Lenten Reflection 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 17.

Temptation of Jesus in desert. HOLE, WILLIAM: ...

Jesus in the wilderness

Day 17, Monday, March 12, 2012

 Matthew 4:1-4 tells us that Jesus was hungry and Satan made it a point of temptation by asking Him to make bread out of stones. Satan fully knew that Jesus was the Son of God and yet he wanted Jesus to doubt His identity in the face of hunger. For the Son of God, there was nothing wrong in being hungry and even with turning the stones into bread to satisfy His hunger. However, Jesus refused to obey Satan because He was on a mission. Jesus knew that He was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit and that it was the will of His father for Him to go hungry at this time. Jesus was fasting and praying for a spiritual work that was according to the will of His heavenly Father and Jesus had learned to do nothing outside the will of His Father. The very discipline of fasting is for the purpose of taking one’s eyes and dependency off the material necessities and to focus on God, His purpose of sending Jesus on earth, and how that would be fulfilled in the coming days as Jesus obeyed Him. Thus, any acceptance of Satan’s suggestion would have taken Jesus’ eyes off God and if He had done what Satan wanted Him to do, Jesus would have done the will of the devil instead of continuing in the perfect will of His Father.

 Jesus also didn’t fall for the temptation to prove his divinity because by His refusal to obey him, He wanted to tell the devil and thereby to all of us that to remain hungry is better than to be fed by the bread outside the will of God for our lives. The essence of being divine or, for that matter, the essence of anyone being a follower of Christ is our obedience to the Father by doing His will and not to prove who we are. Our identity is found in doing the will of God rather than in seeking or performing miracles.

 You and I may be in a place of hunger today, which means a place of need and lacking the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and clothing for our family. It’s in such points of need that Satan’s temptations become severe in our lives. We may even feel justified by fulfilling those pressing needs by any means for the sake of our family. The temptation may come in any form and at times may not even seem like a temptation at all. However, in such a situation, we need to remind ourselves that perhaps we’re in the wilderness and in privation under the will of God who has led us into this situation. He may have a better purpose for leading us through all this. Like Jesus, may we continue to seek to be in the will of God and choose to go hungry rather than feed upon the goodies that are independent of the will of God? Amen!

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Lenten Reflection 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus

Day 7, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012

In the wilderness experience of Jesus, only Mark narrates in his gospel that there were “wild beasts” in the wilderness with Jesus (please read Mark 1: 9-13). It is not unusual for the wild beasts to be present in the wilderness. However, what is most remarkable is that Jesus was among the wild beasts for over a month, and yet, none of them touched Him, as He came out unscathed from the wilderness. This reminds us of Adam at the beginning of the creation in the book of Genesis. Before the fall, Adam, too, was in the Garden of Eden surrounded by all sorts of wild beasts and yet unharmed. Daniel was also unhurt in the lions’ den. So also, the second or last Adam, as Apostle Paul referred to Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:45-47), remained unharmed in the midst of wild beasts. He knew that those wild animals were gentler with Him than His own fellow Jews among whom he dwelt! It must have revealed to Him the vicious inhumanity of the people of that generation in whose midst He was to live and minister. He learned that they could be worse than the wild beasts in the wilderness when swayed by the sins.

We have seen from the Scriptures that wilderness experience is a must for the followers of Christ. Today, we realize that wilderness times have their wild beasts! The wild beasts represent the temptations and problems we often face as we try to draw closer to God. The wild beasts of aridity, despair, distractions, doubt, fear, loneliness, sickness, temptation, and so on, raise their ugly heads, and are just waiting for the opportunity to pounce and strike us. They will try their best to dissuade and discourage us from walking with Jesus. These wild beasts each present us with seemingly insurmountable challenges in our spiritual walk. However, when we find ourselves surrounded by such wild beasts we need to remember that Jesus’ innocence regarding sin, holiness, as well as the favor of God upon Him during this time helped Him overcome these wild beasts. He not only walked out unscathed from the wilderness but, afterwards, He also became a channel of blessings to many. Just as the heavenly Father cared for Jesus, protected, and preserved Him from the wild beasts, God will be with us when the wild beasts taunt us. God’s protection and security are ours when we completely trust Him and his provisions. Aren’t your wildernesses times complete with wild beasts? Take them as challenges to be overcome by your holy living and complete dependence on the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Let God slay each one of these beasts and make you and me a blessing to others when we have come out of our wilderness times. As Apostle Paul writes, “We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 Contemp. Eng. Ver.). Amen.

Lenten reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 6.

Day 6, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012

Jesus’s time in the wilderness afforded Him a period of solitude that is so vital to one’s spiritual growth. Jesus knew He was soon to embark upon a very busy and demanding schedule of ministry. Particularly in the gospel according to Mark, Jesus is portrayed as a very busy person moving rapidly from one place to the other. In Mark, Jesus is almost always involved in urgent action, which is obvious in the very frequent use of the terms such as “immediately,” “right away,” “at once,” and as soon as,” at least 42 times in the gospel (read a few passages in Mark to get the feel of it). Therefore, Jesus made the best use of the solitude He found in the wilderness by conversing with His Father. His time alone with God made Him completely depend on Him for everything in His life. The Father became the only and constant source of His might, ministry, and miracles in the coming days. The power of silence and solitude also equipped Jesus to face the temptations Satan brought before Him, to resist him, and ultimately to overcome and defeat Satan. Later on, Jesus cherished the time of solitude in the wilderness. In fact, seeking solitude became one of His spiritual disciplines. He sought time alone with God just before making significant decisions for ministry, such as choosing the Twelve Apostles (see Luke 6:12-16). Whenever He was grieved and troubled, Jesus withdrew to spend time in solitude with God, such as when He heard the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod (see Matthew14:10-13). Even when he felt the pressure of fame, Jesus immediately withdrew to spend time alone with God in prayer (see Matthew 14:23) because that is what he sought more than popularity.

Solitude and silence, therefore, is one of the best disciplines that you and I could cultivate this Lent. This is actually essential if we want to draw near to God in our busy, busy world of activities and programs. In the midst of myriads of responsibilities and doings in our fast paced world, the Lenten season offers us an opportunity to seek tranquil times of quiet to be just with God. It will certainly help deepen our intimate, personal relationship with God. Solitude will also help us get rid of the illusion of our possessiveness. It will help us look within and then to look up to God for everything, as we learn dependence on Him rather than on our material possessions. As Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite authors, says:

It is in solitude that we discover being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received (Renewed For Life, p5).

Lord, help us, therefore, to seek solitude and silence with you in the rest of our retreat with you. Amen.