WILDERNESS OF TESTING
Scripture Reading: Mark 1:12-15
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
In Mark's non-stop action gospel, he describes Jesus as being baptized by John in the Jordan. As he came out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice was heard from heaven, saying, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." And then Mark writes that at once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, or as another translation has it, the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. There he was with wild animals. The question that instantly comes to mind is, "Why? Why would the Holy Spirit drive Jesus into the desert?" The short answer: to be tested.
If we are serious in our journey of discipleship, the Holy Spirit will drive us into the wilderness of testing as well. These times of testing can last a few days, or in some cases, a few years. The Israelite's spent forty years in the wilderness. It can be a terrible time, what with being alone amidst wild beasts who threaten to destroy us. Also, like a person might drink anything to quench his thirst in an actual desert, we too might do anything to satisfy our emotional thirsts in the spiritual desert, but Jesus shows us that there are alternatives. When he was hungry — he was 40 days without food, remember? — the tempter came to him knowing that he was vulnerable.
"If you are the Son of God," he told Jesus, "tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' (see Matthew 1:3-4). God will help us get through the temptations and struggles that we will face during our times of testing. There may have been wild beasts in the wilderness where Jesus was driven into. But there were also angels to minister to him. We discover this when we read the words of God contained in the Scriptures. We will discover other words too: words of comfort and consolation, words of hope and encouragement.
And among the words, we will find these from James: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). The testing makes us mature in faith. Then, he adds: "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).
Brothers, sisters, if you are being tested now, I know how bad it can be, but hang in there. And you will receive the crown of life.