Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:1-11, NIV)
This is the story at the heart of Lent. Jesus tempted and tried in the wilderness. It is the journey we symbolically take as we face our temptations, as we cast a critical eye on who we are and what we do.
But, I’ve often wondered why is that the Spirit leads Jesus “into the wilderness”?
The Comforter, the Paraclete, the One-who-comes-alongside, the Encourager, the Teacher. These expressions of the Spirit’s work I get, but the one who leads Jesus into the wilderness?
It seems the Spirit knew Jesus needed these tests. Perhaps this was a way to encourage, to come alongside. I don’t read scripture to say that Jesus was alone or abandoned. Instead, it seems that the Spirit knew Jesus needed this experience, that this time of testing would be the catalyst for all the ministry to come.
Yesterday and today I wandered into the wintry wonderland that was/is our latest gift of winter. As I shoveled a ton of snow (my back says it was a ton), I admit I felt like giving in and letting the snow have the drive a number of times. Each time, I paused and thought, “one scoop at a time”. And isn’t that how we do anything?
How many times did Jesus think of quitting?
How many times did the Spirit remind him, “one more step” or “one more day”?
How many times does the Spirit do that for me today?
The Spirit may lead me into the wilderness, but I must remember I am not alone there. I am not on my own there. I am not abandoned.
The Spirit may lead me into the wilderness, but it is to allow me to face the test that will become the catalyst for future ministry.
If I can keep this in mind (Spirit help me), I will enter into wilderness with a sense of expectation and hope, instead of dread and despair. I can endure wilderness suffering because I will remember it is preparation for work that lies ahead. I will spend my time in wilderness wandering, enduring, adapting, overcoming, instead of looking for the shortcuts back to simple and comfortable and known.
That is, I’ll do all these things if the Spirit is the one leading me.
After all the drive is clear today; even dry in most places as the sun warmed the concrete. Together, we (me and you and the Spirit) can do more than we imagine. Even in the wilderness.
Life is better together,