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The Wilderness

Recorded on January 24th, 2021

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When Jesus was led into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and battle with Satan, I think most of us would have wanted that to be over as soon as possible. Listen as Pastor Rothschild discusses how time in the wilderness leads us closer to god, and help us forge the grit that is needed to be a good representation of “Christian” in today’s chaotic world.

Transcript of Sermon:

Today we continue on in our journey into the book of mark we are still at the beginning we are in uh chapter one we will be going over verses nine through fifteen now we did cover part of nine through twelve last week we’re going to be adding on to that they need to go together still this beginning of jesus’s ministry and understanding how jesus chose to begin his ministry what that looked like sets everything else into perspective and so we need to spend some time here and that’s why we’re doing it you can see the words on your screen as we get started and read along with me we will be in mark 1 9-15 let us read at that time jesus came from nazareth and galilee and was baptized by john in the jordan just as jesus was coming up out of the water he saw heaven being torn open and the spirit descending on him like a dove and a voice came from heaven you are my son whom i love with you i am well pleased at once the spirit sent him out into the wilderness and he was in the wilderness 40 days being tempted by satan he was with the wild animals and the angels attended to him after john was put in prison jesus went to galilee proclaiming the good news of god the time has come he said the kingdom of god has drawn near repent and believe in the good news this is the word of god for the people of god thanks be to god as i was studying and reading this week and preparing i found myself in another one of those situations where i thought oh no here i go again i saw myself reading and thinking and wondering how is it possible that a good god how is it possible that a loving god how is it possible that a god that says you are my son whom i love with whom i am well pleased would immediately then send the holy spirit to direct the sun in to the wilderness right i mean if you think about it because most of us tend to read scripture and just read it go on through and we don’t pause we don’t consider we don’t ponder and so these questions sometimes don’t come up to us until we’re in the middle of life and life pushes against us and we think wait a minute how could god be so good if this is happening to me but scripture scripture creates this tension all on its own and right now in that moment as i was preparing i found myself in the middle of tension wondering what kind of a good god what kind of a good spirit because the spirit is our counselor it’s our friend it’s our journeyman immediately after being called love sends jesus directs jesus into the wilderness where satan waits where wild beasts wait it’s an important question it’s a fair question it’s a question that god wants us to ask it’s a question we need to have answered before we find ourselves in the wilderness because is god a good god did god actually love jesus was jesus actually god’s son are all of those things true and if they are then why would jesus be sent into the wilderness how is it possible that those things exist together i mean in the world that we live in today this past year has felt like a wilderness year and day by day we go to bed thinking oh it’s going to be better tomorrow and then we wake up and then there’s news of more tragedy more disunity more disharmony more brokenness and we think it can’t possibly get worse and then we wake up again and somehow it’s worse and i don’t know if you have thought this i don’t know if you have wondered this but sometimes i’ve thought why god why if you are so good are 400 000 people 400 000 families grieving suffering hurting why oh why are there so many christians and yet so much disunity why are there so many people who claim to be your followers yet so much hurt in this world why why do we have to suffer why is there cancer why is there pain why is there abuse why how can an all-loving god a caring god a good god exists and yet all of these other things is exist alongside of it and that tension that tension is important it is important that we don’t just trivialize it away by just saying well i just believe god is good or i just trust in the love of god it’s important that we understand truly the goodness of god and try and explain it away or that we don’t turn away from god because we can’t put the two together so when we look at jesus’s journey here when we look at what happens to jesus we need to think about the whole picture last week we talked about jesus being baptized we talked about how for 30 years jesus had been hiding basically he’d been not active in ministry not active really in much way that we know a lot about yet he decides to make his coming out party his i’m going to start my ministry party not happen in a temple with all the splendor that he deserved not happening with shouts of glory from all the people around him that he certainly deserved as the son of god as the coming messiah the one had that had been promised and held onto dearly by the jewish community now he instead shows up and stands in line with sinners to be baptized baptized a sinless man cleansed by one who was lower than him this is how jesus decided to begin his ministry and as jesus is baptized the skies open the heavens rend and god says to jesus you are my son whom i love i am pleased with you can you imagine what that would have felt like can you imagine what those words poured into your soul would have felt like but one of the things we talked about last week is that those words are available to you as a child of god accepted by the blood of christ those words are the same words that are spoken to you and if you missed last week’s sermon i highly encourage you to go back and listen to it because our identities everything that we are are held up in those words so friends please understand that jesus in that moment was soaking in the love and the protection the knowledge of who he is because he is also a human on this earth he was born in a human body yes he is god’s son yes he existed before his birth in heaven with god with the holy spirit but as he’s come down to earth he exists in a human body that feels the pains that we feel that feels the struggles that we feel and so as the baptism finishes the holy spirit then sends jesus into the wilderness sends directs impels jesus into the wilderness now what is important to understand here is that jesus is human and just like you and i the holy spirit is not going to force jesus into the wilderness the holy spirit is not going to force you and i to do anything it will direct it will encourage it will lead but it will not force jesus had a choice here jesus could have chosen the easier road but jesus instead chose the wilderness road and that right there my friends that right there was the key to me that is what really made me think wait a minute there’s something here this is the thing that we need to pay attention to why did jesus choose the wilderness road what was so important about him having this wilderness experience as part of the baptism experience before he gets sent out into ministry to the rest of the world what is accomplished here what happens here that is so necessary for the rest of his ministry because it didn’t have to happen jesus could have chosen differently jesus could have just decided to go straight into ministry but he doesn’t instead he trusts the spirit and the spirit leads jesus into the wilderness and so i dig deeper still wondering and as we dig we unearth some things that are really important for us to understand as believers there’s a difference between being tested and being tempted and this is an important unearthing of evidence right it’s kind of like we’re on a an archaeological dig and when we dig we unearth pieces of knowledge that help us to understand what is happening in this moment both contextually but then also for our lives today and what is happening in this moment is that the holy spirit god knows that as jesus is sent into the wilderness jesus is going to be tempted but it is important that we understand that god is not the one doing the tempting but on the other side god is allowing the tempting to happen and though they can seem like the same thing they’re very much not the same thing god does allow us to be tested in this world tested but god will never do the tempting the holy spirit god are never the ones actually creating the temptation but god does allow us to be tested in our faith in our lives in our human bodies and as jesus goes into the wilderness god knows that in jesus’s human form jesus is going to experience every temptation that you and i face in our day-to-day lives that in the wilderness with satan jesus is going to be pushed up against things that you and i experience living an average ordinary life and that because jesus experiences these things for himself as a human in a human body jesus is going to be better equipped to do his ministry jesus is going to be better able to love because of these experiences jesus is going to be better able to help pull people from the grips of sin because jesus will have been there himself not sinning but knowing the temptation to not breaking the laws but knowing the temptation to you see as jesus experiences all of this jesus in a very human way is able to understand to sympathize to empathize not in a way that’s like well i could understand but in a way that’s like i understand and when i am my most broken when i am my most hurting what i need in my life is the comfort of one who has been where i’ve been is the hug the love the words of one who not just can understand what i’ve been through theoretically but who has gone there before me who has walked that road too and who has made it through to the other side this is what is accomplished in the wilderness this is what happens to jesus in the wilderness and this is what would have been lost if jesus had not chosen to take the wilderness road god still uses wilderness today with you and i now because our world is so broken and so far from what it was originally created to be so many years apart from the original creation of that beautiful garden god does very little in order in terms of actually directing us into the wilderness himself anymore you know the holy spirit led jesus into the wilderness on purpose we don’t even have to be led into the wilderness anymore very often it just happens because of the world that we live in i do not believe that there are many circumstances anymore where god is intentionally leading people into wilderness experiences we just find ourselves there it does happen god does intentionally lead us into those experiences sometimes but more often than not some today we just find ourselves in the wilderness because of our own sin behavior because of the sin behavior of the people around us because of our parents because of our caregivers because of our work environments because of the world that is broken around us we find ourselves in the wilderness and like jesus on that wilderness road we have an option we can choose to be in that wilderness road as a child of god partnering with god in the journey or we can choose to try and constantly be crawling ourselves out of it not looking around and seeing what’s available to us in the journey let me explain what i mean by that you see god uses the wilderness in our lives too when we are on the wilderness road god is teaching god is sharpening god is honing god is perfecting us god is using this broken world around us to like a potter on on a on a wheel on one of those potter’s wheels and shaping us and perfecting the shape of who we are and the wilderness allows the perfect environment for that to shave off some of those things that really don’t need to be a part of who we are anymore to add stuff to us that we didn’t have before but we would only get by going through a wilderness experience the song that tom just sang to us says that you know god’s grace and mercy is at its most profound nature in our lives when we are in the deepest part of the ocean the deepest part of the wilderness you see we experience god’s presence most when we’re in the middle of the wilderness and so if our whole lives we are only about avoiding wilderness experiences or trying to get out of the wilderness as quickly as possible then what we are really avoiding is working with god in the middle of the wilderness what we’re really avoiding is experiencing god’s goodness god’s grace god’s love in the middle of the wilderness and i don’t know that’s something that we should be trying to do in the middle of the wilderness there is beauty to be found in the middle middle of the wilderness there is goodness to be found because do you do you recognize in this scripture that we read today that it says to us that there were angels attending to jesus while he was in the wilderness you see jesus not only got to choose whether or not he went on this journey jesus also had the promise of protection from god jesus went into the journey knowing that he was a child of god loved by god cared for by god so that’s what he went into it knowing and then in the midst of these trials god was caring for jesus moment by moment the same promise is there for you and i how can we even want to or wonder or think that we can experience the fullness of god without seeking the fullness of a life experience seeking the fullness of god and you and i as humans because it’s just the way we are we tend to open ourselves up most to god in the middle of the wilderness i remember one time asking some friends of ours who were walking joe and i threw a really difficult time of life and i remember this friend saying to me alyssa i know that you want to get through this as fast as possible but i believe god has told me that this is exactly where god wants you because you’re mo more open to god right now than you ever have been in your life and he was right and i wanted to hit him i didn’t because you know i was trying to be holy and stuff but i wanted to because i so badly wanted to be out of the wilderness i so badly wanted to be on the other side i wanted to be through the tunnel i wanted to be in the light but at the same time he was absolutely right i had never been closer with god i had never had a better relationship with god i had never grown more in my life of faith than in that time you see the wilderness isn’t all bad and if jesus had skipped this wilderness experience jesus couldn’t walk with you and i authentically and then on top of that imagine what would have happened if jesus had gone into ministry which is what happened next without knowing what it felt like to be in the wilderness and still feel the goodness of god around him because guess what jesus ministry was basically 24 7 wilderness was it not everywhere that jesus went people were against him everything that jesus did there were people pushing up against jesus denying him hurting him betraying him so though it wasn’t a 40-day intense wilderness experience the everyday rest of his life was all bits and pieces of wilderness and jesus was able to get through that knowing that god would never leave him alone because he’d had this experience of god providing for him intensely in the wilderness and the same is true for you and i when we are on the wilderness road we learn about the true goodness of god though there’s bad things happening around us we experience god’s goodness as it really is not this fake moralistic way that the world wants to think a good god is a good god is a god that never leaves you a good god is a god that walks by you day by day a good god is a god that attends to you in the middle of the darkness makes sure that you’re never alone and so when jesus went about the rest of his ministry he knew that no matter how bad it got even hanging on the cross that he would be provided for that he would be cared for because he’d seen it done before you and i were created on purpose with the purpose we were sent to live on this earth not just for ourselves not just for our children but for the rest of humanity who don’t yet know christ and if you and i try and wish our way out of every wilderness experience that we have we will not have within us the tools that we need to reach the people that god needs us to reach because as we walk through each wilderness experience we learn how to reach and how to connect with people who are broken and hurting we are able to take those experiences and genuinely sympathize and empathize with people who are going to go through them after us we can walk with them like jesus walks with us and teach them teach them share with them how we’ve been there how god is there with them right now and how god wants to be their good god also friends god is good this wilderness experience was necessary and it was chosen by jesus because he trusted trusted that it was necessary that the parts that might not be necessary god would use for good in his life and in the life of others and so in our lives i encourage us to do the same we are in a wilderness era whatever it is in your life if it’s not just covet if it’s something a million times different or if you’ve already been through the wilderness you know what i’m talking about but you also know that there’s probably one coming in your future we need to trust that perhaps god didn’t put us here the world did but god is going to get us through this and that god’s goal may not be to get us through it as fast as possible but instead to walk with us through it moment by moment minute by minute day by day so that we grow so that we change and so that on the other side we are better able to walk with others like jesus walks with us so the choice we get to make is do we trust do we trust in the goodness of a god who would allow the wilderness to exist in this world the answer for me is yes it’s hard sometimes to sit in the tension but the tension creates gold diamonds and pearls that’s what we get b2 to the people in this world who are suffering in darkness let us pray god i thank you so much for putting examples in scripture of life that we live every day jesus i thank you for choosing the wilderness road for setting for us an example of what it looks like to walk in the depths of darkness and come out the other side help us to walk faithfully into the path that has been put before us knowing without question that you have won the day that we will be cared for that god will never leave our sides and that you jesus will comfort us step by step help us to look for your footsteps instead of for an escape ladder out of the hole and it’s in the name of jesus we pray amen