The first reading (Deuteronomy 26:4-10) is about the Jewish spring festival of Unleavened Bread (Matzah), quoting the creedal statement about the past dealings of God with themselves, His people. Their Aramean ancestor was Abram the progenitor of the twelve tribes of Israel; their crop failures took them down to the well-stocked Egypt where Joseph already was; but there they became slaves and only escaped under the leadership of Moses with God’s help. Wandering in the desert they were not too pleased with their God nor He with them, but after a generation (40 years), God brought them into their present (Promised) land. It was here that they could celebrate the first fruits of the harvest again. Their creed about God was not a list of doctrines, but rather about God’s treatment of them over time – His care for His people.
Paul’s letter to the Romans begins with him saying how he loves the Jews, but how they have strayed from their original creed and now seek to gain righteousness by keeping the Law (and lots of other rules); he says: “But now the Law has come to an end with Christ, and everyone who has faith may be justified.” The passage read today (chapter 10: 8-13) follows this; it is about the right relationship that we should have with God, that it comes from God, is not earned by any effort of ours and that it leads to our salvation when we die; it is by faith that we trust in God and his goodness to us. Although Paul quotes the book of Deuteronomy (30:14) he stretches its original meaning, and also when he later quotes Isaiah (28:16); but he finds what he believes about the universality of God’s love in Joel (2:32).
The Gospel is Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13). He has been baptised where a heavenly voice declared him Son of God, but what does this mean and how will it work out – that is where the temptations come in. Will He use His power to satisfy the various hungers of human beings (for easy sustenance, life and prosperity), or will He submit to any evil in order to become the King of kings (ruler of all the nations), or, finally, will He use His protection from God to win people with superficial, miraculous powers? Luke treats the public work of Jesus as a journey towards Jerusalem (and all that happened there), and so he differs from the order of the temptations in Matthew’s gospel to have Jerusalem as the last one and also he implies that Jesus will get tempted further during the rest of His life.