Good Life Church is currently working our way through a 16-week series called “Mark it Down.” Throughout this series we will journey through the Gospel of Mark. Jason has challenged the leadership to study Mark in our personal time and pray for God to speak to our church through it. As I spent time in the first chapter of Mark, one aspect stood out to me above all else—the wilderness. We find John the Baptist, baptizing people in the Jordan River. John is not simply baptizing a few people. The scripture says, “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” Mark 1:4-5 (NIV). John is baptizing multitudes of people when Jesus arrives. John baptizes Jesus, the Heavens tear open and God speaks! The Father says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11b). Can you imagine this? This moment has to be one of the most glorious in all of scripture! Many may consider this the greatest mountaintop experience of our existence.
Immediately after this, we might expect parades and massive celebrations. By modern standards, you may expect TV interviews and talk shows, magazine covers and product endorsement deals! I mean, God just ripped the sky open and spoke His approval! However, there is no celebration for Jesus. There is not even a brief moment to pause and reflect on this gloriously amazing occasion. The scripture says, “At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels attended him” (Mark 1:12-13). I don’t know about you, but my human mind skips like a record here. My human nature begins to question God’s logic on this one. Then, gravity sets in. Who am I to question God? If there is disconnect here, it’s on my end, not His! In the book of Isaiah, the prophet records this, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Our views of the mountaintop experiences in life are incomplete at best, and we emphasize the parts we understand. We see them as cause for celebration and tend to relax. We convince ourselves that things are going great right now and we deserve some downtime. What a dangerous way to live. The enemy never takes a day off or stops searching for ways to destroy us. Scripture says, “Be alert and of sober mind. You’re enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We have to learn to see these moments for all they are worth. While they are a cause for celebration, they cannot be the source of all joy in our lives. God often gives us these moments to embolden us and prepare us for the wilderness ahead. For Jesus, God knew what He was about to walk through and He visually and audibly declared His love, approval and support for Him before sending Him into the wilderness. If you get nothing else from reading this, don’t miss what God is doing here. He is showing His love and approval for His son, both shamelessly and publicly. He knows what Jesus is walking into. He see’s the trials ahead. And I’m not just talking about the next 40 days! God knows His only son is going to become sin, that we might taste freedom! When we think about it this way, it’s not so foreign. We do this in our lives with those we love all the time. Every time I am about to leave for another tour with my band, my wife goes out of her way to make sure I know how much she loves me and I do the same for her. She knows I’m about to spend my nights either driving through the dark or, at best sleeping on a bus at 70mph. I will spend my time away in a whirlwind that lands in a new town every day. At the same time, I know that she will have to carry all responsibilities of our household by herself. She will walk and feed the dogs, do all of the cooking and cleaning and sleep alone at night, all while working a full workweek. It is vital that we both fully know that we love each other before we walk into our own wilderness. It doesn’t stop there either. While we are apart, we do our best to remain connected through phone calls, text messages, even FaceTime chats. Why? Because we need support in the wilderness! Distance, time, temptation and weariness can destroy us. The scripture tells us that the angels were attending to Jesus, even in the midst of His wilderness experience. So why do we have to walk through the wilderness at all? For victory and God’s glory! God does not allow us be tempted and tried just to watch us fail! He has given us his Spirit and all the strength that comes with it! “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world…” (1 John 4:4). Every part of our faith journey serves a purpose. The mountaintop, the valley, the wilderness—wherever you are, God is with You. He has a plan for your life, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you…” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).