Lessons From The Wilderness – this new series focuses on what we learn from Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1-11. I met with Cody and Tim this morning to discuss this passage and they both brought great insights for where we will go in this series. I want to leave you with a simple reflection this week as you prepare to gather together on Sunday.
Before Jesus began his ministry, he took time to go to the wilderness to focus on his relationship with the Father through prayer and fasting. Tim had a great point in that we wait till we are absolutely exhausted from life before we take time to retreat and reconnect with God. I know many of my mistakes in ministry have been made out of places of exhaustion. I’ve said the wrong thing. I have had the wrong motives and focus. There are times where I simply have the wrong attitude about people and even my position. These mentalities and drives come from a place that is not centered in the peace that comes from God. So, Jesus begins his ministry with going out to the wilderness.
What is Jesus doing in the wilderness? In the passage leading up to our passage for Sunday, Jesus receives the Holy Spirit at his baptism. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Stop for a minute or two and repeat this to yourself: “I am a Child of God. I am loved by the Father and he is pleased with me.” What would be different about your life if you believed this? If you took time on a regular basis to retreat into the wilderness and find rest in your relationship with God, knowing that you are loved and he is pleased with you, how would life be different? I believe Jesus, who emptied himself from all advantages of being God (Phil 2:5-11), wrestled with this in the wilderness and what it would mean for his life and ministry.
When the devil came to tempt him, he attacked this identity and tempted him to accomplish his ministry through worldly means. Jesus knew that the only way to conquer sin’s grip on the world would be to allow the world to do its worst to him. He knew that he would have to continually empty himself of all ego and worldly motivations and allow himself to be filled with the Holy Spirit if he was going to be the Messiah the Father has called him to be. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors in this world. We are to be the presence of God and to bring reconciliation to the brokenness we see around us. The practice of Lent is a practice of submission where we empty ourselves of something that we might be filled with the Holy Spirit. This emptying prepares us for the temptation that is coming. We don’t fast so that God might notice us. We fast so that we will be filled more with God than anything else.
How did Jesus combat temptation? He did so with the three things we have in our possession. First, he had the Holy Spirit, given at his baptism, as an identity marker. We are daughters and sons of God because we were given the same Spirit at our baptism. Second, Jesus knew and used scripture. He didn’t know scripture because it was divinely downloaded. He knew scripture because he memorized it as a child like every Jewish child. Finally, he submitted himself to the Father in prayer. Prayer is a powerful weapon. This is the place when we intentionally enter the presence of God, to be examined, and to be emptied of all that is not of God. When we live out of a place of prayer, we live in the assurance of our identity in and with God.
Take time to reflect and re-reflect on Jesus’ time in the wilderness. What lessons do you learn? I’d love for you to share your reflections with me. Peace be with you in your journey through the wilderness.