Wilderness seasons are bewildering and lonely. Sometimes it’s easy to identify how you arrived in a desolate place—down paths with names like Diagnosis, or Loss, or Depression. Other times you find yourself in a malaise or a spiritual wasteland seemingly out of nowhere. You were making progress, arranging your life appropriately, and then you took a left turn at Albuquerque and the landscape became fiercely inhospitable.
It’s natural to want to avoid wilderness experiences. Yet the biblical writers suggest that the wilderness is an expected and even necessary part of walking with God. Nowhere is this made clearer than in the life of Jesus.
Matthew’s Gospel lays out for us a vivid depiction of Jesus’ most prolonged wilderness season. First, Jesus’ public ministry is launched with a dramatic moment of affirmation: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’”(Matthew 3:16–17, NIV).
If I were scripting the story, I’d move Jesus from that profound confirmation of his identity directly into his mission. But, instead, the plot takes a sharp twist: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (4:1).
Theology professor Ross Hastings says the phrase “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” reminds him of the day his parents led him by the hand into a hospital ward for a tonsillectomy. The kind of love that wants us to be well is not the kind of love that always leads us somewhere easy.
So why would the Spirit lead Jesus to the wilderness? And why might the Spirit lead us there as well?
The Boot Camp Theory
Pastor Mark Clark loves to picture Jesus’ time in the wilderness as Navy Seals training. Like an elite soldier, Jesus had to endure the most extreme regimen imaginable to prepare him for his mission. The mandates and methods of the Kingdom of God needed to be so deeply ingrained that he could stay true to them under any degree of pressure.
Clark jokingly imagines implementing a radical discipleship program in which recent converts are put through the wringer like marine recruits until they can recite Scripture under highly stressful conditions. It’s a silly—and scary—proposal. But there is something to this theory of the wilderness.Read the rest at the link