In the Wilderness

Luke 4 is full of wilderness experiences for Jesus. First, the Holy Spirit leads Him there, to do without food for forty days and to be tempted by the devil. Each time, He uses God’s Word to withstand the temptation.

We then read about Jesus returning to Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and being praised by everyone. At Nazareth, it appeared this pattern would continue. When He spoke about Isaiah 61, His hearers were amazed by the gracious words that came from His lips (Luke 4:22), but His speech went on into unchartered territory. He said there were many needy Israelite widows in Elijah’s time, but Elijah was sent to a Gentile (1 Kings 17:8-24); and though there were many lepers in Israel, the one God healed was a foreigner (2 Kings 5). Suddenly the Nazarenes aren’t so amazed anymore; in fact they’re furious (Luke 4:28), so much so that they tried to push Him over a cliff! This must have been a kind of wilderness experience for Him too. Growing up, He had known favour with God and His fellowmen (Luke 2:52), but now there isn’t that sense of belonging. I’m sure many people in families can identify with this. Things are ok as long as we subscribe to the values we’ve been brought-up with, but when we move on and start to have other ideas, there can be fury and heated arguments.

The Nazarenes don’t succeed in throwing Jesus over the cliff. Instead He goes on His way, to continue the good work He started. He heals His friend Peter’s mother-in-law and many others but then, rather than get caught up in the healings and the admiration, Jesus goes to an isolated place. We can also read about this in Mark 1:35-39, where it says He went specifically to pray. When He’s found once again in the wilderness, Jesus says He must go on to preach in other towns, because that’s the reason He was sent.

When we have wilderness experiences, whether forced upon us or of our own choosing, we can turn as Jesus did to God’s Word and to prayer. I think that’s why it’s so important to know God’s Word and to memorise favourite verses – because we’re not always going to have a physical Bible in front of us, but we can always trust in God’s faithfulness.

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