9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
I am interested to see how the distinction of “bipolar” has become so prevalent in our label loving society. Every second person I meet, particularly the creative ones, have had this albatros of being “bi-polar” hung on their neck.
Perhaps, after today’s gospel reading, we would want to label Jesus bipolar too?
A look at the early events of his ministry would suggest quite a roller coaster of emotions for the young rabbi starting his public life.
At the Jordan river, such a watershed symbol for Israel, he is baptised by a reluctant John and for his obedience Jesus is rewarded by a “torn open”(the Greek is schizo) heaven out of which a dove, (the covenantal bird which bears hopeful news to Noah that God has saved the earth) descends upon him and he hears a voice affirming him as the beloved and approved of son of the Father in the heavens.
Now that, my friends is a high, if ever there was one!
To hear the affirmation of one’s parent, the lifelong craving of every human life; and to experience the approbation of the divine upon our path is the best that life can be. It was so for Jesus on the banks of the Jordan that day.
But immediately,(Mark’s oft-used term euthus=directly) the Ruach-Pneuma life-breath of God literally cast him into the eremitical wilderness (Greek=ereimos) and the two poles of the swing are determined.
- From river to desert
- From community to solitude
- From affirming Father to cynical Devil
- From clear observance (Let it be so for now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness Mt3:15) to doubting where to go next.
Yet, even in the turmoil of the solitary search for direction, there is this powerful contrast in the phrase, “Wild Beasts and Angels“. It is almost tailor made for another Dan Brown novel? Perhaps not, but it is the truth about our path as we follow Jesus.
Along the path of every Christ follower there will times of clear and visionary certitude. The affirmation of God’s presence, Gods’ calling and God’s endorsement of our lives.
Yet just as surely as water evaporates in the sun, times will come where the clarity, the conviction and the consolation of the high moments will have gone and only the snarls of the wild beasts and the whisper of our chilling doubts will be there for company in the badlands of our arid, eremitical souls.
Helpful to know then that the diaconic angels will also be there ministering (Greek=diakoneo) to us.
Does this contrasting, pendular life of consolation and desolation make us bipolar?
Heavens no! By Jesus, it makes us human!
May it be well with you as we follow Jesus through the Lenten wilderness.