From the waters of baptism, we emerge with a new identity. Baptism is an initiation into a new life in Christ Jesus. It is the beginning of the divine life that has been sown in us by the Holy Spirit. Through water and Spirit, we are reborn into an eternal life that is ours by faith. We are given a new freedom, free from the slavery of sin, so that we may make a decision with our lives to follow the way of Jesus. John tells us in the Prologue to his gospel, “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.” (Jn 1,12f) As John later says in his letter to the Church regarding God’s love, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.” (1Jn 3,2f) By nature we are born into the slavery of sin, but by God’s love and grace, we are reborn into the freedom of the children of God.
However, once we have been reborn as children of God, we are not yet home free. We still have a journey to make. Our journey takes us into the desert of sin, into the place of trial and temptation. We must learn to choose wisely the way of life that we are going to walk. By God’s grace we have both a human nature and a divine nature. God’s grace will work upon our human nature to perfect it and raise it up to the glory of the divine nature. However, we must choose which nature we will nurture. St. Peter tells us in his letter to the Church: “His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.” (2Pet 1,3f) Though we have the promise of a share in the divine nature, our human nature is still inclined to sin. The journey of this life is fraught with the pitfalls and potholes of our former selfish nature which threatens to corrupt us and rob us of our inheritance of divine promises. We have to escape from the beasts of our sinful nature that can devour us. It is best that we not take this journey alone. Praise God we have an Advocate in the Spirit and a friend in Jesus who can accompany us on this journey through life.
The book of Hebrews shares with us a way of hope: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (Heb 4,14ff) We definitely need “grace for timely help” on our journey through life. Jesus has been down this road that takes us through the desert of temptations and has emerged victorious. He can most certainly show us the way home.
After his baptism, revealing him as the beloved Son of God, and his anointing with the Spirit, the Spirit drives Jesus out into the desert to be tempted by Satan. Would Jesus use his human nature to serve his divine nature or would he use his divine nature to serve his human nature? In the desert, we are told, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” (Mk 1,13) The wild beasts are reminiscent of Jeremiah: “It is only the lowly, I thought, who are foolish; for they know not the way of the Lord, their duty to their God. I will go to the great ones and speak with them; for they know the way of the Lord, their duty to their God. But, one and all, they had broken the yoke, torn off the harness. Therefore lions from the forest slay them, wolves of the desert ravage them, leopards keep watch round their cities: all who come out are torn to pieces for their many crimes and their numerous rebellions.” (Jer 5,4ff) The wild beasts are representative of all of the deadly sins of this world which tear us apart. The angels are the promise of the divine life. Jesus tames the beasts and rests in the arms of the angels. Now Jesus can say to us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me….and you will find rest for yourselves.” (Mt 11,29) Lent is our time to enter the desert and wrestle with the wild beasts but we are not without hope, because Jesus has gone before us and tamed the wild beasts and assigned the angels to our care.