Summary: A spiritual wilderness may be a place we fight Satan and face-off with our inner demons.
Title: Into the Wild (with Jesus)
Text: Mark 1:9-15
Thesis: A spiritual wilderness may be a place we fight with Satan and face-off with our inner demons.
You may be wondering why this particular story is pertinent to us today.
The story is pertinent because it does at least two things:
1. The story provides us an occasion to identify with the experience of Christ.
2. The story also lets us see how completely Jesus has identified with our human experience.
In 1996 John Krakauer published Into the Wild, a bestselling non-fiction book about a young man named Christopher McCandles. In 2007 Sean Penn adapted and directed a film version of the McCandles story. The essence of the story is that one day Christopher McCandles abandoned all that he had and eventually made his way to Alaska where he caught a ride to the Stampede Trail in April of 1992. They say he headed down the snow-covered trail with ten pounds of rice, a .22 caliber rifle, a camera, several boxes of ammunition, and a small selection of reading materials, including a field guide to the regions edible plants. He died sometime in August, and his body was found in early September by a group of moose hunters.
Over the years a great deal has been written about Christopher McCandles. The story certainly gives one sufficient fuel for pondering who he was and why he just walked always into the wild…
There is something in me that calls me to the wild… to solitude. I like the story of Dick Proenneke who, upon turning 50 in 1967, retired and was flown into the Twin Lakes area in Alaska by a bush pilot. He remained there for the next 30 years. The Alone in the Wilderness web site states, “Thousands have had such dreams but Dick Proenneke lived them. He found a place, built a cabin, and stayed to become part of the country.”
Jesus also had an, into the wild story. It is featured more prominently in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. But in our more abridged text, it is sandwiched between the story of his baptism and the beginning of his public ministry wherein he announces the coming of God’s Kingdom and calls upon those who hear to turn from their sins and believe the Good News.
I found it interesting that the Matthew and Luke texts say that Jesus was “led” by the Spirit into the wilderness. And the Mark text says that Jesus was “compelled” to go into the wilderness. The word “led” is a gentle word… it suggests that the going of Jesus into the wilderness was little more than a prompting or inner inclination to go off into the wild. But the word translated “compelled” is not so gentle. It is translated from the word that means to be “driven” or “thrust forth” or “forced” into the wild.
The wild into which Jesus was being led or thrust or driven or compelled to go was a place of isolation, privation, and temptation or testing. In that it was the Holy Spirit doing the compelling, we need to understand that his going into the wild was a spiritual experience. God was doing something and we would be wise to understand that God is at work in our wilderness experiences as well.
The first aspect of Jesus’ wilderness experience is that he was isolated and alone.
I. Wilderness experiences are characterized by Isolation
The Holy Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness. He was there forty days… Mark 1:12-13
• Jesus was alone.
• Jesus was alone in a wilderness.
My Sunday afternoon ritual is to get comfortable in my recliner and read the Sunday paper. I begin by separating each section of the paper from the other so I have a nice stack of sections to work through in an orderly and systematic way. I also sift through the ads to separate the two funny pages and the Parade and US Magazines, which I add to the top of my stack of sections. When I get to the Travel section I always check out the latest Denver Post Travel photos in which people take a the Travel section with them when they go on vacation. The objective is to have someone photograph them in a setting like sitting on a camel in front of a Great Pyramid holding the Travel section of the paper. The destinations are almost always exotic and beautiful.
Commentator William Barclay says the place to which Jesus was compelled to go was anything but exotic and beautiful. The area was known as “The Devastation.” It was an area of land approximately 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. It was an area of yellow sand, crumbling limestone, rocks, pebbled gravel, and scree, which we know as talus or jagged broken rock fragments. The rocky ridges of “The Devastation” run in all directions. And the ground shimmers with heat like a vast furnace. (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, P. 63)