Lenten Meditation: March 12
Yesterday was the half-way point of the Lenten Season. Day 20. How is it going? Two things seem clear to me—I need a haircut, and 40 days is a long time. We might not get that sense if we rely solely on Mark to share Jesus’ wilderness experience. A scant two verses
“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.”
There is not much there, but I think Jesus’ experience felt like more than two verses. Forty days without chocolate doesn’t compare to forty days with Satan and wild beasts as company, even if the angels were keeping the glass filled.
Matthew and Luke give us more information, but we will never truly know what that wilderness experience was like, any more than we know what happened in that tomb on that first Easter.
The number forty, the wilderness, and water are common themes in scripture. Noah was in the ark forty days and forty nights with water all around. The people of Israel were led out by Moses across the Red Sea into the wilderness where they spent forty years.
Clearly Jesus experience is meant as an echo of these earlier times. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan—the passing through the sea—and enters the wilderness for forty days—the forty days standing in for forty years in the wilderness beyond Egypt.
In each of these stories — Noah, Moses, Jesus — the passage is from death to life—from chaos to creation. A starting over. The flood came in response to human sin— the olive branch revealed the advent of new creation. The waters of the Red Sea parted to the Israelites so they could move from death in Egypt to life in the promised land. Moses sees the promised land but doesn’t enter it. But the Hebrews do not get there without him.
In a sense this is true of Jesus as well. He passes through the water into the wilderness and then the Kingdom—a new promised land— A new creation out of chaos. Noah saw a branch, Moses the land, and Jesus a cross. Noah received the promise of the rainbow. Moses was promised a land flowing with milk and honey- a covenant formed with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Jesus not only saw a cross, he chose it and he hung on it so that those who followed could enter the promised land of the Kingdom of God and Eternal life. Jesus gave his disciples a new covenant sealed in his blood and a new commandment built upon love.
We are halfway through Lent. How are you doing? If you are so inclined, share your experience in the comments. Have you given up something? If so, how’s it going? Did you take on a new challenge? Hanging in there? We are half way home. Jesus has turned his face to Jerusalem.