Scripture reports that following his baptism by John, Jesus went into the desert for forty days. He did not choose to do this willingly, but was driven out into the desert by the Holy Spirit. He was cast into the wilderness in order to prepare for His great work for which He had come to earth. He didn’t go to a library, he didn’t go to a spa, he want alone into a wilderness with wild beasts, dust, sand, heat during the day, cold during the night, no food, no water for forty days of fasting and prayer. It was a rigorous time, it was a lonely time, it was a time in which most would have turned back, given up from fear or doubt or dread.
During these forty days and nights, we learn that Jesus was tempted by Satan three times:
- When hungry, he was challenged to turn stones into bread; Jesus replied that we cannot live by bread alone.
- When in his solitude he felt powerless, He was taunted by Satan to have the angels catch Him as He threw himself from the pinnacle, Jesus reminded us that we should not tempt God.
- When He was overcome by loneliness and helplessness, Satan offered Jesus the kingdom of the world with all its power and riches; Jesus rebuked Satan, reminding us that we should worship only the Lord our God and nothing else.
In the wilderness Jesus sought the inner strength and calm and resolve to claim his identity as God’s child, and to let the rest of his life – his words, his relationships, and his love, even to dying a painful and unjust death on the cross, come from that identity as God’s beloved Son.
Lent for us begins on March 6th – Ash Wednesday. During the six Sundays of Lent messages in worship will focus on the “Wilderness Time” we experience in our own lives: time for Learning; times for Challenge; times for Dependence; times for Doubt; and times for Comfort. Lent is not only forty days of centering and reflection, it can also be our time of preparation for truly participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is about dying to an old identity defined by our culture, our traditions, our habits and even our families, and being born into a new identity centered in the spirit of God. It means dying to an old way and being born into a new way of being. . . being centered in God. Don’t ignore the wilderness – it may be a spiritually enriching experience.