This Week’s Reading: Luke 3:21-4:30
Have you ever waited and waited, and then when you finally thought your waiting was over you’re told: “Sorry. You have to wait a bit longer.”
You land the job and then there’s a hiring freeze. You get engaged, and your fiancé gets cold feet. You spend your day-off at the DMV and then don’t have all the paperwork. Ugh! The stops and starts of waiting can physically, emotionally and mentally undo us.
Curiously enough, Jesus was no stranger to the extended wait.
LET’S GET GOING
In Luke 2:41-52 we get a snapshot of Jesus as an adolescent boy bantering with rabbis in the temple. Luke tells us Jesus goes on to grow “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all people” (Luke 2:52). But from age twelve to thirty Jesus seems to live in obscurity.
No doubt some of Jesus’ peers become rabbis and he watches as messiahs appear on the scene, claiming to be Israel’s saviors. All the while he takes up carpentry (stone-cutting) and waits. Almost two decades Jesus waits.
Then the moment comes. Luke spotlights Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist gathering crowds in the wilderness to be baptized (Luke 3:1-20). John invited people to repent and partake in an ancient purification ritual and ready themselves for the true Messiah. And what does Jesus do? After all this waiting, he sets the record straight and makes it known he’s the legit Savior. Not quite.
Jesus gets baptized too. While he has no need to repent, he submits. Instead of making himself known through miraculous acts or self-declarations, Jesus humbles himself.
As he does the Spirit descends like a dove, then a voice from heaven announces: “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Luke 3:22). Jesus’ public ministry begins with an affirmation of his identity rather than a display of accomplishments.
Before we see him teach, heal or cast out demons first we see his Father pronounce delight.
REFLECTION EN ROUTE: So often I’m fixated on the fulfillment of my external desires that I miss the deeper realities of what I already have. I just want to get going. But when the day finally comes for Jesus, he pauses. He is postured to hear what is most important—what will carry him through the seeming stops and starts of his call. He is beloved by his Father.
This week as you wait for whatever you’re waiting for how can you create space to hear God’s voice love? Perhaps you’re reminded of God’s delight as you take a brisk walk outside. Maybe you determine to pause and savor the laughter of your kids, and in their joy you sense God’s joy for you. Perhaps you cook one of your favorite meals and dare to believe you are God’s child extravagantly loved.
I believe the biggest saboteur to us waiting well—and ultimately beginning well—is a failure to remember our true identity. We may finally get what we’ve waited for but if we’ve lost our identity as a beloved child of God than our fulfilled desire will never be what we hoped it would.
Luke seems to break from the Jesus’ story just when it’s getting going to remind us of his linage (Luke 3:23-38). It’s as if Luke is saying you might think Jesus waited for decades for this day to come, but imagine if he’s been gearing up since the beginning of human history. That’s some epic waiting as the Son of God. But don’t forget he too is the Son of Man, just as human as the rest of us. Ok, then.
HALTED YET AGAIN. SERIOUSLY.
So Jesus is now ready to get going. His identity has been affirmed. His stature has been established. The masses are bound to embrace him as Savior of the World. Right?
In Luke’s next scene Jesus, full of the Spirit, treks off into desert (Luke 4:1). There, however, he doesn’t encounter crowds clamoring to see his Messianic mad-skills on display. Rather, he’s greeted by the devil.
A cosmic showdown transpires. After such a long wait Satan tempts Jesus physically, emotionally and mentally to take shortcuts to fulfill his immediate desires and long-term call.
“He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:2-4)
What? Jesus responds in the exact opposite way I usually do. I tend to treat myself to physical comforts if I’m waiting for emotional desires to be fulfilled. If you’re not going to give me what I want right now, the least you can do is serve me a pound of dark chocolate, a goblet of Merlot, and you might as well throw in a cappuccino while you’re at it. (Cheers to my victim-thinking, once again.)
Jesus forgoes immediate gratification to be reminded of a greater desire for God.
REFLECTION EN ROUTE: What’s your physical comfort go-to (food, alcohol, drugs, sleep, sex, etc.) when you’re not getting what you’re waiting for, especially after a longtime?
What if during Lent we asked the Spirit to help us refrain from whatever our default comfort is in order to cultivate a deeper desire for God?
Choose a passage this week that reminds you of God’s goodness and presence. For me it’s: “If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, your strength will support me.” (Psalm 139:9-10)
“Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:5-8)
The devil offers Jesus a shortcut to power if only he would worship him. Jesus was called to rule the kingdoms of the world but he was called to do it through love and sacrifice. So Jesus responds by saying you must worship the LORD your God.
When we’ve been waiting for something—especially for a long time—our emotions become weak and easily deceived. We settle for lesser loves. We forget our deepest passions and instead we vie for money, power, security, sex, control, etc. We lose sight of what God has for us, and how he desires to give it to us.
Our lesser loves can turn into the gods we worship.
When I’m emotionally spent and most vulnerable I worship the god of perfectionism. If I could be perfect, surely I would get what I want and I’d get it a lot sooner. In fact if I was perfect I’d already be married and a mom, right?
The call is for me is to abandon the god of perfectionism and trust God’s invitation to be faithful.
REFLECTION EN ROUTE: What is the god you’re tempted to worship when your emotions are threadbare from waiting?
How might the Spirit be enticing you to worship the true God?
This may sound curious but one of the best ways for me to kill the god of perfectionism is to give myself permission to play, rest and have fun. The joy of faithfulness does judo on the pressure of perfectionism. What defiant act might you do this week against your default god? Have fun with it!
“Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4:9-12)
The devil tells Jesus to jump off the temple and let God rescue him to prove he is the Son of God.
As I observe this interaction it’s as if the devil provokes Jesus to doubt his own identity as God’s son and God’s ability to come through for Jesus.
After a long season of waiting it’s so easy to doubt our worth to God and God’s good intentions toward us.
I have a tendency to think, “God if you are good, if you love me, you would give me_________.” I begin to determine God’s character based on God’s fulfillment of my desires. And I not only put God’s character to the test based on his capacity to fulfill my desires but to fulfill them on my timeline.
When that happens my intellectual engagement with God gets distorted.
REFLECTION EN ROUTE: In the midst of your waiting how have you doubted your identity as a child of God and God’s ability to come through for you?
Consider praying this week: “Lord forgive me for doubting you…for putting your character to the test according to my timeline. Help me revel in the reality that I am your beloved child and you are good.”
GIFTS IN THE DESERT: Nutrients for the next terrain…
After Jesus emerges from the desert, Luke shows him entering his hometown (Luke 4:16). Jesus returns to Nazareth keenly aware of his call. He is initially embraced but when he expresses such an expansive view of God’s love (that encompasses the foreigners and doesn’t line up with their vision of the Messiah), they actually try to kill him.
Yet Jesus is undaunted by their rejection. He had come out of the desert fortified—physically, emotionally and intellectually strengthened. His faithfulness in the long wait enabled him to withstand the challenges he encountered as his public ministry took off.
REFLECTION EN ROUTE: What are the ways God might be fortifying you in your desert of waiting?
Spend a few moments exploring what you may be gaining physically, emotionally and mentally as you wait. How might those gifts help you when you finally get what you desire?
MY PRAYER: My prayer for you this week is that you would sense God’s extravagant love for you and trust that He is doing worthwhile work in you as you wait. May this hope grow large in you.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5