Jesus’ actions strike me as odd sometimes.
In John 3 we read about his baptism and the Father’s love for him…and then Jesus starts the next chapter by heading out into the desert. A moment that seemed like the starting gun for his public ministry didn’t transform into a day full of miracles and wise preaching. It turned into a lonely trek out into uninhabited lands.
I used to connect the dots between these two events by reasoning that Jesus was showing how powerful he was, even in fully human form. After all, temptation trips me when I think I am at my very best – what better way to display power by being weakened and still resisting Satan?
But I had it wrong.
Jesus didn’t go into the desert to display power through weakness.
He went into the desert to gain strength for the confrontation.
In The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer writes about the use of the word ‘desert’ in this narrative:
“Notice, the first thing Jesus did after his baptism was head straight into the desert. Desert here doesn’t necessarily mean sand and heat. The Greek word is eremos, and it has a wide array of meanings. It can be translated desert, deserted place, desolate place, solitary place, lonely place, quiet place (my personal favorite), wilderness. There are stories – lots of them – in all four Gospels about Jesus’ relationship to the eremos, but this is the first story.”
Eremos. Quiet place. Lonely place.
I’ve been there. Have you?
Comer is right. When we put this story into the context of the rest of the Gospels, this isn’t a one-off event. Jesus returned to the eremos over and over and over again to pray, to be alone, to be quiet.
And if my personal experience tells me anything, it was there that he found his strength.
Sometimes eremos is literal, like a trek out into the wilderness so you can be alone with God. Sometimes it’s unintended, like when life is crashing around you and everything feels desolate.
When everything else is stripped away, only God remains. And the eremos is where everything else is gone and only He stands there. It’s where the noise dies down. Where we realize that all we truly have is the One who has us. Where we can sit with Him and find actual strength, not the type we conjure up on our own.
God is easily found in the eremos. Get quiet. Get alone. Get perspective. Meet with Him.