PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE
You know how you’ll be reading something you’ve read before in the Bible, and certain words jump out at you with new meaning? That happened for me this morning when I was reading in Mark and saw these words, “He was with the wild animals, and the angels attended Him.” (Mark 1: 13)
The reference is to Jesus when he was led by the Spirit into the desert after his baptism. God had just voiced these beautiful words, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)
I have always pictured Jesus in the wilderness for those 40 days, kneeling to pray, trumping Satan’s enticing lure with one Scripture after another. But I missed something. I never saw the wild animals that lurked behind large rocks, watching and waiting to find their time to pounce on Jesus. I never saw the wild baby animals that nipped at Jesus’ heels, sniffing at what they hoped would be their evening meal.
Mark gives us relief when he completes that verse with the good news that angels were also in the desert with Jesus. We get the distinct idea that the angels were a vital part of His 40 day wilderness experience. They attended Him, watched over Him, and kept Him safe from the wild animals. Jesus went without food during that time, but He did not go without sleep. How could He sleep peacefully with wild animals around? The angels were watching.
So I got to thinking about you and me and our desert experiences and about the wild animals that try to attack us. In our desert, we feel alone, plagued by doubts and worry, constantly facing the wild animals of fear, loneliness, rejection, heartache, and physical and emotional pain. Sometimes, your wild animals are people who say cruel things to you. Maybe your wild animal is depression that plagues you and won’t let go. You hear these words in your heart. “You can’t win. You always lose. You are washed up. There is no future for you. Life is over. Give up.”
Then, while you are hanging by a thread to your mountain of hope, Mark rushes in with words that take out the fear and give us new focus. “And the angels came and attended Him.” Matthew’s account of this experience adds this. “Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.” (Matthew 4:11)
Here is the good news. There will be an end to your pain. Hope will rise up once again. Jesus proved that for us in His desert experience. Your tiny thread of hope expands to a large, secure rope of belief as the devil leaves you and angels come to take care of you.
Believe it. It is good news. You will not stay in the desert forever. Jesus came out of His desert experience in the power of the Spirit.
So will you.
The Rev. B.J. Funk, associate pastor of Central UMC in Fitzgerald, has written a book with 50 devotionals on grief based on her personal experience. “Grief is not a Permanent Condition: 50 Devotionals to Help You Through the Grieving Process” points the reader to Jesus and the hope found in Him. Visit www.bjfunkgrief.com for more information and to order. Email Rev. Funk at firstname.lastname@example.org.