12 His threshing fork is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in a barn and burn the husks in a fire that never goes out.
The Baptism of Jesus
(Mark 1.9-11; Luke 3.21,22)
13Jesus left Galilee and went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14But John kept objecting and said, “I ought to be baptized by you. Why have you come to me?”
15Jesus answered, “For now this is how it should be, because we must do all God wants us to do.” Then John agreed.
16So Jesus was baptized. And as soon as he came out of the water, the sky opened, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove. 17 Then a voice from heaven said, “This is my own dear Son, and I am pleased with him.”
Jesus and the Devil
(Mark 1.12,13; Luke 4.1-13)
1 The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him. 2After Jesus had gone without eating for 40 days and nights, he was very hungry. 3Then the devil came to him and said, “If you are God's Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:
‘No one can live only on food.
People need every word
that God has spoken.’ ”
5Next, the devil took Jesus into the holy city to the highest part of the temple. 6 The devil said, “If you are God's Son, jump off. The Scriptures say:
‘God will give his angels
orders about you.
They will catch you
in their arms,
and you won't hurt
your feet on the stones.’ ”
7 Jesus answered, “The Scriptures also say, ‘Don't try to test the Lord your God!’ ”
8Finally, the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms on earth and their power. 9The devil said to him, “I will give all this to you, if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus answered, “Go away Satan! The Scriptures say:
‘Worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’ ”
11Then the devil left Jesus, and angels came to help him.
Jesus faces hunger, thirst, loneliness, torment, and temptation as a sign of the Father’s love, as a result of the Spirit’s leading, as a consequence of his humble obedience to the Father’s will. The wilderness is God’s idea.
That’s the straight logic of this passage. Jesus submits to a baptism of repentance out of obedience—to fulfill all righteousness; he goes immediately from the Father’s affirmation to what must appear to be the Father’s desertion; and he is ”led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” The devil is not an unfortunate encounter: he’s a divine appointment.
Ever notice that hardship often attends obedience? Or that the devil shows up on the heels of your deepest moments with God? Or that, just on the cusp of a spiritual breakthrough, you get thrust into a long stretch of confusion, temptation, loneliness, weariness?
It is natural to see
such reversals as God’s abandonment. But this story, right at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, gives us pause. For Jesus, wilderness followed celebration. Temptation rode the wave of affirmation. Jesus hears the voice of the Father, speaking truth. The next voice he hears is the devil’s, telling lies.
The Spirit leads sometimes to strange places. This is disturbing, but also consoling. It forces a radical reinterpretation of our dark nights of the soul. Could our lowest moments, our times of greatest hunger and thirst, our experiences of deepest temptation and most galling spiritual affliction, be a hidden gift of the Father? A shaping, a testing, a preparation, an empowering?
The text ends, “the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” And then Jesus steps onto the stage of history, and changed everything.
The Spirit’s leading indeed.
Give me eyes to see my deserts as training grounds, my temptations as tests, my struggles as preludes to victory. May I, like Jesus, silence the devil with truth. And when I am at the end of my strength, please send angels to attend me. In Jesus’ name I ask. Amen.