>Into the Wilderness
>The stark narrative that is Mark’s gospel tells of the baptism of Christ and his preparation for, and beginning of, his ministry; this narrative reminds Christians to set time apart to be alone and quiet with God, to prepare ourselves for ministry and be ready for challenges.
If you want richness and drama, exciting dialogue, details filled in, like that found in the narratives of Matthew and Luke, you won’t find it in this Gospel. Mark only gives us the minimalist version of Jesus’ story. Today we have the beginning. We hear how Jesus came to John and was baptized; at the moment he rises out of the water, the heavens are ripped apart, the Spirit descends and God speaks. Then the Spirit drives him immediately into the wilderness with the wild beasts and angels to see to his needs.
Our wilderness and our wild beasts may be many things – we have so much to choose from nowadays. It’s a long list, and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: beginning with stress at home and down the list to war.
But it’s not time to crawl under a rock.
We have an example to show us how to cope and how to garner strength and faith, and it is in God, working through Jesus.
Right after his baptism, Jesus was tested rigorously – he did not immediately begin his ministry, but was immediately driven into the wilderness. One might suppose that the wilderness is not an idyllic woodland, but an arid, stark landscape, apart from society and all comforts. Mark says that Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan. But wait a moment – didn’t the voice from heaven just say “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased?” Why would the Son of God need to go through all that? It’s a puzzling contradiction, but necessary, because it shows that Jesus is truly human and his conflict with Satan, as Williamson states, “is the ordeal which validates the man Jesus as bearer of God’s banner throughout the coming battle.”
Could it be that his baptism was a commissioning of his ministry and his trials a strengthening, hardening experience?
Here’s another thought, another thread to connect it all: baptism, preparation and identity link Jesus to us. Just as he began his ministry with baptism and preparation, so do we. Jesus’ baptism does not set him apart from us, he is one of us. He is the beloved Son, and we are the beloved Children of God. Christians past, present and future have these commonalities, no matter what is in store for each of us in our spiritual journeys. It is this deacon’s personal opinion that a Jesus who experiences the joys and sorrow of life, is put through trials, is a Jesus that is accessible, making God even more accessible.
Throughout history, humanity has been tested, often in the wilderness, and often it has failed, but it came out with a deeper, more meaningful spirituality, and that is what I strive for, and maybe you do, and we hope to pass our trials as Jesus did.
I invite you to take some time out of your hectic lives, go to the wilderness, the desolate place that is uniquely yours and seek out God, find moments with the Lord and empty your heart and soul. Let the Spirit enter the void, fill you with the love of Christ. I invite you to wrestle with your wild beasts and demons, whatever they may be, and know that angels will patiently and lovingly attend you. When you emerge, I hope and pray that you will be restored, and we all have new strength and a sense of commitment to whatever ministry we are called, so that together we may bear witness to the good news and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here and now.
Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord!
 Lamar Williamson, Jr., Interpretation – Mark, John Knox Press, Louisville, 1983