“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” - Mark 1:12
In our first reading of the Gospel of Mark, we encounter Jesus’ baptism - a beautiful, spirit-filled experience. God literally speaks over Jesus, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased” (1:11). This must have been an amazing moment.
And then, the next verse shows a complete 180. The spirit - God himself - drove Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus is tempted by Satan and spends 40 days alone with wild animals, only angels ministering to him. For a more indepth look at this read Matthew 4:1-11.
After Jesus exits his time in the wilderness, he begins his three year earthly ministry. He understands human temptation, and he’s been prepared to preach to the hearts of men. That time was not a punishment from God, but an integral part of His plan.
It’s the same for us when we find ourselves lost in the wilderness. When we’re there, surrounded by wild animals, not another soul in sight - it can feel overwhelming, frightening, depressing. We can cry out to God, “Why is this happening to me?” or we can lean into His Word, trusting He will see us through, and knowing that he too experienced times like this. Many of us do both. It is only through hindsight that we can see the ways in which God uses times of hardship to prepare us for the things to come.
Throughout the Gospel of Mark, we will be heading into a wilderness of sorts, not to be tempted, but to be grown. Mark is a book that both guides and challenges us through Jesus’ teachings and life. While reading it, we will also be heading into the season of Lent, a time where we intentionally turn our eyes away from the comforts of this world and up to Christ, focusing on his life and ultimate sacrifice. It becomes a self-imposed wilderness, if you will.
But, just like Jesus' time in the wilderness, Lent is not forever. God uses it to prepare us for our ministry of living out the good news of Easter morning.
And isn’t that the point of all wildernesses? We aren’t all called to preaching (though for some of us that may be), but those hard times could prepare us for the ministry of serving others, serving the church, parenthood, friendship, prayer, even just for one particular conversation - there are so many different areas of our lives that fall under the category of ministry.
I don’t know where you are on your spiritual journey right now - in a place of plenty or lost in the wilderness - but know that Jesus has been there too. He loves you, he walked this road to understand you, and he gave up everything to reconcile you to him.
Dear Lord, as we begin our journey through the gospel of Mark and look ahead to the season of Lent, we ask that You use this as a time of preparation and growth for whatever You have in store. In Jesus’ name, Amen.