Connections 03.06.2022: Into the Wilderness

Luke 4:1-13

In the weeks before Lent, Christian cultures around the world celebrate with lavish festivals and parades. Before the season of abstinence and introspection begins on Ash Wednesday, people are anxious to enjoy extravagance and excess. This year, perhaps more than most, the indulgences of Mardi Gras feel ironic against the backdrop of current events. Or maybe Mardi Gras is always ironic, a defiant party in a world that is always, somewhere, at war.

If the tempting festivities of Mardi Gras feel ironic this week, following Jesus into the wilderness seems like a natural, even necessary, journey. And maybe it is natural, even necessary, that the real temptations await there in the wilderness

Jesus was hungry; the tempter offered him bread.

Jesus held no earthly power; the tempter offered him kingdoms.

Jesus’ identity was questioned at every turn; the tempter offered him a chance to prove himself, and a chance to save himself… or rather, to let God step in to save him.

It is natural that food, power, and identity—and life itself—would be tempting. But the tempter offered Jesus something more than bread and power and party tricks. Jesus went into the wilderness by choice, as an act of faith, as a spiritual discipline, as a response to the Spirit’s leading. He chose to follow the Spirit who would lead to hunger, to servitude, and eventually to the cross.

So there in the wilderness, the tempter offered Jesus a chance to make a different choice, a chance to take a whole new path. Instead of choosing emptiness, Jesus could choose satisfaction. Instead of service, he could choose sovereignty. Instead of abandonment and death, he could choose his own salvation.

As we enter Lent this week, the world is facing deep hungers, ruthless powers, and terrible truth-or-dares. The Spirit who led Jesus is still leading us to practice faith through the world’s frightening wilderness. Tempters there will offer us easier routes; some of them may even quote scripture and claim divine favor. But Jesus has shown us his path: to practice emptiness, to reject dominance, to refuse to use privilege to save only ourselves. And to trust, not test, the Lord our God.

Will we choose his way?

Discussion

  • Have you ever been offered an “easy” way out of a painful situation? How did you discern what to do?
  • Have you ever been in a difficult situation specifically because you chose to follow God’s leading? Were you then tempted to take an easier way?
  • Consider the faithful choices of Jesus in the wilderness: fasting, refusing to grasp at power, and trusting his identity but not testing God. What makes these disciplines challenging for us? What tempting alternatives are we offered? As you think about the current events of this week, what temptations are at work in the world’s wilderness? Where do you see people practicing faithfulness in Christ’s way?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.com.

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