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Life: Even in the Wilderness, Feb 18, 2024

Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15, Lent 1B,

Theme: Temptation

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”

In the gospel of Mark, this text is found as a kind of interlude in Jesus’ life between his baptism and when he calls the apostles to follow him. In the other gospels, there is found more detail about his temptations. In Mark that part of Jesus’ experience in the wilderness is simply captured in the words “tempted by Satan.”

But there is another phrase describing Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. It’s a section seldom mentioned, but perhaps quite important to us today. This phrase is “and he was with the wild beasts.”

I think some people would interpret that phrase as if these beasts perhaps threatened Jesus. I suggest this is the wrong picture. Perhaps Mark’s author is calling on us to remember two Old Testament passages, the first being part of the lectionary where God promises Noah and his family, along with all the surviving creatures, that a flood will never threaten to cause complete destruction. The second calls to mind Elijah during a time when he was in deep depression. It was a time when he retreated into the wilderness to die. There the wild animals tended to him.

Is it possible that Jesus found encouragement from the fact that even in the parched desert east of the Jordan, life persisted? Is it possible that Jesus in his pondering of the spiritual depravity he witnessed among the Israelite people, realized there were those who were encouraged and hopeful for the arrival of their Messiah?

What about now?

Is it possible Jesus’ message can persevere the wilderness of war and suffering within which so many in this day find themselves? Is it possible there are those in congregations around the world who find hope and encouragement in Jesus’ teachings?

Come join us at First Christian Church in Warrensburg, Missouri this first Sunday of Lent in one of our services, as we rediscover the hope found in the persistent teachings of our Messiah.


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