6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: A Communion Meditation for the first Sunday in Lent. After Baptism, Jesus was compelled to deal with a wilderness situation. What is our wilderness? Jesus was helped by angels. Can we help others in their wilderness times?


I read about Boy Scouts preparing for a backpacking trip to a wilderness area—I think it was Alaska. The scout leader told them to pare down their packs as much as possible. Then he told them to open their sleeping bags, and lay everything out and remove any other extra items. When the scouts reported that they had removed every unnecessary and had only essentials left, he walked over to the sleeping bags. He told the 8 scouts to take out 7 of their tubes of tooth paste and to carry just one which they would share. He did that with other items until only the essentials were left.

Mark took out all the extra words in his Gospel. Every phrase, every idea left is important. We must pay close attention to every word. In the 7 verses I will read in a moment Mark describes three places, a host of characters, and many important actions. Let us pay close attention to who does what where:

Scripture: Mark 1:9-15 NLT

9 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News

This is the Word of God for the people of God.


Have you ever wanted to just get away from it all? Perhaps some of us would like to find a quiet stream deep in the woods so we could have peace and quiet. That is a fairly common wish in our culture. At the time of Jesus, however, people had a negative view of a wilderness—a wilderness was generally thought of as a bad or dangerous place. There were snakes and animals that could kill you. Criminals were likely to lie in wait for victims in unsupervised areas. They still carried the heavy theological burden of the sins committed in the wilderness by the tribes who followed Moses. The Twelve Tribes grumbled against God, they refused to trust God to care for them, so God allowed all of that generation to die in the wilderness. The people at the time of Jesus had an anxiety about the wilderness that is unlike the peace and quiet many of us find in our forests.


Before the children of Israel were led into the wilderness, they were brought out of slavery by going through the waters of the Sea. Before Jesus was compelled to go into the wilderness today’s lesson tells us that John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. After the Children of Israel went through the water of the sea they remained in the wilderness for 40 years. After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River he was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Water comes before the wilderness.

“Water provides the central symbolism for baptism. The richness of its meaning for the Christian community is suggested in the baptismal liturgy which speaks of the waters of creation and the flood, the liberation of God’s people by passage through the sea, the gift of water in the wilderness, and the passage through the Jordan River to the promised land. In baptism we identify ourselves with this people of God and join the community’s journey toward God. The use of water in baptism also symbolizes cleansing from sin, death to old life, and rising to begin new life in Christ.” [1]

Rev. Martin Dale tells us that “in the fifth Century AD St. Patrick baptized King Aengus by full immersion. During the baptismal ceremony, so the story goes St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king’s foot. After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king’s forgiveness. “Why did you suffer this pain in silence” St Patrick asked. The king replied, "I thought it was part of the ritual." [2]


After baptism Jesus immediately was compelled by the Spirit to face temptations and difficulty in the wilderness. What compels us to go into the wilderness? Is the current financial situation a wilderness for us? What about the conflict we have at home? Is loneliness a wilderness that we face? Are some of in the wilderness of physical afflictions? It has been said that when you discover that all you have left is God, then you will realize that God is all you need.

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