptation and obedience of Jesus strongly contrasted against the disobedience of Israel.
Both Israel and Jesus are called God's son.
Both Israel's and Jesus' temptations are preceded by a baptism.
Jesus is tempted for 40 days/nights, and Israel for 40 years. From our bible study last year, we learned that the number 40 is indicative of a period of testing.
And, Father mentioned that the Gospel of Luke does not have the three temptations in the same order. Not significant, just making note of it.

The 40 days are commemorated by the Church at Lent.

Big theme: Jesus is the New Adam, the New Moses and the New Israel. Jesus has come to reverse the curse of Adam (from St. Paul's epistle to the Romans).

Adam (and Eve) was made sinless and was not inclined to sin. This is part of what makes his sin so terrible.

My question is, if Adam, Eve and Mary (along with Jesus) were all created without sin and had no concupiscence or inclination to sin, what would cause Adam and Eve to sin, but not Mary (or Jesus)? They all had free will. If Adam and Eve were perfectly happy, what would make them sin? I guess, similarly, what would make the angels sin since they had perfect knowledge of the consequences of their decision? From my post yesterday, the answer to the angels is pride, and this seems to hold true for Adam and Eve, who want to be like gods. (Higher than all reconciliation must the Will will, which the will to power is - Nietzsche)
I don't get the distinction. If Jesus was never able to sin and neither was Mary (I was told this by a veddy veddy orthodox priest that Mary had free will and was conceived without sin, but she was "preserved" from sin.) what's the deal with Adam and Eve? (Off on a tangent here.)

Father said that if the devil was not in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve would've (could've?) remained sinless, but God allowed the devil in. Hmmm. Then Father went on to discuss a bit about the fallen angels, and once again, I could swear he's reading my blog (which isn't the case, but quite a coincidence...again). He talked about the envy of the angels, which I mentioned in my post from yesterday. Father said that the fallen angels are eager to tempt souls out of envy; their never-ending envy of humanity and the happiness that they cannot have. Well, guys you knew what you were doing when you rebelled. Guess misery does love company.

Father said angels can't change their minds, God gave them grace and the knowledge they would need to make a decision for all time (irrevocable).

Adam and Eve are not just creative tools used by the prophets in the bible, but Church teaching is that they were real and are our forefathers. Further, the representations of Jesus in modern movies (Father was hinting at the DaVinci Code) that show Jesus having lust for Mary Magdelene are pure fantasy because Jesus never had ANY inclination to sin.

Significant to note that when Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for 40 days and nights, he suffered terribly. It wasn't just hunger from missing dinner, it was hunger that only was possible to endure because God sustained Him. Any other human would've died weeks prior. Strong parallels are being drawn here between this suffering and the agony in the garden. We see in both cases Jesus is tempted, suffered terribly and is ministered to by angels. These are the only two times this happens. Father noted these two events of incredible suffering are like "bookends" of the public ministry of Jesus.

Curiously, we come to the devil and see a not-so-well-known reason for him tempting Jesus. The devil has limited knowledge and power. It is well beyond ours, but it was amusing to hear how limited the devil is. The reason the devil tempted Jesus is that the devil was well aware of scripture, he knew God had promised a Savior that would crush the devil's head. He had a strong feeling that his number was up. Previously, he had tried, unsuccessfully, to eliminate "the line of the woman," so he was interested to find out who Jesus really was. He was UNCERTAIN if Jesus was the Son of God. His temptations, in part, were to get to the bottom of the question and find out for himself if this was the one who would be his undoing. The devil is not omniscient. He can observe but is limited to what God allows him to know. He cannot go into a soul or intellect, he cannot read our mind. The devil cannot "see" divinity (hey, this relates to the "evening knowledge" from my post yesterday!).

As far as the temptations go, the devil wants him to perform a miracle by turning a stone into bread. Father said that while the devil could make a stone look like bread, he cannot change a stone into bread because this is a creative act and only God can create. (Performing a miracle here would tip off the devil as to who Jesus really was.) Father mentioned that the devil is appealing to a good here, which is bread would satisfy a hunger, but mixes lies with some truth. Here Jesus is able to overcome the temptations that the Israelites weren't, with Jesus quoting scripture from Deuteronomy that points back to the warnings given to the Israelites for disobedience. The test shows that earthly things are not the goal, but the Bread of Life.

The second temptation, where Jesus is to throw himself down and have the angels save him, represents the human desire for fame and notoriety, "'He will give his angels charge of you', and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a STONE.'" Father noted that the word scandal means to trip on a stone. Interesting.

While Jesus tolerated the above temptations, when the devil tells Jesus to bow down and worship him and he will give Him all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus won't put up with blasphemy, since you are to worship God alone, and tells the devil to "Begone." This temptation represents our desire for power.

During the temptations, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy. From the Catechism regarding the significance, "The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given into temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel's vocation perfectly; in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will."

Peter was also called Satan in Matthew 16:21 because Peter wanted to do his own will not the will of God.

Jesus, after the death of John the Baptist, withdrew to Galilee. Here is where the tribes of Zebulun and Naptali had been before the Babylonian Captivity. Not much is left of the Jews here since it has been nearly 700 years since the captivity (721 BC). Jesus goes here to begin his ministry, indicating that He has come to restore the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24) and begin to undo the curse.

Many of the disciples had been followers of John the Baptist and had heard and learned about Jesus. They probably had meet Him and sat and listened to Him preach prior to the event we find in the gospel, where Jesus calls them (Peter and Andrew) and they IMMEDIATELY follow Him. Father said the synoptic gospels wanted to stress the urgency, but it wasn't as if they had just seen Jesus for the first time. They went from disciples to apostles; they would represent Jesus at some point.

When Jesus begins His ministry, He began "teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them." Father mentioned that the devil now knows Jesus is GOD and Jesus is beginning to displace the devil where ever He goes by healing the sick and undoing the curse.

Stay tuned for next week, Chapter 5.


:o) said...

Mary was full of grace which is a gift given by God. Grace helps us remain close to God, know Him and love Him. I would say she was so full of love for God that she had no desire to sin. Jesus was God. God is all good, all perfect. Jesus, while human with human weaknesses, would be all good. From the great adventure time line, Jeff Cavins says the serpent was not the harmless little garden snake often depicted but a huge monster. I suppose A & E ate the apple out of pride.. wanting to be like God. MHO.

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the help. But, weren't Adam and Eve full of grace? Maybe that is the difference. Hmmm. I thought being conceived without sin, as Adam and Eve were, was equivalent to being "full of grace," but maybe that's where I'm wrong. I know the serpent wasn't just a snake, but a big, bad monster, but Mary still had her own crosses to bear, and undoubtedly temptations that we don't hear about in the bible, but she managed to always be so humble to do God's will.

Serviam! said...

I think it may be as simple as saying that Adam and Eve chose to, while Mary did not. After all, while Adam and Eve had no experience of what sin would bring, Mary had the history of the Jewish people, the daily hardships, and the Bible speaking of a hope coming. Mary had a constant reminder of sin’s evil all around and fought for something better; Adam and Eve had paradise all around and still wanted something more.

I’ve never felt completely comfortable with Jeff Cavin’s take on the “serpent” in the garden being a “dragon”. I think he gets this from Scott Hahn, and bases it on the fact that the word for serpent there could mean dragon. The problem is that it also could mean … serpent, and has been interpreted (as far as I can see) as “serpent” for the last 4000 years. I know that you may be able to make an argument that it was a dragon based on a couple of verses in the Book of Revelation (Rev 12:9 and 20:2), but I’m not sure if this is a strong argument.

But my biggest problem is that if it was a dragon that threatened and intimidated the two, how would this affect their culpability? I know some argue that the original sin may or may not be a mortal sin, but it sure seems pretty mortal to me. And if you don’t have free consent of the will, can you have a mortal sin?

swissmiss said...

Thanks, Serviam. I think you're right. The more extreme example is the angels and they had knowledge far superior to ours and (supposedly) a third of them chose not to serve. Since they were all on the same playing field and created with grace and given knowledge, it must be a choice of their free will. I just wish I understood the impetus that makes some, with full knowledge of the consequences of their action, choose against God.

This is also why Mary is so exulted as she is because she chose to serve (love) God more perfectly than any other created being. That's why the hierarchy of angels (and saints), because some loved more perfectly or completely than the others.

I still plan to look into this some more...some day!

gemoftheocean said...

Thanks for taking the time to post all that in. Looking forward to your next installment.