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…
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.’”
A sudden change, strange days, and being isolated and low on supplies.
Jesus goes from the waters of the Jordan where the Father declares ‘this is my son, my beloved…’ to the Judean Wilderness where water, and everything else but danger, is hard to come by.
I will never forget the first time I saw it. No description or photo quite captures the barren, flint-rock, moon-like landscape of the Judean Wilderness. The Good Samaritan, David hiding from Saul and the temptation of Jesus all take place in the Wilderness of Judah. It is a place short on water, people and safety.
Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. He wasn’t lost. He was short on provisions, he got hungry, and he was tempted by the enemy. Yet, Jesus hadn’t left the land of God’s promise. He was in a place that was hard, that hurt and was confusing. Yet, Jesus was still the beloved and still belonged to the Father. The temptation of the enemy are invitations to believe otherwise. Jesus is repeatedly challenged to redefine who he is based on his circumstances and he refuses to change.
I was stunned to discover the road from the Jordan Valley that backs up to Jerusalem goes through the Wilderness. In my mental map of the scene, the spirit had led Jesus away from the temple, the city and the lands of God’s promise. I had imagined it on the edges, the place you pass through to get into the land of milk and honey but the opposite is true. The wilderness is a part of the promised land of Israel.
We are learning something together about time in the wilderness. We know about isolation, about resources thinning, about fear and anxiety piling up like so many flint rocks. Yet, like the one we follow, our circumstances do not change who we are.
We are not outside of God’s promise.
We are not lost and we are not alone.
We are still the beloved, who belong to the Father who claimed us in our baptism.
We may be tempted to believe that God is far from our present struggle, that the church has been sidelined because it can’t physically gather as before, and that disease and death are the most powerful forces at work in our world.
But the opposite is true.
The prophet Isaiah declares, “See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. (43:19)”
So, we wash hands, we lament the pain and disruption of this virus, we serve, we study, we worship, we pray and we keep walking...we are not lost.
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