Summary: A Lent 1 (First Sunday in Lent) sermon
THE ‘WHO’, ‘WHY’ AND ‘HOW’
OF THE CHRISTIAN’S WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE
The cries on our lips, when we go through certain experiences are: ‘why is this happening to me?’ (with our hands on our head), ‘who is responsible for this?’ and ‘how I can go through it?’ We ask these questions when go through difficult times.
In this part of the world (i.e. UK) where we play the blame game very well, we find somebody in the society and bring him or her out to answer the question- ‘who is responsible?’
In the part of the world where I am coming from (i.e. the global south), difficult circumstances or experiences are often associated with Satan and his demons. Even Christians tend to give much praise to Satan for every difficult experience. People have therefore coined the expression in my country- ‘Satan hasn’t got a lawyer’, since he is blamed every now and then for every situation.
This morning I want to be the Devil’s advocate, as we look at the theme:
The ‘Who’, the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of the Christian’s Wilderness Experience
The Gospel of Matthew chapter 4 verses 1 to 11 (i.e. today’s Gospel reading) will help us, as we identify the ‘who’; the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of Christian experiences I will like to call ‘wilderness’ situations. In trying to answer these three questions- ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the Christian’s wilderness experiences; I will want you to learn 3 Greek words, which will help us to understand the text.
Let us pray:
Holy Spirit, you who led Jesus into the wilderness for a season of testing, we pray that you will lead us this morning as we study your inspired word. We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour- AMEN.
Understanding our Text
Many bible versions have this adverb ‘then’ to open the narrative on Jesus’ temptation. The Greek meanings of this adverb ‘then’ (tote, pronunciation: tau-eh in Greek) are: ‘at that time, next, immediately afterwards’ and so on. So, if we could replace the word ‘then’ with ‘immediately afterwards’ we can get the idea that something had happened before this account on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. The Gospel writer Mark makes us understand the lapse of time from Jesus’ baptism to his trip into the wilderness. According to the New King James Version and many other versions, Mark chapter 1 verse 12 reads: ‘Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness’.
Therefore let us remind ourselves of what happened before Jesus’ trip to the wilderness. He had just been baptised by his cousin John. This baptism was different from the ones John had been getting. This particular candidate had just come out of the water and John (the Baptist) experienced what he had never seen in any other candidate. Verses 16 and 17 of Matthew chapter 3 reads:
‘At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
One will say Jesus (as always), had an effective line of communication with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The voice of the Father was He loved Jesus and was pleased with Him.
Just after that, (or immediately after this experience) he (Jesus) was taken into the wilderness.
Now, who took Jesus there? Was it the Devil? No! He was led there by the Holy Spirit. When you look at this verb ‘to lead’ in the original language in which the New Testament was written (i.e. Greek), you get a lot from it. The verb ‘anagó’ (pronounced- an-ag'-o), which in English means to ‘lead up’, to ‘bring up’ also connotes ‘to guide’ and ‘to carry’. In other words, the Holy Spirit guided Jesus to no other place but a wilderness.
What is a wilderness? It is a desert and in the days of Jesus, it was a deserted, desolate wasteland. It was also a solitary place- away from the bustling and hustling of life.
It was this kind of place that the Holy Spirit carried Jesus to. Why? To be tempted by the Devil. I don’t want us to limit the word ‘tempt’ to the negative connotations we may have understood it. ‘Tempt’, ‘peirazó’ in Greek (pronounced as pi-rad'-zo) also means to test, to try.
So far we have established that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Why? To be tried, to be tested by the Devil. He did that, even though he was fully God and at the same time fully human, to set for us an example. Did he pass the test? Indeed he came out with flying colours.
How did he do it? His survival in the wilderness was as a result of three survival kits he had, namely- prayer, fasting and appropriately applying the word of God.