By Anna Wolfe
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. The Spirit. We now see the very same Spirit who gave life to Jesus in Mary, and who descended upon Jesus in his baptism, driving Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan and surrounded by beasts for 40 days. How is this possible? How could God make God absolutely suffer? How could God make God confront evil so directly? And yet, are both of these realities, not parts of the exact purpose of Jesus’ life: to take on our flesh and our struggles and triumph over them?
Seeing Jesus tempted here helps us to understand his full humanity. God made God suffer so that we could relate to Him. Each of us struggles with temptation daily, and it is standard to often feel alone in that battle. In this passage, the “wilderness” and “beasts” are metaphorical representations of the chaos and obstacles which impede on us as we stumble through life, bearing our burdens. The ability to turn to scripture and see Jesus facing the same difficulties is a comforting reminder that we are not alone in our struggles. In Jesus’ example, in fact, we find that the wilderness is not a place to be feared, but one of great hope! It is a place of revelation and of intimacy. In our darkest moments, when we are alone and most in need of God, he appears to us. Yes, Jesus was by himself among beasts, exhausted from battling Satan’s temptations, but at the same time “…the angels ministered to [Jesus].” God was on his side, and for this reason, Jesus emerged from the wilderness in proclamation!
This is the beauty of this succinct passage: it wraps up the purpose of Lent in 8 brief lines. Jesus remained in a dark place, confronting his temptations vulnerably, in the fullness of his humanity, for 40 days. So, too, do we begin that journey now. Angels ministered to Jesus throughout this battle. We, too, are reminded that we are never alone in our struggles. God reaches out to us in intimacy, yearning to create, heal and nourish His personal relationship with each of us, especially within our darkest moments. After 40 days of restless confrontation, Jesus returned to Galilee, proclaiming the Good News to all who would hear it: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” We pay heed to this advice when participating intentionally in the Lenten season, and we pray that as we work on ourselves, we experience intimacy with God in the wilderness. At this, our hearts will be transformed in a way which sends us off in proclamation – firm in both our faith and our desire to share it!
What are the areas of temptation in your life? In other words, which struggles make you feel alone in the wilderness? What are your “beasts”?
How does adding or subtracting this behavior, thought, commitment, etc. to or from your life help you to refocus your desires?
God is our source of strength and peace. How can you make yourself aware of the angels ministering to you in your darkest hour? And how can you bring that reality to others?