After Jesus’ baptism, the same Spirit who descended like a dove as God proclaims Jesus beloved immediately drives him to the wilderness to be tempted and tested. This is perhaps the only time in the Gospel of Mark that we readily identify with Jesus’ experience, which makes us wonder, Are desert seasons a certainty for all of us so as to draw closer to God?
Jesus’ experience models a way of following God: giving up our self-sufficient ideas so we can perceive God and God’s will in new ways. When we willingly release our own power over our lives, we find that God has a way forward for us—just as God promised in the covenant with Noah and the covenant of our baptisms.
As we remember our baptism and other covenants during Lent and begin to look toward Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, we are especially vulnerable to God’s power. This first Friday, like all the Fridays to come until Easter, we remember Jesus’ willingness to let go of his self-determined will to submit to God’s will. The barrenness and void of Jesus’ sojourn in the desert and of the desert times in our lives make us humble and compel us to be “all in” for God. As we see Jesus go through this time at the beginning of his ministry, we learn that desert times propel us to new life—the newness in Christ espoused in our baptism. Few of us experience the vulnerability of living in a physical desert, but our desert times require the same humility and willingness to initiate the kingdom of heaven on earth. During Lent we can embody the full reliance on God required in a desert season as we seek to hear and see God anew.
Ever-present God, give us a willingness to go through desert times to be converted to new life in Christ. Amen.
The season of Lent is now upon us, a time of inward examination that begins on Ash Wednesday. We search ourselves and ask God to search us, so that we can follow God more completely. This examination, however, can become a cause for despair if we do not approach it with God’s everlasting mercy and faithfulness in mind. Although the Flood was a result of judgment, God also saved the faithful and established a covenant with them. The psalmist seeks to learn God’s ways, all the while realizing that he has fallen short and must rely on God’s grace. For Christians, baptism functions as a symbol of salvation and a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness—not because the water is holy but because God is holy and merciful.
• Read Genesis 9:8-17. When in loss have you experienced a new beginning?
• Read Psalm 25:1-10. How do you remind yourself of your covenant with God?
• Read 1 Peter 3:18-22. When have you given up privilege in order to work for justice?
• Read Mark 1:9-15. When did you last hear God speak these words to you: "You are my . . . beloved; with you I am well pleased"?
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