Good morning friends,
It’s the second week in the season of Lent, and I’ve been considering the passage in Matthew where Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days of fasting, praying, and to be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4).
Led by the Spirit into the wilderness. And then what? Did the Spirit leave? Was Jesus completely alone? I wonder these things.
It dawned on me this week that the Spirit wasn’t (and isn’t) like a divine Uber driver, sent by God to pick Jesus up at the Jordan river and drop him off at his next appointment with the prince of darkness. The Spirit didn’t drive Jesus into the wilderness and deposit him by the side of the road without compass, luggage, snacks, or a map. “Let’s see how he’ll do in this challenge, angels!”
Jesus didn’t watch the Spirit roar away in a cloud of desert dust, only to see him return forty days later (after he’d successfully withstood intense demonic negotiations for the eternal souls of men). No. After his baptism; after the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit descended on him like a dove; after Jesus heard his father say, “This is my beloved son in who I am well pleased” he wasn’t shuttled out to the wilderness to now go it alone!
The Spirit was there all the while. And Jesus listened to him as they walked together, not by lush and lovely streams, but over nettles and scorched earth. He waited and received the Spirit’s counsel as they rested in precious little shade. He entrusted himself to his comfort and care as cold darkness crept over the valley. And so when the testing and tempting of Satan came to Jesus at the ordained time, he was sufficiently prepared and ready to stand firm.
From his baptism to the cross, Jesus was inclined to listen and be led by the will and words of God. He was inclined to seek God’s kingdom first. He was open and disposed to get up early, linger a while longer, or turn this water into the finest wine, depending on whatever wise word he received from God.
The Spirit still leads all who are baptized through this craggy, exacting, and thorny life. The thing is, of course, we often forget. We despair find ourselves in dangerous territory, wandering aimlessly through brambles and stumbling badly as night is falling.
We get worked up in the details. We’re hungry! The scenery never changes. We’re bored! The going is ridiculously slow and often in frustrating circles. We’re ineffective and unproductive! The climate is harsh and unyielding; the respites are few and far between. We’re overwhelmed!
We spend considerable time mumbling that our Divine Uber driver refuses to take us far from this place, preferably to the sea. We demand to speak to management!
The temptation comes in our fatigue and tells us to take what comfort we can. We are tempted to trust our own word and make our own daily bread. The Tempter knows the soul’s deep need for rest and affirmation. What can he do to help us forget who we are and who shepherds us? How can he help us find life anywhere but in the arms of God?
So remember your baptism this week in the wilderness of Lent. The Spirit has not left you, even though you have often left him. Set apart time to listen, wait, rest, and look for your Helper. For Christ is with you, leading and preparing you, so you will be ready in this ordained day to stand firm.
Lift your eyes and slow your pace then, friends. Incline your ear to hear God’s voice again: “This is my beloved daughter in who I am well pleased. And lo, I am with you always.
Peace to you and yours,
*Image from Time.com