In this season of Lent, we have the opportunity to consider how our identity as church is formed and confirmed in order to serve out of that identity. Before Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, he was given a clear description of his identity through his baptism. How, for us as church, does baptism supply our identity so that we can stand firm against temptation?
Even though Jesus was away from human company during his temptation, he neither chose this isolation nor was he completely separated from God’s care. God’s holy angels waited on him and cared for him. Even in the wilderness, the desolate forsaken place, Jesus was in community with others who recognized his identity and came to support him in his time of temptation. In our evening prayers, we have the option to pray for God’s holy angels to lead us in paths of peace and goodwill  and for angels to be given charge over those who sleep. Angels watching over and caring for God’s people is part of the biblical worldview that we tend to ignore in our day. How, as church, have we experienced God’s gracious care for us in unexpected, maybe even what some might call “supernatural,” ways?
In this gospel account, Jesus does not choose to go into 40 days of temptation. His 40 days are necessary in order for him to enter into solidarity with his people, past, present, and future. To understand how Jesus’ 40 days is entering into the larger story of redemption, we need to re-wind the story nearly 2000 years to the Exodus. God delivered the Israelites from slavery, which included taking them through the Red Sea which is a baptism into a new life of freedom to serve God. But after this mighty deliverance, they refused to trust God completely regarding entering into the land of Canaan. They did not live into this new identity given to them when they crossed the Red Sea. As penance, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus symbolically enters into this penance even though he was not guilty of lack of trust, to demonstrate his solidarity with his people. This action by Jesus signifies how he understands his identity in community. For some Christians, the practice of Lent includes imitating Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness in order to live into solidarity with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the sake of the world. This tradition is one way of practicing repentance, of turning away from what does not support our life as those baptized into Christ and to turn to a fuller expression of the baptismal life of trusting God’s declaration that through baptism we are God’s children (John 1:12). After his time in the wilderness of wrestling against temptation, Jesus returns to city life to proclaim that the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near. The people of Israel had waited 40 years to enter into the land of Canaan. The people of God had waited for close to 2000 years between the giving of the Law through Moses to experience the grace that is given through Jesus (John 1:17). Jesus calls the people to repent and believe the good news that the kingdom of God is near. From what, as church, do we need to repent and what do we need to believe in order to live more fully into our baptismal identity?
© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved