“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,
and he was in the desert forty days,
being tempted by Satan.
He was with the wild animals,
and angels attended him.”
Mark 1:12-13 NIV
The Spirit of God pushed the newly anointed Christ into the wilderness. Fresh out of the Jordan River, with the voice of God still ringing in His ears, He takes a path into the desert. The barren wasteland characterized as much by what is missing, trees, people, water, community, comfort, as by what is there, sun, sand, wild animals, loneliness. This is a landscape that is inhospitable and dangerous. A landscape that challenges humanity.
In this environment, far from the pressing crowds, away from the familiar rhythms of home Jesus was tempted. When I read this in my Bible, it fits nicely between the headings The Baptism of Jesus and Jesus preaches in Galilee. But I wonder if that’s how it felt to live it. Did He experience it as just a stop on his way to ministry. I wonder, if like me, he experienced the desert as a though he would never see water again. As though the familiar faces and comfort of home would be lost forever. I wonder, if alone in the desert, he didn’t know when or where the path before him would turn toward home.
Isn’t that what the desert feels like? Like, this is my life and it’s all I will ever know. When barren winds blow through my life, I am never sure that the lush waters of the Jordan will reappear. When isolation, cuts me off from fellowship and understanding I can’t envision community. When I am exposed to cruel circumstances, I can’t imagine that life will again provide shelter. I forget what safety feels like. Sometimes I don’t even need to travel to experience that. When the circumstances of my life leave me raw and vulnerable, worn to the bone of both body and spirit. In that desert place, life before the desert and life after the desert fall away, and I am simply here, now.
It was in this deserted spot that Jesus was tempted. The writer of Mark leaves out the details of the temptation. In this telling details are not the point, it is enough for us to know… Jesus was tempted.
This matters, to me. It means I can run to Him with my own heart yearning for bread that isn’t mine. When I find my heart hungering for things, for experiences, and for people to fill the aching hole of need, I can run to the One who understands. He was tempted.
It means that when I want to test God’s love and commitment to me, when I stray too close to the cliff so that I might catch of glimpse of His miraculous power, He understands. When I want to push Him to act on my behalf, not in His perfect time, but on my own schedule, Jesus knows. He was tempted.
It means when my heart longs for a different path, an easier path, than the one set before me, I can turn to the One who knows. With my heart rebelling and my eyes wandering, I can drag my aching heart to the One who understands. He was tempted.
This desert time matters because I walk through deserts that reveal my vulnerability and expose my weaknesses and when I do, there is One who has already been there. But it is Jesus’ walk through temptation that allows me to draw close. The Glorious God, who walked through the desert and faced very real temptation, draws near to us in our weakness and gives us His very own strength.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way,
just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Reflect– What made you think as you read this?
Receive– What touched your heart?
Respond– What will you do because you read this?