Summary: Pain and suffering is often solitary and always a spiritual experience.

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Title: Solitary Pain and Suffering

Text: Luke 4:1-13

Thesis: Pain and suffering is often solitary and always a spiritual experience.

This is the first in a Lenten Series: Knowing Christ through Pain and Suffering based on the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote, I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead. Philippians 3:10-11


One of my favorite cartoon clips is a Larsen Farside. In the cartoon, there is a dog in a fenced in yard. There is another dog, obviously delighted to be off the leash and out of the fenced in yard, who is riding by in the back seat of the family sedan. The window is rolled down and the dog in the car shouts to the poor dog left at home, penned up in the yard and says, “Hey, I’m going to the vet to get tutored.”

Sometimes we unwittingly are taken to places we would rather not go.

On January 14, 2002, Tony Dungy, then head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was fired following their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Though he thought his coaching career was over, he was hired as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. A year ago, almost to the day, Tony Dungy’s Colts defeated the Bears to win the Super Bowl on February 4, 2007.

But in 2005, the Dungy family was rocked by the suicide of their oldest son, James. James left no note – no explanation, no reasons, just mystery and devastating loss. (Michael W. Michelson Jr., “Gentle Warrior,” Today’s Christian, September/October 2007)

Sometimes we go to places we would rather not go.

I. Sometimes God leads us to places we would not go otherwise.

• Then Jesus full of the Holy Spirit left the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness where the Devil tempted him… Luke 4:1-2

In Mark’s gospel the testing of Christ is squeezed into two verses but both of those verses give us a keener insight into the nature of His experience. Mark says the Holy Spirit “compelled” Jesus to go into the wilderness. The KJV uses the term “driveth” rather than the kinder gentler word “led.”

So the first image we need to have in mind is not that of a loving parent or grandparent taking the hand of a child and taking a walk down to Cold Stone Ice Cream for a ‘Hunka Chunka Burnin Fudge’ or the DQ for a Pecan Cluster Blizzard.

It is more like the word Jesus spoke to Peter when Peter insisted that he loved Jesus and would follow him. Jesus said, “The truth is, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go where ever you wanted. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and other will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go.” John 21:18

Certainly one very obvious implication that leaps from the text is that Jesus was led, if not strongly compelled, into a place of desolation where he was to have a wilderness experience. Without even taxing our imaginative power we can envision a wilderness as a desolate, barren and harsh environment.

In addition, the Mark 1 passage, I referred to earlier, adds another bit of information missing from the Matthew and Luke accounts. In addition to saying Jesus was driven into the wilderness, he adds that Jesus “was out among the wild animals.” Mark 1:13

So the wilderness experience for Jesus was one of solitary desolation in a barren, harsh, and dangerous environment.

John Krakauer wrote a best-selling non-fiction book in 1996. Perhaps you have heard of it or read it. Into the Wild is an attempt to explain what happened to Christopher McCandless, who came from a rather privileged background, but upon graduating from Emory University began a rather erratic journey the ended with his death.

He stopped communicating with his family, gave away his savings of $25,000, set out to travel, abandoned his car, and burned his wallet and the money in it. He eventually hitchhiked to Alaska where he set off down Stampede Trail with some rice, a rifle, a camera, some camping gear and a field guide to edible plants. Moose hunters found his body in August of 1992. It is surmised, that to fend off starvation the toxicity of some of the seeds he was eating contributed to his death.

There is the wilderness of John Muir who loved the remote and faraway areas and was one of the first modern preservationists. And there is the wilderness of Edward Abbey whose book Desert Solitaire has been likened to Thoreau’s Walden. But not every trek into the wilderness is about nature trails, scenic overlooks, rock climbing, wildflowers in bloom, and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. The wilderness into which Jesus hiked was no friendly place. It was a place of severity and testing.

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