“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry” (Matthew 4:1-2).
Just when we are seeing signs that spring is coming soon, as the days are getting longer and warmer, we begin what may seem to be a darker, colder journey—the journey of Lent. We follow Jesus into the wilderness.
This was a battleground where Jesus was fighting off all the attacks of the devil.
As Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness where He fasted for forty days, we set out on a forty-day journey to explore the barren wilderness of our souls.
When Jesus was alone in the wilderness without food, He had a lot of time for reflection and prayer; time to contemplate His purpose in life and time to commune with His Father in prayer for strength to boldly go ahead and fulfill His mission.
So also for us, Lent is a time to retreat from the distractions of the world so that we can take time for true reflection and meditation on God’s Word, and for prayer. That can be a painful, sorrowful time as we reflect on the long line of dismal failures, lackluster commitment, and even some dark sins in our lives.
Why do we choose to do this? It is not some form of penance as though, if we feel sorry enough for our sins, God will take pity on us and forgive us. No, but it is the first step to finding true joy and peace. Lent is a time of repentance. When we see the true desperation of our sins and the punishment we deserve, then we will find the greatest joy and peace in pondering what Christ has done for us.
The wilderness was not a peaceful place of contemplation for Jesus, because He was not alone. The devil was there tempting Him every step of the way. This was a battleground where Jesus was fighting off all the attacks of the devil. We read specifically about only the last three temptations, but the Gospel writers also tell us that He was tempted for forty days. And He overcame every temptation the devil could hurl at Him. That was part of the perfect obedience that God credits to our account by faith. How many times have we fallen prey to the devil’s temptations? How many times have we given in to evil desires, to selfish motives, to inner pride or to testing God?
Let us go into the wilderness with Jesus and see how He remained perfectly faithful to His Father throughout, and how He has transferred His perfection to us, declaring us righteous. In the process He also shows us how to resist further temptation by using the power of God’s Word.
May we rejoice most of all that Jesus did not succumb to the final temptation recorded in Matthew, where the devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, promising to give it all to Jesus if He would only bow down to Satan. That may seem like a ridiculous temptation, because Jesus already possessed all things. But that is not entirely true. At this point in His State of Humiliation, Jesus did not possess all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. That would all be given to Him, but only after He bore the enormity of all of mankind’s sins, and suffered the unspeakable torment of God’s wrath for them all. Satan was offering Him a much easier way. He didn’t have to go through any suffering, all He had to do was bow down to Satan. Rejoice, and praise your Savior that He chose to be obedient to His Father’s will and willingly suffer all for you.
That is what Lent is all about. It may be a somewhat dark journey as we see the depth of our sins and ponder the terribleness of Jesus’ suffering. But it is there that we feel the warmth of His love for us. It is there that we understand the magnitude of God’s grace. Therefore it is in the somber days of Lent that we are truly renewed in love and commitment to our Lord and Savior.
Those somber days lead to the greatest joy and exaltation when we see our Savior rise on Easter morning to live forever and to rule in our hearts with His love. Let us go into the wilderness with Jesus now, so that we can go with Him into the glory of God’s presence forever.
Written by: David Reim pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Vernon, British Columbia.