This passage has a lot to say about Jesus, God, Jewish culture, and our lives today, but I’ve only got so many lines, so I’ll condense it down as best I can. Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist right before He goes into the wilderness for 40 days where He fasts and is tempted by the Devil. I chose this Scripture because a friend of mine mentioned it being a great Scripture for Lent, but I came to love it because of how tangibly it applies. As I’ve fought through Lent in the past, I’ve always had the same cycle. Give up a thing, do a great job of staying away from it for about two weeks, then giving in, then feeling ashamed, then giving in again, and so on. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Hear me (or read me?) when I say that there is so much more to Lent than fasting a thing. Jesus didn’t just go into the Wilderness because that’s what His church was doing (because they weren’t) and He didn’t fast because the Pharisees told Him to (because they certainly didn’t). Instead, the Spirit drove Jesus into the Wilderness to fast and be tempted and the Spirit does not move unless He has a plan. I believe that plan is similar for you and me as we are about to experience Ash Wednesday and Lent. This Wilderness is what began Jesus’s ministry. He fought with the Devil himself, argued Scripture, fought hard to maintain His convictions, and left having suffered like many of us will suffer and have already suffered. Jesus used this 40-day wilderness experience as a launching point to help and heal and listen for the broken people in the world around Him. Something about our own struggle draws us to understand and have compassion with others’ suffering; Jesus knew this and I think He shows us this here. Ash Wednesday is certainly about seeking God by giving up something. But it’s never supposed to drive us further into our walls or keep us depressed and inactive. Instead, like Jesus, it should propel us to fight harder against sin and injustice and see the places where Earth should look more like Heaven. And while this may sound daunting, remember that God still says to each of us what He assured Jesus of that day by the Jordan: You are my child, with whom I am well pleased.
God, help me to use this season to seek you. Show me the things in my life that I should give up in order to see you more clearly and know you more. I want to know you more Father. But I also want to see what you see when you look at the world, all of the brokenness and the pain, so that I can do what you’ve tasked me to do Lord. Strengthen me, as you did Jesus, with the Spirit and your love and grit so that I can do this fast with you, in pursuit of you God.