The wilderness is a wild, untamed place, away from cities, towns and agricultural pursuits. It can be a lonely place for those who venture there. It can be a quiet place, a place for retreat, reflection and meditation. But it can be a scary place. What’s out there? Are there wild animals here? What about food and drink? People die in the wilderness, don’t they? And yet wilderness places are important. Ecologists warn of the threat to humanity that lies in the on-going reduction of wilderness areas on this globe. For the health of the planet we need wilderness areas. They can be mountainous or level, jungles or deserts, close by or far away, but the health of the earth’s ecosystem depends on them. Then why did Jesus go into the wilderness straight after the commissioning to his messianic ministry? It wasn’t just on a whim. It was, we are told, under the leading of the Spirit. As Messiah, he was not only God’s agent but he embodied all that the Chosen People were meant to be, the people who had spent forty years in the wilderness before they reached their God-appointed destination. Perhaps he saw it as fitting that he should spend forty days in the wilderness before he engaged in his messianic calling. It was a time of preparation, a time to sort out what sort of Messiah he was to be. It was tempting to follow the lines that people generally expected the Messiah to take. That would have won a ready and enthusiastic response. But this he recognized as the Devil’s voice. God called him to follow a different path – to combine both the Suffering Servant image and the Royal Messianic figure in a way that nobody expected.
- What are some wilderness places that you know of?
- People sometimes talk about a spiritual wilderness. What do think is meant by a spiritual wilderness?
- If geographical wildernesses are necessary for the health of the globe, are spiritual wildernesses necessary for a healthy Christian life?
- To be tempted is to be tested: is that true to your experience?