And in the wake of his feet/The desert will bloom

Earlier this week, I was reflecting on Luke 4.1–13. Three things struck me:

  1. The Spirit who confirmed Jesus in such a public manner at his baptism (i.e., his coronation as king) where his complete identity with estranged humanity was so shockingly made public now led him away from the crowds and into the wilderness.
  2. This movement from public to aloneness, and from fulness to famishment, does not represent an abandonment of his calling and identity to be the God who is with and for us, but precisely the reverse; it is God going deeper into the human situation. Here is God entering into the depths of humanity’s estrangement and famishment and recalcitrance and doggedly refusing to be estranged and famished and recalcitrant in it. Here he is, standing on humanity’s side, as it were, and refusing the way of humanity turned away from God – of refusing to live by bread alone, of refusing to compromise the exclusivity of worship and service which is due to God alone, and of refusing to put God to the test.
  3. By recapitulating the same series of temptations that Israel faced in the Sinai desert and yet responding with faith rather than with distrust, this true Israelite and second, or last, Adam is actually bending humanity back into our true relationship with God. In other words, Jesus is in the desert for the same reason that he was standing in the Jordan River – for us!

In a recent post, I drew attention to the Dunedin poet John Paisley. He was certainly someone familiar with the experience of wilderness. Sometime during the 70s, he penned ‘Forty Days and Forty Nights’ wherein I think he gave voice to his belief that there was not only some deep connection between his own life and that of the One who was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, but also something of the truth that the triune decision that Jesus become our vicarious Saviour brings about a situation that the Son needs to not only be deeply embedded in the human plight but also and equally be the one who stands alone before God. Here’s the poem:

‘Forty Days and Forty Nights’

He has gone out from us
Into a place where no roads are,
And at each tired step over
The sand and among the sun-warmed
Rocks, he looks for the road
Which only he shall tread.

He has gone out from us
And left us in the bustling market
Or the crowded streets, building
Our thoughts like bridges
Over an abyss of hours, feverish
And furtive, caught between
Means and ends, slaves
At our towers of air.
There in a wasteland out of
Bricks that we rejected he will build
Walls to outlast all time.
There he will face, alone, dark-hooded
Thoughts by day and night,
And he shall not eat
Till he has won the bread
Of suffering, and he shall not rest till
He has given up the sleep of men.

He has gone out from us
But he will come again,
And always as he moves through
Coast and day, demons will fall
Before the swords of angels,
And in the wake of his feet
The desert will bloom.


Comments welcome here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.