Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Overview of the Gospels of Lent

Last year the rector of our Cathedral, at the beginning of Lent,  gave me an overview of Lent. He summarized each of the gospels for the six weeks. In all my life I had never looked at the whole of Lent. It really helped me see the bigger picture of this beautiful time that we can grow in holiness. And so here is my attempt to share that birds-eye view. This year we use the B Lectionary cycle for the gospels. Year B focuses on the gospel of St. Mark, but the Sundays in Lent include passages from the other gospels as well.

Temptation of Christ by Duccio
The first Sunday of Lent: The Temptation in the Desert. The temptation of our Lord takes place at the beginning of His 3 years of public ministry. Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days. Then he set out to be about the business of His Father. Just as Jesus fasted and was tempted for 40 days, we share that journey on a lesser scale during Lent.

The second Sunday of Lent: The Transfiguration. The story of the Transfiguration, Mark chapter 9, takes place towards the end of the three year public ministry before Jesus goes up to Jerusalem to be crucified. The Transfiguration was to show Jesus' closest friends and followers, Peter, John and James, a glimpse of His glory. They would sure need it during the darkness of this trial, crucifixion and burial.

The third Sunday of Lent: The Cleansing of the Temple. This event took place early in Jesus' public ministry as recorded in the gospel of St John, chapter 2. In this reading Jesus says "destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it." This is to foretell his death and resurrection. In this story Jesus is talking to His own people, the Jews.
Christ instructing Nicodemus, Hendricksz 1604

The fourth Sunday of Lent: Jesus tells Nicodemus in John chapter 3 that just as the bronze serpent was lifted up, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life. Perhaps the most well known verse in all of scripture is John 3:16 "for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Here again, Jesus is predicting His crucifixion.
Certain Greeks desire to see Jesus, James Tissot

The fifth Sunday of Lent: The Hour has Come. John 12:20 begins with the fact that some Greeks (non-Jews) also came to worship and they wished to see Jesus. And at that request Jesus says "the hour has come." Now that people outside of the Jews are seeking Jesus, it is time for very purpose of His life, His death and resurrection, to save the entire world.
 Entry into Jerusalem by Pedro Orrente, 1620


The sixth Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday: The Triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Mark 11:1-10 is read at the beginning of the mass. Then at the usual time of the gospel in the liturgy of the word, we read the full passion narrative from Mark 14. Jesus is received in Jerusalem for the Passover feast as the King He truly is, and less than a week later, all the tables have turned and He has been crucified.
The Church in her wisdom gives us these precious six weeks to ponder the events of Jesus' life. Consider meditating on each weeks gospel during the week to more fully to become conformed to Christ.

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