Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. […] When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:1-2, 13
Over the past five weeks, we’ve travelled through the wilderness with the Israelites, exploring God’s presence, the Israelites’ grumbling, God’s provision, the Israelites’ idolatry, and God’s faithfulness.
Today we find ourselves journeying through the desert with Jesus. This passage comes directly after Jesus’ baptism, where God declares him to be his ‘beloved son’. It is now as God’s son that he is led into the wilderness to be tempted.
Wilderness was just the same for Jesus as it was for the Israelites – a place of wildness, of waiting, and of preparation. It was a place to grapple with God, to learn, to grow, to struggle. As Jesus wrestles with temptation in the wilderness, there are echoes of Israel’s own wanderings – how will Jesus cope when faced with hunger, just as the Israelites were? How will he face down the temptations of idolatry? Will he fall and fail in the same way that Israel did?
Jesus does not fall and fail in the same way that Israel did. He does not fall or fail at all. He succeeds where Israel failed. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Hope glimmers on the horizon.
I don’t know where you find yourself towards the end of Lent – wandering in the wilderness, being tempted almost beyond what you can bear, or dancing in the downpour of God’s fulfilled promises, rejoicing in his forgiveness and his faithfulness.
Maybe hope seems far off for you today.
Through Jesus’ wanderings in the desert, resisting temptation, fleeing the devil, and succeeding where Israel had failed, we are reminded once again that he fills the gap left by our failings. He succeeds where we, too, have failed. His actions offer light in a darkened world. Hope is no longer a distant glimmer. Hope has dawned, and its light penetrates every sphere of life.
So: where have you seen redemption at work, even in your failings? Where has hope transcended circumstances? Where has God’s faithfulness prevailed?
As we enter Holy Week, walking with Jesus through betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection, may we be reminded that our God has walked in the wilderness, and walks through it with us now. He has fought death and won. He will always succeed where we fail and fall. He has given us eternal hope.