My friend Joe was facing great challenges in his job. Demand had recently spiked for the product his company manufactured. At almost the same time, the supplier of a major component had problems with its manufacturing process, and stopped shipping until the problem could be corrected. The pressure was on to meet deadlines that were looming. On top of all this, Joe’s boss was difficult to work for, and several co-workers had quit or transferred to other departments, leaving Joe’s department short-handed, short-supplied, and his boss even more short-tempered than usual. Joe started having nightmares.
One night, as Joe wrestled with his dreams, his wife became alarmed. He was thrashing in the bed, and talking in his sleep. She couldn’t make out words or sentences, but she knew he was having another nightmare. She tried to wake him as gently as she could. “Joe, honey, are you okay? You’re having a bad dream.” Joe’s eyes flew open and he said, “I’m okay. Trust me.” His wife’s face must have looked like she didn’t quite believe him, so he added, “I know you can’t trust me right now, but just trust me.”
Have you ever faced an overwhelming challenge that scared the living daylights out of you? Continue reading →
Mark’s gospel doesn’t give us much information about the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, or how Satan tested him there. Mark only devotes two short verses to these forty days:
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him (Mark 1:12-13).
That’s it. Before the water has even dried on his skin from being baptized in the Jordan River, Jesus is driven into the wilderness.
I have often imagined what that wilderness must look like, but now I know. We traveled to the Holy Land last month, and we saw the Mount of Temptation, where tradition holds that Jesus spent his forty-day fast (only Mark doesn’t tell us that he fasts – we get that from the other gospels). The mountain rises above the oasis of Jericho, city of palms and bananas and fresh springs of water. The barren hillside is pocked with little caves, and it’s easy to imagine Jesus spending his nights in those caves.
It hadn’t occurred to me, until I stood at the excavation site in Jericho, that while Jesus was up on that mountain for those forty days, he was within a few minutes’ climb down into the beautiful oasis of Jericho, and he could see that lush, fruitful valley the whole time he was up there. But the refreshing pleasures that were visible from the Mount of Temptation weren’t what Satan used to test Jesus. Instead of tempting Jesus with the availability of fresh fruit and clean water that lay below him in Jericho, Satan offered Jesus a chance to show off his divinity, to play God for a bit. Satan forgot that Jesus didn’t need to play God. He is God, God incarnate. Immanuel, God With Us.