Immediately after his baptism Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Some scenes in the Bible are almost impossible for us to imagine. We have no experience of such things. For many people, Jesus’ time in the wilderness may be one of these. We can only piece together snippets of information, helpful experiences we may remember, and follow our imagination asking the holy spirit to guide us.
We may read that the Judean wilderness is a desert. It is scorching hot during the day and extremely cold at night, there are wild animals and scorpions, and there is almost no food or water.
We may have previously felt the sudden punch, and suffocating feeling of African heat upon stepping down from a plane. Or shivered all night in a tent with too few blankets; perhaps a night with no moon when the darkness feels overpowering and seems never to end.
Perhaps we have watched Bear Grylls struggle across the desert, dissecting prickly pears to find precious liquid, catching scorpions for food, and lighting fires for warmth and to keep wild animals at bay during the night.
In the Old Testament we read about many of God’s people spending time in the desert where they are tested, and often have life changing encounters with God. Jesus would have known these stories. I wonder if he recalled them during his times of testing?
The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness after they were freed from Egypt; Moses stayed on the mountain of the Lord in the Sinai wilderness praying and fasting for 40 days. Elijah traveled through the wilderness without any food for 40 days to the mountain of God.
This painting of Jesus in the wilderness seems unusual in depicting the temptations of the devil at night time. When I saw it, it really resonated with me. Reminding me of how the night times are often the hardest times for us. The times when life seems at it’s darkest.
Another wilderness painting that I like is the one at the top of this post, which seems to show Jesus deep in thought, perhaps meditating on why he is there; recalling strengthening Psalms and other scriptures, or reflecting on those who have traveled the wilderness path before him.