As we read in church yesterday from Matthew 4, Jesus began his ministry by going into the fearsome wilderness. Out there, beyond the boundaries of safety and civilization, Jesus was confronted by “wild beasts.” That is, he came face to face with evil. Guess who won? You know the ending. This story gives us a glimpse of the ultimate power of God. Think of the temptation narrative as another Genesis moment. The world was brought to order out of chaos.
In Lent, we are challenged by a series of contrasts. Scripture tells us that we were created by God for life in a lush garden. But we betrayed that paradise with our disobedience. God wants us to be in total and complete relationship with all of creation. Yet we destroyed that relationship in our sin. Back and forth we go. It’s dizzying! However, God stays with us, reaches out to us, gives us Jesus, and his free gift of grace, in order to heal our contradictions and estrangement.
What to do when we are dealing with out-of-control wildness and beastly turmoil in our lives? It’s a comfort to remember here in Lent that Jesus not only loves us but also starts his mission by going directly into the madness and taming the forces of disorder. We have needful help! Maybe that’s why people come to church these days. The church stands with us amid the forces of temptation. Jesus knows what it’s like to go toe-to-toe with evil. And every Sunday we proclaim in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Thank God we gather on Sundays to learn how to get out of the wilderness!!