Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness . . .
Filled with the Spirit and covered by community, we must sometimes leave the familiar to face down the enemy—alone.
I like to think of the Jordan as the place of comfort, of ease, of familiarity and connection with others. The Jordan was a place of water, of crowds mutually agreeing on their need for repentance (from seeking other messiahs; that’s what John the Baptist knew), and of provision. Jesus’s dear cousin, John the Baptist, was being faithful and receiving him in the baptismal waters.
Would there have been deep friendship and comradery between them, sharing this “such a time as this” (see Est. 4:14) moment together in a way no one else (but Mary and Joseph) could ever understand? I think so.
The great German pastor and writer Dietrich Bonhoeffer—in his book on community, Life Together, suggested that sometimes the psychological energy from being with a group of people can displace true trust in God for many. He suggested that we must learn to be alone with God, which is different from loneliness, for us to become whole and to not confuse the energies of friendship and community with intimacy with God.
Jesus had to leave the familiar, the warmth of companionship and the world in which he was known and named by others, to face down the enemy’s challenges to his vocational call—his name in God. Jesus had to step away from being Mary’s son, John’s cousin, the best carpenter in his village (that’s a fun guess), in order to become God’s one and only Son—to inwardly affirm that call without others doing it for him.
In his baptism, it says that many heard the voice. John the Baptist surely did. But before they could pat him on the back, and get the discipleship party started, the Spirit led Jesus into the wild—the isolation of the wilderness.
Perhaps Jesus told this story, in part, for his disciples to understand why, as soon as everyone knew he was the Messiah, he disappeared for forty days.
Can you imagine many, including possibly John, asking: “Can I come with you, fast with you, as you apply this discipline of our faith and begin your ministry?”
If that did happen, I can imagine that Jesus would have said no with some degree of pain. He was beloved, yes. But he must have known the hard road that was ahead and would surely, as in the garden of Gethsemane, be encouraged by having a few friends with him as he faced the temptations of the enemy.
Who doesn’t want moral support? Who doesn’t need friends when the heart is most challenged to affirm our vocation, our calling, and to remind us who we are?
Jesus doesn’t want it, that’s who. Not at this moment. He knows it’s time to be in the solitary place, the wild, the alone. He knows that much of his entire ministry would have to be self-motivated, Spirit-powered, and that the applause and encouragement of fickle disciples (remember Peter and the “Get behind me, Satan” moment in Matthew 16?) would get in his way.
Jesus must face his accuser alone.
He knows it won’t be the last time. Gethsemane ahead, his baptism behind him, Jesus must leave the lush Jordan to enter the dry desert to face the one whose works he had come to destroy (1 John 3:8).
Lord of the Wild, we have often found more comfort in friends cheering us on than in your words of courage keeping us on track. Forgive us; we want to know your words of affirmation in that way that enables us to trust you even in complete isolation from others. We don’t know what’s ahead, but we want to find comfort in being alone with you, so when the moment of temptation comes, even from the well-meaning heart of a friend, we can stay the course. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Has the deep gift of friendship, of companionship, ever been a source through which you chose a path that you now realize was not the best choice for your relationship with God? How did you reset your relationship with God while still receiving the blessing and encouragement of your companions on the journey?
For the Awakening,
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Ever since I first encountered and began to follow the living Jesus, I’ve found that simply settling into the traditional church format isn’t the best choice for my relationship with Him. Merely attending church encourages me to be a spectator and to see Christianity as a once-a-week thing that a professional speaker does for me. It tempts me to see Jesus as an inactive historical figure who I merely need to learn about instead of seeing Him as the active and present King and Lord who calls me to ever surrender my life and my will to Him.
God has blessed me with a deep hunger for so much more of Jesus’ presence. The Holy Spirit continually calls me beyond church as usual and to daily dependance and reliance on the risen Jesus. He nudges and prompts me from within to obey His specific directions to me and to truly trust in God with heart-felt faith during everyday situations. The Spirit connects me heart-to-heart with other believers and as we listen to and obey the living Jesus together, we behold and experience Him actively and powerfully working in and through us.
Without Jesus, we are spiritually dead. Until Him, all we have is the motivating force of the (our) sinful nature. Dead because the wages of sin are death. Sin is our inherited spiritual attribute from Satan; Jesus came to deliver us from the evil one, destroy his work in us and set us free from his power in us. The evil one’s presence may still be around (the flesh, old man), but his power is kaput if we summit, resist and draw near to God (James 4:7-8). Jesus was once identified as Mary and Joseph’s son, then God, by the Holy Spirit, revealed His true identity, The Son of God.
When we acknowledge Christ as Lord of Lords, our identity also changes from our name, occupation, or religious denomination. We become an ambassador, Priesthood of Believers, Saint, a child of God. This should excite us where we tell everyone at any time. Being created in God’s image, we are a spirit (breath of God, with a soul (living being), Genesis 2:7, that temporarily occupies a body.
Question is, are we being led by the Spirit of God, to do his will daily, or are we being deceived by the flesh that attending church regularly, a few church events, and tossing an occasional prayer God’s way is enough?
I pray that we will continue to do God’s will from our love for Him and His for us until it is us not doing it but Him because it is who we have become; less of me and more of Him (John 3:30 He must increase; I must decrease.)