I recently put together a short drama about Jesus going into the wilderness, and as I was writing it a thought crept into my head from leftfield. I always think of Jesus’s forty days in the wilderness (see Luke 4 and Matthew 4) as a time of testing and temptation. What hadn’t occurred to me before was that this was a precious time for Jesus, time away from his previous carpentry years, time away from the daytime pressures and distractions, a chance to declutter. And mostly, space and freedom to spend time with his father.
In his prophetic Old Testament book, in chapter 2 and verse 14, Hosea tells the people that God will draw them out into desert places so that he can speak tenderly to them. I think that must have been happening in those forty days. Jesus hearing the tender voice of his dad. Jesus able to enjoy time with his loving, caring, wise father. Quietness and silence can be frightening things, especially if our heads are full of chaos and fear. But these things can also create a space for calm and peace and affirmation from God.
Just today my wife played me a few other thoughts about Lent from the YouVersion Bible app on her phone, and I heard mention of a movie so thought I’d better grab it. For Jesus this desert time was a place of training too, a place of preparation, just like so many of the prophets before him. A good place, a strengthening, heartening place for all that was to come. Think of Yoda, training Luke for his life as a Jedi in Star Wars, or Mr Keating getting his pupils to stand on his desk, kick a football, walk round a yard and rip pages of dry analysis from their text books, in Dead Poets Society. Experiences that would shape and change them. Jesus would teach by experience too, getting people to do stuff, so that they learned with their hands as much as with their heads. And here he was having the keenest of experiences himself.
Yes, there were those temptations, experiences that would shape Jesus for three years of compassion and sacrifice and service and understanding, but there must have been many more experiences too, making that first forty days of Lent a precious time of joy and wonder and peace and anticipation.