Jesus is alone. Jesus is not just along, however. He has already made room for those he will serve. He has been removed for a season from the people and their demands, but not before he has taken a stand with eh people, identified with them, in baptism. Only then was he propelled into the wilderness.
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11 (Good News Translation)
Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God's Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,
‘God will give orders to his angels about you;
they will hold you up with their hands,
so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’”
Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.
This story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is our text for worship tomorrow. It lays the groundwork for why and how we approach this season of Lent. It is perhaps the first shadow that is cast over Jesus in his active ministry life. In the desert, Jesus is challenged to determine who he is and who he will be as the “beloved Son” in whom God is “well pleased.”
The wilderness is where we all find ourselves at times, struggling to come to terms with who we are or what has happened to us, and seeking to emerge with a greater sense of purpose and reason for being who we are or who we ought to be. When we look at the Biblical stories of wilderness journeys, it often seems that the wilderness is a barren, difficult place to be. But I don’t think that all wilderness journeys are necessarily that bad.
In some ways, having to transition from a full time minister to a part time minister has felt like a wilderness experience for me. It wasn’t an unhappy place, but there were still some challenges for me to face. My ministry has been my life for 20 years. Learning how to back away and prioritize what needs to be done, to manage my time and be intentional about not working 50-60 hours a week was a bit of a challenge for me. I really had to consider what my calling would be for this particular moment in time.
In the end, that’s what wilderness journeys are all about. They challenge us to determine who we are and who we will be, what is most important, and what we need to learn to be better people. In these wilderness places, God seeks to have us draw closer so that we find not only who we are, but who we are in relationship to God. Because it is God who, as with Jesus, will propel us into the journey beyond the wilderness.