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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus in the Wilderness’

Here is artist Si Smith’s cartoon meditation on what Jesus thought about and experienced during his forty-day sojourn in the wilderness.  I was imagining, for example, that the wild beasts there were threatening, but Smith pictures other wildlife there.  When you view this, don’t miss the views of Jesus interacting with the animals and observing everything around him.  Blessings to you this Lent!

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Temptation of Jesus in desert. HOLE, WILLIAM: ...

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Matthew and Luke let us in on the conversation between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness, but Mark simply shows us a picture:  Jesus is in the wilderness, tempted by Satan, with the wild beasts, and being waited on by the angels.  Here is a sermon on the gospel text for the first Sunday in Lent, Year B:

Wild Beasts and Angels

A Sermon on Mark 1:12-15 with allusions to 1 Kings 19:1-9 and 1 Peter 4:12-19

Some would have us believe that once you are in relationship with Jesus, life is inevitably going to be easier.  It’s true that it will be better, because Jesus Christ gives us meaning for our lives.  But it’s hardly ever true that life will be easier.

Life certainly got harder for Jesus after he accepted his mission.  Mark says that after he was baptized, after he received wonderful words of assurance, the Holy Spirit himself drove—not nudged, not urged—DROVE Jesus out into the wilderness to face the enemy, Satan, who embodies everything evil.

It was a trial by fire, something like boot camp, where new military recruits are driven and tested to the limit because they may have to face what is even worse later: the horrors of war.  The testing time strengthens them for hard work ahead.

Matthew and Luke tell us about the conversations Jesus had with the enemy, and the logic Satan tried to use on him in the wilderness to turn him away from God’s plans.  But Mark simply gives us a vivid snapshot of the scene: wild beasts threatened Jesus, but angels ministered to him.

Many of Jesus’ early followers knew what it was like to be menaced by wild beasts, destructive forces beyond their control.  For almost the first four hundred years of our history, it was not easy or safe to be a Christian.  Soon after Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers fell victim to torture, imprisonment, and execution for bearing his name.

In Rome, wild, vicious rumors circulated about Christians, that they were cannibals, that they drank babies’ blood during communion.  Neighbors accused them of being antisocial because they couldn’t participate in many of the popular—and immoral—amusements of the day.  Those Christians were odd, second class.  When Christian families moved into a Roman community, residents complained, “There goes this neighborhood!”

Misfortunes of all kinds were blamed on Christ’s people because they refused to worship the Roman deities.  The Roman deities had to be placated, lest they send some horrible disaster.  Some thirty-odd years after Jesus died and rose, the Emperor Nero even blamed the church for a fire that destroyed much of the city of Rome.  Historians suspect that Nero set the fire himself.

Christians certainly made convenient scapegoats.  The early Christian writer Tertullian commented, “If the Tiber (the river in Rome) floods the city, or the Nile refuses to rise, or the sky withholds its rain, if there is an earthquake, famine, or pestilence, at once the cry is raised: Christians to the lions!”  (E.T. Thompson, Through the Ages, p. 23).

Christians to the lions.  Christians suffered greatly because of Satan and his evil cohorts prowling around them like lions.  And yes, some of our mothers and fathers in faith were literally thrown to the wild beasts.

Sometimes the whole world looks like a wilderness full of dreadful beasts, big and small.  Oppressive rulers living high on the hog while their people starve.  Big-time business executives bankrupting their companies, raking in millions for themselves while their employees’ retirement funds evaporate.  All kinds of beastly behavior leaving people afraid and unable to trust.

What is all the violence, hatred, and selfishness of the world if it’s not a pack of wild beasts preying on God’s children, ripping the human family apart?  (more…)

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