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March 1, 2020

Into the Wilderness

Passage: Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 


But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,

    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”


Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,


‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

    and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,

so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”


Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”


Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 


Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,


‘Worship the Lord your God,

    and serve only him.’”


Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.


This is both a very real exterior adventure beyond the margins of society and an interior passage of cleansing. Yet the journey to/in the "spirit world" is also a sojourn through mythic time, in order to encounter the story and destiny of one's self and one's people. That this sojourn lasted "forty days" (Lk 4:2) is clearly intended to invoke Israel's forty year wanderings in the wilderness after Egypt. But what exactly is the connection? Jesus is somehow interiorizing the experience of his people… he is mystically re-tracing the footsteps of Israel in order to discover where the journey of his nation went wrong. 


-Ched Myers, “Led by the Spirit into the wilderness... Reflections on Lent, Jesus’ Temptations and Indigeneity”

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