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First Sunday of Lent

00:00 / 17:57

18 Feb 2024

Spiritual Warfare in the Wilderness

Mark 1:9-15

“Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Mark 1:24-25

Reading helps us focus today upon Christ as Saviour, Example, and Master.

Christ as Saviour

-       Christ tempted in wilderness 40 days. Fasting acc. to Matthew 4:2.

-       Why? Christ reverses pattern of Adam, fulfils vocation of Israel.

Adam was cast out of Paradise into the desert…the second Adam returned from the desert to Paradise…Adam brought death through the tree. Christ brought life through the cross…Christ lived in the desert, for he knew where he could find the lost. With their error cancelled, he could recall them to Paradise.

St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke

-       Adam expelled from Garden into wilderness. Israel wandered in wilderness 40 years and showed disobedience.

-       Christ ventures into wilderness to demonstrate perfect obedience and call his people back to Paradise.

-       Patristic idea of “Recapitulation”. Christ fulfilling callings of God’s people in OT, that he might lead us back to God.

-       To remember during Lent: Christ enters the wilderness to find us and save us. We are saved through his perfect obedience and through putting our faith in him. Our observances must be seen in this light.

Christ as Example

-       Christ baptised, anointed by Holy Spirit in form of a dove, said to be beloved Son of the Father. Then “immediately” (εὐθὺς) driven (ἐκβάλλει – or “thrown”) into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.

-       Extraordinary verse: no time to revel in baptismal glory. Violently driven into great spiritual challenge by the Holy Spirit.

-       When we become Christians, we are thrown into the midst of a spiritual battle.

-       Christ in midst of wild beasts and angels. We are in the midst of angels and demonic principalities.

“The conscious Orthodox Christian lives in a world that is clearly fallen, both the earth below and the stars above, all being equally far from the lost paradise for which he is striving. He is part of a suffering mankind all descended from the one Adam, the first man, and all alike in need of the redemption offered freely by the Son of God by his saving Sacrifice on the Cross…he knows well that there are “advanced intelligences” in the universe besides himself; these are of two kinds, and he strives to live so as to dwell with those who serve God (the angels) and avoid contact with the others who have rejected God and strive in their envy and malice to draw men into their misfortune.”

Fr Seraphim Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, pp.137-138

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Eph. 6:12

-       Christ demonstrates this in spiritual warfare in wilderness.

-       Baptism and reception of HS demonstrate importance of sacraments – Baptism for anointing with HS, confirmation for strengthening, Holy Communion for renewing, Confession for liberation.

-       Second reason for Christ’s fast: Example to us.

-       Christ teaches and exemplifies discipline of fasting: “When you fast…” (Mt. 6:16).

-       Not specified how but that his disciples will fast. Church provides different times of year at which fasting is recommended/appropriate: eg Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Lent more generally.

-       Why? To turn our wills towards God. When we might rather eat, instead we pray. This changes the direction of our hearts.

Christ as Master

-       Only thing Christ told us to do which he himself did not do: Repent.

-       “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” Mark 1:15

-       Just after arrest of John the Baptist: indicative of fulfilment of OT era, purpose of which to prepare for Christ’s coming.

-       Hence, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand/has come near.” The time - ὁ καιρὸς: not chronos (time generally) but kairos (appointed time): special moment, full of significance. Here: the coming of Christ to preach the Gospel.

-       This time is still now. God gives us a chance and waits because he is patient. But he tells us to repent.

-       To Repent (μετανοέω) lit. to change one’s mind, think again. Radical change of heart and mind.

-       In Lent, we are called to focus on repentance. How? Putting away obvious sin.

-       What if no obvious, egregious sin? Is there habitual or besetting sin? Bursts of anger, judgemental criticism of others, gluttony and over-indulgence?

-       Deepening of repentance also involves sorrow over indifference to God.

o   Spiritual life not just about avoidance of wrong but pursuit of what is good. Sorrow over our lack of desire for the good is an appropriate form of repentance.

-       Attitude and action go together. Action:

o   Going to confession – to receive tangible reassurance of God’s forgiveness and love. Please consider availing yourself of confession during Lent, perhaps once, perhaps for the first time. A powerful sacramental tool in the spiritual life. Available by appointment with me.


-       We receive a renewed call from Christ to the Sacraments of the Church, to fasting and prayer, to deepening our repentance and humility before God. Let us continue in this attitude as we meet him in the wilderness of Lent.

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