It was one of those bright, glorious days for Jesus, like receiving the big promotion at work. At age 30, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit landed on him like a dove and the Father thundered from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Jesus smiled.
The Spirit’s touch. The Father’s voice. Within moments, however, perhaps while he was still dripping wet, “the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). The Spirit’s touch is now a push in the direction of a desolate place where some don’t survive. Literally “sent him” means “threw him out” or “drove him away” like tossing your dog into Town Lake to teach him to swim or telling your 25-year-old daughter living at home it’s time to move out.
“Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him” (Mark 1:13). God the Holy Spirit pushed Jesus into the wilderness, right into the waiting arms of Satan!
So intense was his struggle, to the point of starvation, that angels came to assist. And animals looked at him with sympathy. Nobody on this planet lives in such paradise that they never experience the wilderness.
Some of us know what loneliness feels like, even in the middle of a crazy busy life. Some know what brokenness feels like, or unemployment, or living as the victim of injustice.
But for all who are members of the kingdom of God—who have been baptized and who believe in the Father’s voice and the Spirit’s leading—the wilderness is never just a random detour.
The Holy Spirit leads, walking invisibly at your side, in front of you, and behind you all the time. And Jesus is there, like he was in his own wilderness, defeating your temptations again and again as your Savior. He says no so to sin so that you can say no to sin. You don’t need it. You only need him.
In the wilderness you are not lost or alone. Your wilderness is ruled by the powerful grace of Jesus—the loneliness, the brokenness, the unemployment or injustice, temptations you have fought and the temptations you have failed.
Don’t be afraid. You are not lost. The Spirit is pushing. Jesus is there, and the Kingdom of God stands strong.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I pray for God’s kingdom to come, and confess that I look for glory and comfort too often. Your Spirit leads me to find it in the wilderness, where you build my character and stretch my faith. Be with me. Turn my fears to courage. Help me say no to sin. Rule my wilderness, Lord. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Did you know this about the kingdom of God?
- The kingdom of God is mentioned 126 times in the Gospels, and 34 times in the rest of the New Testament. Obviously Jesus has a lot to say about it.
- The King is Jesus —“all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18), “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9,10). Nobody has more power or authority. “His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). Jesus has always been, and always will be King of kings and Lord of lords.
- The mission of the kingdom of God is to defeat sin, death, and the devil. It exists and operates as a spiritual kingdom for the saving of souls, bringing sinners close to God and keeping them there. Forgiving our sins. Delivering us from death. Defeating the devil. God “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13,14).
- It is both “already” and “not yet.” Jesus teaches us to pray “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). Bring the kingdom, Lord. It’s not here yet. It’s not where we want it to be yet. Bring your spiritual reign more fully into people’s lives, into my life, into this world. Yet at the same time Jesus can say, “The kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20). God’s ruling activity of grace and his governance of mercy on sinners is real, is now, and is making a difference in your life. Don’t miss it! Take advantage of its benefits! You don’t have to wait until heaven.