The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. The setting would have resonated with the first hearers, evoking memories of other wilderness experiences in Israel’s long memory. Such thoughts were always close to the surface. Israel’s core identity was as an Exodus people; liberated by God from the clutches of Egypt and led into the wilderness to worship God, destined to become a light to the nations.
The Jews of Jesus’ day were living under a new oppressor — the mighty occupying force of Rome — and the hopes of a new Exodus were embodied in the promised messiah who would lead the Jews to freedom and usher in the reign of God.
As we reflect upon Jesus’ wilderness experience, we do so against the backdrop of Exodus memory which is summoned by this wilderness scene and by the feverish expectation that a powerful liberator would be anointed by God to realise the prophetic hope of freedom and restoration for the whole earth.
As we walk the narrow path of Christian discipleship — particularly as we are led around wilderness territory by the Spirit — we are supposed to feel a deep connection with the defining events of Israel’s experience. Recognising that our lives are part of a much bigger story: of enslavement and emancipation, of wandering and idolatry, of prophetic promise and future hope, of oppression and the need of an anointed and empowered Messiah to liberate us — to save us.
All of these thoughts flow quite naturally from reading the story of Jesus in the wilderness within the flow of salvation history. Exodus is always in the background and helps us to understand the deeper significance of this Lenten wilderness in which we find ourselves.
Lead us around this Lenten wilderness by your Spirit and help us to find strength here.
Strength to overcome; the strength of your Spirit, your word, your example, your promise.
About this Lenten series: Forty Words for Lent offers a short daily meditation based upon Christ’s wilderness experience.