In Mark’s gospel, the evangelist records what happened to Jesus immediately after his baptism in the Jordan River. The ESV renders the text this way, The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness (Mark 1:12). Jesus was driven out of the river region into the wilderness. There he was to be tempted by Satan in the midst of wild animals.
This is not how we usually think of the Holy Spirit driving out. We would normally think that this wording would apply to demons being cast out of humans. In fact, the word translated cast out (as in the case of demons) is the same word used by Mark to describe the Spirit’s work in the life of Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, does the Spirit likewise drive us out? And does he drive us out into the wilderness to be tempted or tried by Satan? Perhaps I am alone, but I typically think of the Spirit’s driving or leading as being in the direction of green pastures or into the presence of the Lord. But if Jesus is our example, we should expect that at times the Spirit will drive us into this difficult place, too.
The Biblical Context
It is worth noting that just prior to this at the Lord’s baptism, the Spirit made his first appearance in Mark’s gospel. As Jesus came up out of the river, the Spirit descended through the parted heavens and alit on the Savior like a dove. That must have been an amazing mountain-top experience. To have it immediately followed by an accompanied trip into the wilderness might seem out of place to us. But so it was.
In the Passenger’s Seat
When we get into the passenger’s seat of an automobile, we are going to whatever place and in whatever direction the driver determines. We do not have a driver’s ed car with extra brake pedals and steering wheels to take over when we don’t like the actions of the driver. We sit. We go. We are driven by the driver. Sounds simple enough.
But how many of us ride along in the passenger’s seat like my wife does when I drive. Regularly she presses her feet into the floorboard and presses her hands onto the dashboard. This is her misguided attempt to slow down or stop our vehicle. Not once has her pressing accomplished her intended purpose.
This is not to say that Jesus tried to put the brakes on the Spirit. Being fully obedient he went willingly. We should pray for that kind of obedience in our lives. Instead of praying, “Why me, Lord?”, perhaps we should anticipate some of these wilderness excursions.
The Spirit-led Life
The true Spirit-led life will at times take us into the wilderness. At times we will be placed in the midst of great trial and temptation. James even has the audacity to tell us to count these times as all joy (James 1:2).
So let’s rid ourselves of the notion that by becoming a follower of Jesus, we will never again go through difficult times. We will. In fact, we count them all joy when we keep our eyes focused on the Lord, resist the evil one, and look ahead to a better day.