Lessons for February 25, 2018
The 2nd Sunday in Lent
In the Lenten season we are called to repent: to turn our attention from ourselves to the cross; to deny ourselves; to take up our cross; to follow Jesus! But God's command can only be understood in the context of his absolute love and fidelity. We are already reconciled to God through Christ; now we are to live as children of God.
For more about the books of Genesis, Romans, and Mark, click here.
Jacob's ladder might better be translated "stairway." In ancient temples, stairways linked the earthly world to the gods' dwelling at the top of a tower. The priests acted as mediators between heaven and earth; that is, between god and the worshipers, who would never be invited to climb that stairway. This text challenges that old understanding by claiming that God is present with Jacob without the need of any human mediator. God makes a series of eight promises, some confirming promises originally made to Abraham, others personal promises to Jacob. When Jacob says, "...If God will be with me," he isn't bargaining, but holding God accountable for the promises God has made. *
Genesis 28:10-22: Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.”
"Sufferings" refers especially to the suffering that is to occur before the end of time, but it can also mean everyday suffering. Enduring suffering refines people and reveals character. People who have been refined have hope because they place their future into God's hands, not their own. God holds nothing back: his love and fidelity are sure. Part of the wonder of God's love is that Christ does not wait for humanity to become perfect before dying for us. Paul distinguishes between the justification and reconciliation that have already occurred and the salvation that is still in the future. *
Romans 5:1-11: Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
After Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus tells his disciples for the first time what is to come. Peter's response indicates that he does not yet understand the way of the cross that Jesus will travel. *
Mark 8:31-38: Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
* Old Testament and Epistle commentaries adapted from Lutheran Study Bible, pgs. 86, 87 and 1858, Augsburg Fortress; Gospel commentary from Sundays and Seasons, Year B 2018, Augsburg Fortress, pg. 109