Friday, January 9, 2009

Wanderings for week ending Jan11, 2009

Good afternoon everyone. Is it snowy out there or what: a winter wonderland, although for some it may seem more like a wilderness.

Since I have been here the wilderness has been a common topic of my preaching. It's a common topic in the Bible. The wilderness is referred to in the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy at least 90 times. In the Old Testament Moses, David and Elijah flee into the wilderness. The wilderness is known as a barren place, a lonely place, a dangerous place. But it is also known as the place from which help from God comes.

The wilderness features prominently in this Sunday's reading. The lectionary suggests we read Mark 1:4-11, but we are also going to read verses 12 and 13. It is the story about John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus and Jesus being driven into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan and was with wild beasts. If you read Mark 1:1-13 you will see just how many times the word wilderness or dessert is mentioned. What is Mark trying to tell us?

And interestingly, the next time the words wilderness/dessert/lonely place appear in such great frequency is Mark 6:30-44- the feeding of the 5,000 men (not to mention women and children). What do you make of that?

Today, I wish to focus on Mark 1:13, where Jesus is with the wild beasts. My mind immediately went to the children's book "Where the Wild Beasts Are." My mind originally thought of danger, danger! I imagined Jesus being in dangerous/treacherous situations with lions and tigers and snakes and wild dogs ready to rip him apart at any time.

So I was surprised to discover that this isn't the only image one can get from verse 13. Some scholars see this as a peaceful scene infused with hope. They say that Jesus being with the wild animals is a reference to the expectation that the Messiah will establish a peaceable kingdom, as stated in Isaiah 11:6-9 which says "The wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid." Other scholars will say this scene reminds us that Jesus is the new Adam, and he is living with the animals as Adam and Eve lived with them in the Garden of Eden. They say Jesus lives peacefully with the animals in the wilderness as anticipation of God's kingdom.

So here we have at least two thoughts: Jesus' time in the wilderness was a dangerous time where he is under constant attack of being killed by wild beasts or it is a peaceful time in which Jesus and the animals live in harmony. Which version fits your understanding today, and is there perhaps a third or fourth or tenth way of understanding verse 13? May you be safe and well today. Blessings, Pastor G

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