The “Second Week”: Week Sixteen/Session One.
Theme: Jesus’ Public Ministry Begins.
Our reading for today: Luke 3: 21-38, 4: 1-2.
After all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized. As He was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on Him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are My Son, chosen and marked by My love, pride of My life.” (Luke 3: 21-22 MsgB)
Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights He was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up He was hungry. (Luke 4: 1-2 MsgB)
Wait a minute. There seems to be a big discrepancy here.
In Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus being baptized by His cousin John in the Jordan River. This dramatic event marks Jesus’ welcome into His Kingdom-directed ministry. As we discussed last week, we know that this three-year Kingdom ministry of Jesus of Nazareth will literally change the world, as we know it. So here in Luke’s 22nd verse of chapter 3, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus at His baptism, while God’s voice from heaven declares, “You are My Son, chosen and marked by My love, pride of My life.”
Wow! How impressive is that?
But then, after giving us the lineage of Jesus (see Luke 3: 23-38), Luke now tells us that this same Jesus, the beloved Son of God, is being pushed by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for forty days and nights! No food. No daily provisions. No tent. No friends. Only the Devil to keep you company as you wander the desert aimlessly for over a month!
Oy Vey! What kind of way is this for a loving father to treat his beloved son?
From the loving embrace of the Father Heart of God in the baptismal waters of the Jordan River to the dry and barren wastelands of the Israeli wilderness. This picture just doesn’t seem right. Does it? If Jesus is so loved by His Father, why in the world would a good God push His good Son out into the barren wilderness to fend for Himself for forty days? And why, oh why, would God place His Son in such a vulnerable position, where Jesus would be ‘tested by the Devil’, as Luke describes it here in verse 2 of chapter 4?
To be honest, I’m not really sure I like the answer I’m about to propose. My flesh doesn’t really relish the fact that God seems to have this track record of allowing Satan access to His people. But here goes. Hold on tight. This answer is going to hurt a bit.
Back in the oldest book of the Bible, we find the story of one very good man named Job. The first few verses of this ancient book tell us that Job is a great family man, blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil. He is such a good man; even Satan is forced to comment to God on how good of guy this man, Job, is. And then the unspeakable happens. God opens the door for Satan to test his servant Job. In a set of life challenges that boggles our minds, God apparently has enough faith in His man Job that even when everything in life is shaken to the very core, God is certain that Job will make it through, choosing to trust God even when nothing else makes sense.
And so it is, apparently, with our good God. He is so confident in His sovereignty and power to overcome all evil with good; He is willing to allow Satan to throw his best tests at His people. Now, as I said, I really don’t like this line of thinking, but as we read through the Bible, I find way too many stories about how God allows a lot of evil to test His servants. And in each case, we find out, as life tests these saints to the very core, what each man or woman of God is really made of.
While Job is our first biblical example of God’s willingness to test our faith and trust through tough trials, Peter seems to be an excellent New Testament example of the same story. Jesus, if you recall, even forewarns Pete of the testings and trials that will come his way. In Luke’s writings, we find Jesus saying this tough stuff to Peter:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22: 31-32
So my dear friends, there we have it. As I see it, a thorough search of the scriptures will unveil a pattern of God’s sovereignty that our flesh will not really relish. It’s apparent that if God truly loves us and calls us His chosen children, there will be times of great testing in this life. Trials and tests that come even from the hand of Satan, allowed by our good God to apparently strengthen our abilities in holding tight to our God and His faithful promises.
And while this is not a ‘good news’ report, there is a silver lining in this dark cloud of truth. We are not alone in our sufferings and trials. We have a Savior who has experienced the hardships and uncertainties of walking through life, facing trials, temptations, and hardships that just don’t make sense at times.
So it is with Jesus, as the Holy Spirit pushes Him into the wilderness for forty days and nights and a series of three tests by Satan. But, praise God! That same Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, who successfully walked through His life of trials and hardships can say with a certainty to us,
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16: 33
My prayer: Thank You, God, for the reminder of how You don’t promise us a rose garden in this life, but You do promise us Your powerful presence. As Jesus faced His trials and hardships, thank You that He faced them being full of the Holy Spirit. May I, in a similar way, be indwelled and empowered by Your Spirit, so that as I face troubles in this world, Your peace will prevail. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So how have I tried to ignore the fact that in this life, God will allow trials, tests, and struggles? While I’m not thrilled to know that God might give permission to Satan to have access in my life, how can I better rest in the assurance that as Jesus faced His trials by being full of the Holy Spirit, so I can push into God and His presence as I face my share of hardships?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.
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