Settings: A Lenten Reflection (part 2)
In the great story of God’s interjection into the human condition, the drama of human life, the story we understand as Sacred Scripture, the true protagonist, the ONLY “good guy” that could actually defeat the antagonist (the Evil One) was Jesus. The antecedents of Jesus, Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc. were incapable of effectively defeating the Devil because of their weakened condition – they were humans possessing an incomplete understanding the power of God’s of love. They all, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, etc. had personal encounters [in the case of Adam, face to face] with God. Each though failed to trust completely in God’s ability to accomplish His will, and tried taking matters into their own hands. They underestimated the power of God’s love and the attraction of Satan’s lie – You can do it alone. Abraham and Moses understood God’s power more fully, but they too had their moments of doubt, and relied on their personal abilities.
Jesus though is the true protagonist in God’s story. When the Church teaches that Jesus was incapable of sin, we should not understand that to mean that Jesus had no power to commit sin. Jesus was like us humans in every way. If it were not so, if Jesus was prevented from committing any sin through a force outside his own will, then there would be no merit in his sinless state. Jesus was without sin because he had a true knowledge of God’s love, a complete understanding of God’s will. The power of this knowledge provided Jesus the strength to overwhelm the inclinations of the flesh, the common human desires for comfort, fame, and power (CCC 120; 471-473). It was the relationship Jesus had with his Father that was the strength of Jesus’ will to overcome the human desires for “self”. The story of Jesus, recounted through the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John introduce us to, and develop for us, the idea of deepening a relationship with God as a means of tapping into God’s power to overwhelm evil; in ourselves, and in our human world. Jesus tells the people that he, Jesus, is not about personal goals, but accomplishing God’s goals (Jn 5:30; 6:38-40).
The setting of Jesus: First century Jerusalem, under Roman occupation, surrounded by pagan religious practices and influences, a wanderer without significant (visible) means, etc. really does extend beyond the limits of time, circumstance, and place. At every time, every people are under the “rule” of some form of government (good or bad). At every time people are affected by, influenced by false practices and teachings. There are insufficient means on earth or in the universe to secure immortality, absolute security, unquestionable power. The true setting of Jesus was in his humanness. Because Jesus was like us “in every way but sin”, we are invited to become like Him in every way – including without sin! Contrary however to the great lie of Satan, we cannot ever do this, become like Jesus, apart from developing a close relationship with Jesus.
The “story” of Jesus, the epitome of God’s love for all humans, does not end with Christ’s death, or even His resurrection. The “story” of Jesus continues with just how the reality of Jesus, how God’s love transformed others. The “story” of Jesus continues in us as we allow Jesus to transfigure us.