Friday, January 6th. Mark 1:12-13

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Mark 1:12-13

Immediately after the affirmation of his baptism, Jesus is thrust into the wilderness.  Mark tells us this wasn’t accidental.  God literally threw him out.  The image is as violent and disruptive as Jesus throwing the money changers out of the temple.

The entire wilderness experience is communicated in a single sentence.  Not unlike the veteran who says “I was a prisoner of war for six years and then came home.” Or someone else casually saying, “I’m a cancer survivor.”  The brevity of the description is too much, no wonder both Matthew and Luke felt the need to expand its telling.

We know what the wilderness means.  Isolation.  Deprivation.  Temptation.  We know 40 is a powerfully symbolic number in the Bible.  40 days of rain in Noah’s flood.  40 years in the wilderness for the people of Israel.  Moses on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. A 40-something time period is a period of testing and trial but it always leads to something better.  New insight, renewal, rescue, new life.

As an athlete growing up, I had mixed feelings about the pre-season.  I loved being back on a field or court but dreaded the way that coaches would push us to the edge of our abilities and endurance. Over and over again through the years I would hear things like “the harder we practice the easier we’ll play”, “remember that somewhere someone is working harder than you for what you want”, “we can’t control the outcome of a game but we can control how how we work in preparation.”  Those memories always come back to me when I hear these verses.

People recognize the “wilderness moments” they have lived through.  Usually painful, wilderness moments are times following a divorce, a severe illness, a major move, the death of a love one.  Wilderness moments are debilitating, confusing, depressing.  We forget that life will one day get better for wilderness times do end.

Sometimes we need wilderness moments.  Many people seek time in the wilderness, time in retreat, to find themselves, to rediscover their connection to God, to restore a sense of balance in their lives.

So it is that, just as Jesus identifies himself with us in his baptism, he also identifies with us in his time in the wilderness.  He is tested.  He is tempted.  And he experiences the restoration that God works in our lives as he is cared for at the end by the angels that God sends his way.

So it is that, regardless of what is going on in our lives just this moment, there is as much comfort for us in this wilderness memory as there is in his baptism.

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, our lives have tasted the joy of affirmation and the pain of separation.  We’ve known good times and hard times.  Thank you again for the enduring promise of your love which helps us endure the wilderness moments of our lives.  Help us learn every lesson that every hurt sends our way and sustain us in the midst of our education.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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One Response to “Friday, January 6th. Mark 1:12-13”

  1. Judy Says:

    Interesting to compare our troubles as wilderness moments. I will think of my illness in this manner.

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