Tuesday February 21, 2023
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
Jesus is the name his Father in heaven gave him; and to the Hebrews, a name means everything.
What is known as the wilderness of Israel—the wild, unruly, and untamed barren land of this part of the world—is devoid of life, food, and water. The wild was a dangerous place to be. Into the wilderness of testing, armed with only the name and vocation his Father had affirmed at his baptism, Jesus went.
Jesus. Humans need salvation. Look at what we do to ourselves, to one another. These hearts and their tears need resolve, drying, healing. We live. We love. We desire. We dream. We also kill. We hate. We lust. We create nightmares from our desire to shape the world according to our own designs. As Augustine explained it, our desires are disordered, and we fail ourselves and others when we try to live without a Savior at work within us.
Into this world, yours and mine, a Savior comes—a representative human. He models, in heart, in mind, in body, in purpose, what it means to live the truly good life. In his shining model, we see virtues that stand in stark contrast to the vices given sacred status by the world.
Jesus, the “Lord saves,” is the Savior given to us. He will face it all, all the horrors of the heart that we face as children of Adam and Eve, and will do it without breaking covenant with the Creator (Heb. 4:15). He will do, in his test in the wilderness, what Israel could not on its own.
Flesh and blood, Jesus moved in the world, grew up in a family, and became a young man. Then, in his thirties, he makes his move. Showing up at the baptismal waters of John, Jesus gets his business card from the Father.
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:21–22).
“You are my Son”—Jesus’s core identity and vocation is clear: to live as a Son in perfect covenant communion with his Father. Jesus knows who he is.
“Whom I love”—Jesus receives, at the beginning of his ministry, a word of affection and belovedness that will feed him the rest of his life. Jesus knows whose he is.
“With you I am well pleased”—Jesus receives an affirmation of his value before he has even done one miracle. Jesus knows why he is and what he must do that flows from it—he will not draw his sense of purpose from anything other than the Father’s love.
His vocation, his calling, his core identity, his essential nature, is blessed and secured by the Father.
After his time in the desert wild in Luke 4:18–20, he will stand to read the scroll of Isaiah and declare that the scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing. He will inaugurate the kingdom coming with this blessing and unveil it in his ministry.
But between Jesus’s baptism and kingdom proclamation from Isaiah lies the wild.
Jesus’s experience in the wild in Luke 4 is different from suffering or even just temptation. I was taught to conflate the two ideas of the wilderness and suffering, and though testing from all sides happens in all kinds of trials, the wild Jesus enters is a Spirit-led challenge on a field of battle into which he has been guided by the breath of God.
He has just had his name blessed, his belovedness settled, his intrinsic value affirmed in baptism (3:21–22). Now, that vocation, that belovedness, that sense of value—all established on covenant love with the Father—is about to be tested.
Tested? Does God test his people in the Bible? Did God test Abraham, Moses, his people Israel? Absolutely.The wild, the place of testing, can even be one we choose. Jesus is isolated and empty (fasting) by choice to face down the sinister voice that is about to tell him that everything God has said is untrue, and that there is a better way. Do you know that voice? I know that voice.
Jesus goes into the wild to face the enemy without the crowd or even his mother, Mary, to psych him up. It is him, full of the Holy Spirit, facing down the needling questions the enemy has prepared.
He will come out of this wilderness; we now know with the benefit of having the whole story laid before us. But for Jesus, there was no “next part of Luke” to read. He was going into a dangerous place where he would have to entertain the most basic, unsettling, and selfhood-challenging questions of his entire life. To be tested means we could fail.
Jesus will not fail.
And if he can face those questions down now as he goes into the wild, and answer them solidly for his own heart, he can walk the hard road ahead of him.
Is there a wilderness you sense the Holy Spirit has led you into recently that is calling into question your faith and confidence in who God has called you to be? How are you doing so far?
Lord of the Wild, we don’t choose to go places where danger might meet us. But in your story, we see the Spirit leading you into a place of risk and challenge. Give us the grace to be led by you into places that may challenge us, but that will also prove that faith is alive in our hearts. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Songs for the Wilderness
First 15 through the season of Lent is adapted from Jesus in the Wild: Lessons of Calling for Life in the World available through Seedbed. If you or your small group are interested in using this resource for your Lenten study, you can find more information here or send an email to email@example.com.
The First 15
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