Talk about ‘from the old things to the new’! When we begin this reading it is as if we were still in the Old Testament – John looking every inch the prophet of old. By the end, we are clearly in the New Testament, with the call to repentance and proclamation of the nearness of the kingdom. This is Good News!
What strikes me, as we see Jesus emerge as the beloved Son of God, is that Jesus’ experiences are all described in terms of outside agents. The only action of Jesus himself is to present himself to John for Baptism. After this, it is the voice from heaven which identifies him, the descent of the Spirit which in turn drives him out into the wilderness, the tempting by Satan and then the angels and wild animals who shape the story of wilderness.
In our modern world we might be more inclined to tell this story in terms of the inner dialogue going on in Jesus’ own mind and heart – ‘What should I do? How is God challenging me?’ It is perhaps presumptuous of us to suppose that we could ever know what was going on in Jesus’ interior life.
As we prepare to begin our journey through Lent I’m sure we will think of it primarily as about our own inner struggles to live obediently. We might even use the language of struggling to come to ‘know ourselves’. Prompted by this reading, we are reminded not to get too caught up in our own self-examination. It is worth also asking the question: how is God seeking to shape our lives from beyond our own private world of self?
9 Not long afterwards Jesus came from Nazareth in the province of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, he saw heaven opening and the Spirit coming down on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you.”
12 At once the Spirit made him go into the desert, 13 where he stayed 40 days, being tempted by Satan. Wild animals were there also, but angels came and helped him.
14 After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God. 15 “The right time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!”