23rd February 2024

We are now well into Lent: time to picture Jesus after the commissioning of His baptism being driven by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. That meant climbing up from the lush green Jordan valley to the dusty dry heights of the Judaean wilderness. This place and history were significant for the Jews, reminding them of their 40 years of travels in the desert. At the edge of this area is the steep descent from Jerusalem to Jericho – the road where the Good Samaritan of Jesus’s parable rescued the man attacked by robbers. Further south, above the Dead Sea, rises the fortress of Massada where the Jews made their last stand, and in its cliffs the Qumram caves where the Scriptures we call the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

It’s a place away from daily life to get closer to God – to examine aims, purposes and motives. To ‘reboot’ in our terms, to face the Devil’s temptations in Jesus’s thought world: to use His divine power to feed Himself and hungry people and bring in the Kingdom of plenty, to gain followers by compassionate healings, to seek to bring in the Kingdom – God’s rule – by political rule: to get the right result by all the wrong means.

As Jesus rejects all this, He teaches us profound lessons as He taught His disciples by telling them His desert experiences. So we can learn from them too, how the stripping down of life in the wilderness can be cleansing and renewing and prepare us for the work God has for us.

Lesley Fuller