We cannot see the forest for the trees.


Mark 1: 9-15
As Jesus was coming out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open, and the spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came down from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”.

What a glorious picture.

But then the very next verse: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness for forty days amongst the wild animals and being tempted by Satan”.

What is going on here? If it was us, looking through our eyes the response of “this is not what I signed on for” might come to mind.

Thankfully Jesus is not of our ilk. Make no mistake; Jesus felt the temptation, felt pain, hunger and thirst as we do. But because his focus was God the Father, he gave himself to his Father’s will-whatever the cost.

In the wilderness, Jesus’ successful struggle against temptation prefigures His final victory on the cross. From the days of Adam and Eve, we have continually fallen into Satan’s traps .But Jesus after having united Himself with fallen human beings through His Baptism, won a preliminary victory over the evil foe’s temptations. At the cross, Jesus gained an even more wonderful victory over the devil’s temptations, and in His resurrection we see his power broken once and for all.

Jesus, with his eyes on the Father-walked to the cross for us-for our salvation, because his focus was on the will of The Father.

You will remember that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweats blood. Sweating blood is a medical condition that can happen when under enormous pressure. This is the pressure Jesus is under, but he achieves His Fathers will because His focus is His Father. His life was not cluttered up with other “stuff”.

When I worked in the bank, a man after desperately trying to keep the family home, after going through the heart break that all he had worked for was going to be taken away- came in, threw the keys to the manger and said-finally it’s over, I’m free.

In our lives, at some time or other, we will spend time in the wilderness-struggling.

When things don’t seem right-where our life doesn’t seem to go to script.

A few years ago, a friend told me to go see a movie that he highly recommended. To not spoil it he didn’t tell me anything about it-just the title.

So along I went.

Unfortunately I was running a bit late and I missed the start.

But it didn’t matter; I got the gist of what was happening. The thing was I thought it was rubbish-but in trust of my friend’s recommendation I hung in there, but it didn’t get any better.

At the end, while walking out and thinking “what was my friend thinking”, I happened to notice that the movie he had told me to see-was in the room next door-I had watched the wrong movie.

But our lives are not of fiction, they are real-and sometimes we find ourselves in the wilderness.

Tough times that hurt, that don’t seem fair.

Times when that Aussie outlook, “She’ll be right mate” doesn’t cut it.

But In our tough times, our wilderness moments-he is with us, to sustain us-to strengthen us and to give us hope.

That’s the truth, we know this in faith.

Yet, in the here and now, the events our daily lives sometimes blur our vision, and it can become hard to see our saviour there with us.

In our baptism Christ has promised to be with us, to always be with us and get us to that day when we are re-united in heaven.

But in the middle, sometimes in our lives we start to wonder what is actually going on, where the script of our lives is different to how we imagined it.

Things turn out differently.

Test Cricketers have remarked, that at the height of his powers that when Shane Warne released the cricket ball, it would spin so furiously that they could hear it zinging past them.

When Shane was asked of his freakish ability he remarked that he believed it was due to an accident he had as a child were he broke his wrist,

and having not gone to the doctor-the bone’s set incorrectly, that later seemed to give him a un- natural ability to spin the ball.

When Shane broke his wrist, I’m sure he would not have predicted such an outcome.

But our lives are not like watching a game of cricket or movie script with only our fleeting emotional attachment. Our lives are real, as are the things that come our way.

My dear Christian friend who lost his teenage son to illness would go out into the paddock,

Look to the heavens and shout “Why Lord, Why my Boy, why my boy.

I cannot imagine the pain of my friend-I could not even try.

We could look piously at people in these situations and say “Trust in the Lord”, or give some, “get some faith type of comment like Job’s mates gave him,

Until it’s us. Until our moment brings us to our knees-where the hurt is so absorbing we cannot rejoice.

And only ask why?

Yet, when we look back over times in our life, terrible hurtful times where we seem to have been abandoned, we see in hindsight that we were not alone.

In the Gospel we heard today Christ was there in his own wilderness struggle, in the Gospel everyday, he is with us in ours-carrying us on his back when we can no longer walk, bringing hope when we have no hope and bringing help when we are helpless.

When Adam and Eve fell to sin in the garden, God responded by clothing them.

Daily we fall to sin, daily we doubt and daily we follow our own way and not that of the Lord.

Yet in our failure to walk with Christ, he responds by walking with us.

He does not meet us in scorn,

But meets us in love, and reveals himself to us.

At the fall in the Garden, God clothed two sinners for their protection and warmth on their earthly journey.

In Jesus, God gave sinners his Son, for our protection and warmth on our earthly journey, and clothed us with the righteousness of His Son for our salvation.

With our world’s distractions it can be hard to see the trees for the forest: lent is a time of putting things down-these distractions, so we can focus on our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Banjo Paterson one remarked that “If you don’t put down a brick you can’t pick up a castle”.

On Ash Wednesday we entered lent. A day that some of us, for the next forty days have decided to give something up.

How could this be described? Maybe like a New Year’s resolution without the time span.

There’s an element of truth in that-but what is different is the motivation and the desired result.

As we enter lent some of us may have made a decision to give something up and that’s fine. But giving up for lent is not like a new year’s resolution. Lent is not about not giving up the PlayStation 3 for the sake of it, it’s about purposely using that time to hear and be drawn near our Lord.

To read the bible, pray, family devotions-or simply to sit and think.

To have quiet time with God.

In our hurly burly world and its distractions, that is not as easy as it sounds. But making that time is the essence of the Lenten period, to reflect on Christ in our lives and on our priorities. To get them in order during this time of anticipation as we wait to hear of our Saviours death and resurrection at Easter.

To see what God has done for us. Given His Son to resist temptation for us. Given His Son to win the battle that we could never have won.

To see how daily Jesus meets us, walks with us, restores us and strengthens us.

 

To let us go forward, knowing Christ is with us-come what may. AMEN.

 

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