Wilderness: Loneliness; doubt; darkness; Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence.
Mary Baker Eddy
Jesus’ wilderness experience: what does it mean for us today?
By Susan Benjamin
From The Christian Science Journal – August 2012
* photo courtesy of allposters.com
Jesus’ wilderness experience did not take place without his being equipped for it.
He had just been baptized and given the title “my beloved Son” ( Matthew 3:17). We, too, must begin with our spiritual origin—for here lie our safety, protection, strength, courage, and peace. Establishing our spiritual identity is the cornerstone of life, as it was for Jesus. He said, in essence, that a wise man builds his house upon a rock, “a sure foundation”—not upon the sand (see Matthew 7:24). And Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, gave this spiritual sense of rock in the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Spiritual foundation; Truth” ( p. 593).
The tempter—the “devil” thought—was the occasion for Jesus to prove what he knew about himself.
Having knowledge is pointless unless it is made practical. Being a theoretical “Son of God” would not have been of much benefit to him. So, too, with us; we must be willing to draw upon our spiritual origin in order to meet the “devil” in our experience.
The site of the temptation experience was not hospitable.
It was a place of desolation, loneliness—but in actuality what a grand place it turned out to be. As Jesus showed us, the wilderness is the one place where one cannot rely on the material senses for comfort; it is a place where one gets to know God. Mary Baker Eddy defines wilderness, in part, as “the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence” (Science and Health, p. 597). Time after time, when out in the wilderness, the prophets and men of God—Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the children of Israel, and Elijah—learned of God’s wondrous presence and power. Here, they heard God speak. In Hebrew one of the translations for wilderness is “speech.” Mrs. Eddy states, “Spirit, God, is heard when the senses are silent” (Science and Health, p. 89). Jesus may have had a more literal wilderness experience; our wilderness might be called fear, depression, doubt, pain, sorrow, self-condemnation, loneliness, lack, hopelessness, joblessness, friendlessness. Here, too, in the very midst—just as it was for Jesus—is where we hear God speak. Here we learn to listen to God only. Here we learn not to be impressed with devilish thoughts—beliefs of the material senses, called by whatever name or nature.
The wilderness experience is not a crucible but an opportunity for application, a practice session, and, quite possibly, in today’s lingo, a total workout!
By Susan Benjamin