Chapter & Verse: Mark 1:12
There is an urgency about the Gospel of Mark which leaves the reader breathless. In the blink of an eye we are rushed from John the Baptiser to the baptism of Jesus, and then, before we have the opportunity to take in the significance of the Rabbi from Nazareth, he is driven into the wilderness. Lent is our wilderness experience, driven there not by the necessity of the liturgical or seasonal calendar, but by the Spirit of God.
The wilderness can be seen as a place to be feared; it speaks of isolation and unknown threats to our safety. In biblical use, it is the place of testing and of formation. In the wilderness we confront the fears that inhibit us from becoming the faithful disciples that we are called to be. It is a place of risk because it involves letting go of an identity that we are comfortable with and growing a new one. Mark is short on detail and unlike the other gospels does not spell out the nature of the testing that Jesus is subjected to. What he does is to symbolise the essential nature of the testing, speaking of “wild beasts” and “angels”. Wild beasts are the natural inhabitants of the wilderness; it is their home and we need to meet them on their terms. The person driven into the wilderness cannot run from them, pretend they don’t exist, or expect to dictate the rules of engagement. We have to understand how to deal with the threat they pose and move on. Angels are the assurance of the presence of God; we are not alone in the struggle. Trust comes before understanding. We need the childlike faith that Jesus encouraged amongst the timid and the anxious. Angels come in the most unexpected guises and we do well not to let our prejudices deny the solace they offer…
David Grosch-Miller is moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly
This is an extract from the March 2015 edition of Reform.