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Genesis 9:8-17 1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:9-15 Psalm 25:1-9

Sermon Notes

Today’s account of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness is incredibly brief.

Right after Jesus’ baptism, we hear this:

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.


This is so very much like Mark’s Gospel. Unlike me, he likes to get right to the point. And he uses the word “immediately” a lot in his Gospel to move the story along.


Not only is Mark’s Gospel brief, he uses language unique to him. Luke’s Gospel says Jesus is “full of the Spirit” and Matthew says he was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted.

Mark’s word? Immediately drive him out. Some translations say “forced.” This is definitely a different image, isn’t it?

Jesus is pushed, driven, forced into the wilderness.


And the wilderness being the place where God meets people in a feeling of lostness, helplessness, testing, challenge, and difficulty.


Wilderness is the place Jesus is, situated between affirmation of identity and confidence of calling.


We are drawn to the moments of baptism and to the ending of our gospel here, where Jesus moves forward, proclaiming with confidence…the time if fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near, so repent and believe the good news.


We want affirmation and confidence. We want clarity and calling.


We don’t want the wilderness. I don’t want the wilderness. Sometimes we do choose it. But more often than not, it chooses us. Sometimes we are led there, but sometimes we are driven there.


Wilderness is the time where we don’t know where we are going. We don’t know what comes next. Our core convictions and beliefs are challenged. The deepest desires and fears we have come to the surface.


Lent is a time for wilderness, whether we have been driven there, or feel led into it.


I know this is true for some of you. It goes by other names: loss, grief (anticipated or realized), betrayal, deconstruction, doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, confusion…historically it has also been called the dark night of the soul.


Wilderness is difficult, painful, and scary at times. And it is not to be avoided. It can’t be skipped, or fast-forwarded. But, similarly to what I shared last week, it isn’t forever.


The good news for us is that we serve a God who knows what it is to experience the wilderness, to even be driven into it. And you are not alone.

As our other texts remind us today, difficulties and suffering are a part of this life with God.


But God is not far from us. God suffers with us, in Jesus.


Our prayer is for God to come quickly to us, to be with us. Our God who sees us, knows our frailties, knows our weaknesses, knows our needs…and desires for us to truly know and love God for who God is…not our ideas of God, not our previous experiences of God, know what others have told us about God…but to have a direct experience of God in the wilderness.


May we join the psalmist and pray:

Show me your ways, O Lord, *

and teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me, *

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.