At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him. – Mark 1:12-13 (CEB)
Mark doesn’t describe what happened when Jesus was tempted by Satan. Maybe we remember the longer versions of the story found in other Gospels, in which three temptations are offered and rejected. Mark keeps it simple and leaves the details to our imaginations. Jesus waited through those forty days; there is so much empty space for our questions in this scant description.
I close my eyes and picture Jesus, driven into the wilderness by the Spirit of God. I imagine the dry heat, and the bright sun, and the desert plants. I imagine a search for shelter, and a growing hunger, and a thirst for something, anything, to drink in a place where water in streams appeared and disappeared with the seasons.
I imagine Jesus, emptied out, waiting.
I imagine Satan, waiting for the moment when hunger and thirst and watchfulness made Jesus most vulnerable.
There has been a lot of waiting for all of us in the past few years. Waiting for things to get back to normal. Waiting for mail to be delivered. Waiting for ballots to be counted. Waiting for the escalation—and de-escalation—in numbers of positive diagnoses, in numbers of deaths. Waiting for someone to make things right.
I imagine Jesus feeling far from God, yet closer, too. We have learned this—are learning this—in the wilderness of an unsettled world, wondering if God is busy elsewhere, or simply waiting for us on the other side of time.
Holy One, we are waiting for you. We pray you are waiting for us, too. Amen.
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, from The Pilgrim Press.