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Lenten reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, day 3

#3. Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

The first three (synoptic) gospels record that after Jesus’ baptism He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Read Matthew 4: 1-2, Mark 1: 12-13, Luke 4: 1-2). The wilderness where Jesus spent those forty days was most probably in Judea along the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, to the northeast of the city of Jerusalem. Unlike what we think of wilderness today as a long stretch of forests, it was a desert where hardly any plants grew and that mostly remained unsettled. It was a rocky, mountainous area where John the Baptist had also lived and ministered (see Matthew 3:1).

Wilderness has played a very key role in the life of God’s people. That’s why they believed that most significant things for their spiritual life actually originated from the wilderness experience. Moses was in the wilderness tending sheep when God appeared to him and called him to deliver people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. However, after their liberation from slavery, the Israelites had to wander forty years in the wilderness before the Lord led them into the Promised Land. That’s why the Jews believed that “the law, they say, came from the wilderness; the tabernacle from the wilderness; the Sanhedrin from the wilderness; the priesthood from the wilderness; the office of the Levites from the wilderness; the kingdom from the wilderness; and all the good gifts which God gave to Israel were from the wilderness” (Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 13. 3).

It’s very interesting to note that both Israelites and Jesus were led into the wilderness soon after they had experienced the favor of God and the manifestation of His power. Jesus experienced God’s favor at His baptism (see Matthew 3: 16-17, Luke 3: 21-22), and the Israelites had just seen the most potent manifestation of God’s power at work in their deliverance from Egypt. But in the very next step of their journey with God, they found themselves wandering and starving in the wilderness—Jesus for forty days, and Israelite for forty years! It’s not a coincidence for believers; rather, we learn from it that in order for us to grow in Christ and to be Christlike one has to go through the wilderness experience. This works as a refiner’s fire for our faith to shine for Christ and to make us victorious Christians rather than mediocre ones. So, what’s your wilderness today? Instead of complaining about it, let us be grateful and live expectantly that one day God will bring about something definitely good from out of your wilderness experience. Amen.


Wilderness in the Jordan valley in Judea


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