Mark 1: 12-15 | 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B
What Treasures Can Be Found in the Desert?
We often think of Jesus as perfect. He was sinless, but I don’t know if without sin necessarily means perfect as we define it. Sin is the state of being separated from God. Jesus was always connected to God, but that doesn’t mean He didn’t suffer doubts and indecision and temptations just like we do. Take His time in the desert.
In Matthew and Luke, scripture says Jesus was “led” (Mt 4:1; Lk 4:1) to the desert by the Spirit. In Mark, “the Spirit drove him” (v. 12) to the desert. To be honest, I rather like to think that Jesus had to be dragged to the desert (slight exaggeration, I’m sure). Makes Him seem more…human. More relatable. Because if Jesus went to the desert under duress and still managed to open Himself to the experience, maybe there’s a chance I can do the same thing. Go somewhere I don’t want to be and still learn the lessons offered there.
I read somewhere the desert is “not a place of escape, but a place of discovery.” In our own deserts, places God has to force us to go, if we are willing to open ourselves up, we might find there are no distractions, nothing to camouflage what God wants us to learn. Then we can actually see what we’re up against. Or what personal strengths we haven’t capitalized on. Sometimes the hardest is not knowing what the problem is. Once we know, we’re more likely to see our way to an answer.
Adam and Eve were also driven from a place where they connected deeply with God. But they tried to escape their sin (through finger pointing and blame) rather than own it. They were unwilling to open themselves to the lesson in their mistake. In Matthew and Luke, it would have been very easy for Jesus to try to escape too, not sin (He didn’t have any) but a difficult situation. The Devil offered Him three ways out—but Jesus didn’t take them. He just kept orienting Himself towards God.
In Mark, the gospel for this year, no mention is made of Satan or specific temptations. Just time in the desert “with wild animals” and the angels who “ministered to Him” (v. 13). Perhaps that Jesus went to the desert, to a place where He would have to face His personal demons, is enough.
But, did you catch that? The angels ministered to Him. He wasn’t on His own there.
He was never on His own because He did as Paul said (ITh.5:16). He prayed unceasingly. I doubt Jesus was on His knees for forty days. But His line to God was always open. When He did doubt or struggle, He had an eternal source of support.
God offers us the same deal—whether we’re in a desert or not. There’s never a busy signal when we pray, no matter where we are or what situation we face. Unlike Jesus, we will sin, but even then, we can imitate Him and reorient ourselves towards God.