We’re now in the season of Lent. The Gospel reading for Sunday 21 February, the 1st Sunday in Lent, was St Mark’s account of Jesus being led into the wilderness and being tempted by Satan.
Do you feel as though we’re in the wilderness at present? Lockdowns come & go (mostly come), restrictions on what we can & can’t do appear to change on a regular basis – daily. Do we really know where we are? Or where we’re going? When are we going to get out of all of this?
We were promised a road map showing us the way out The PM provided one but will it really happen or will we have to wait longer? When & how will it all end?
The Vaccine rollout appears to be going reasonably well but when will restrictions actually be eased, let alone lifted?
Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness came immediately after his baptism by John. As he came out of water, he saw the heavens open & the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. There was a voice from heaven saying “You are my Son, the Beloved: with you I am well pleased”. Mark’s account doesn’t say everyone heard it – it was directed at Jesus himself.
Then, immediately, the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness.
Jesus had just heard himself proclaimed as God’s Son & his Father was pleased with him.
Why then the need to drive him into the wilderness? Why the need for temptation?
Was it to prove that, as God’s Son he was not only able to resist temptation but also to prove himself to be above temptation, to prove himself to be more powerful than Satan?
Mark’s account doesn’t tell us what the temptations were but Matthew’s does.
Mark tells us that Jesus was with the wild beasts. The implication there is that they didn’t harm him or seek to do so. Perhaps they recognised that he was Son of God - God had created them & so they wouldn’t harm God their creator. Mark also says that angels waited on him, which is perhaps further proof of his status & divinity.
Jesus’ temptation in wilderness lasted 40 days.
40 is a significant number in the bible, symbolising a period of trial or testing.
· The rain bringing Noah’s flood lasted 40 days;
· Moses lived in Egypt for 40 years before leading the people of Israel to freedom;
· They spent 40 years in wilderness before reaching the promised land;
· There are 40 days in Lent – but that doesn’t include Sundays;
· There are 40 days from Easter to Ascension.
There are many more examples.
We were promised a roadmap out of our current lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic, which has lasted more than 40 days – it’s almost a year since first lockdown..
Jesus didn’t have a roadmap out of wilderness – or did he?
As the Son of God he was led by him throughout his ministry. He obeyed his instructions which eventually led to his crucifixion & resurrection, his atonement for the sins of humankind.
We have a roadmap of a different kind, to which we referred later in our service.
What do I mean?
I’m referring to the Lord’s prayer.
In the Lord’s prayer we say “Lead us not into temptation”.
Why would God lead us into temptation? He doesn’t – we lead ourselves or are led by others. When he created us, God gave us free will, which means we can be led astray.
Then we say “But deliver us from evil”.
This doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to us – we know they can and do. But we know God is there to help and support us throughout our lives.
This is a request for the Holy Spirit to lead us in the way God wishes us to go.
That’s our road map for our lives.
By John Hall