Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spend Some Time in the Wilderness

Matthew 4:1 says “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Luke 4:1 says “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.”

Mark isn’t so subtle. “The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness.” [Mark 1:12]

What is all this business about being led by the Sprit and driven by the Sprit into the wilderness? Wasn’t being Baptized enough? Why did Jesus also need to be tempted by the devil?

Some people ask a similar question about Lent. Why do we need to do Lent? It’s a little too somber for some (some would even say depressing). Where’s the joy? Yes, we know Christ suffered and died, but He also rose. We live in the joy of the resurrection! Why go through the “wilderness,” the solemnity of Lent, when we know we have salvation?

Because the Church’s life is patterned after Christ’s life. Just as we are united with Christ in Baptism, the life of the Church is bound up with the life of Christ.

Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan. He was out on His own trusting solely in His Heavenly Father for His physical and spiritual sustenance. Lent is a period of time of reflection and preparation. It is a forty day period of time in which we meditate on our unworthiness and God’s grace to us, though we are unworthy.

Jesus’ time in the wilderness was not a fun time. He wasn’t out there to have a grand old time. Jesus wasn’t living the high life when He was suffering for the sins of the world, but He had joy.

The writer of Hebrews (12:2) expresses this in his description of how Jesus approached His suffering: “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” Thus, his exhortation to us as Christians can be an invitation—even driving us to it!—to spend some time in the “wilderness” of Lent:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Hebrews 12:1-2]

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