Only Luke says that Jesus “returned” to the wilderness. Returned? That is something about which I would like to know more.
Perhaps Jesus went into the wilderness to contemplate his future, to reflect on his decision to be baptized, or to decide whether to embrace the mission into which God had called him. The wilderness, perhaps, is where Jesus decided to go into the water and embrace the ministry of the kingdom.
Coming up out of the water, he returns to the wilderness. He goes there to prepare for ministry. But he does not go there as an autonomous act of his will. Rather, he is led there by the Holy Spirit with whom Jesus had been anointed at his baptism.
“Full of the Holy Spirit,” Jesus follows the lead of the Spirit to experience the wilderness.
Jesus re-enacts Israel’s experience. Just as Israel was brought through the water into the wilderness for forty years of testing, so Jesus is led out of the water into the wilderness for forty days of testing. For “forty years in the wilderness” God humbled Israel in order to “test” them that he might “know what was in [their] heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
God tested Israel. So, now God, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, leads Jesus into a period of testing.
Following Jesus into the wilderness during the 40 days of Lent, we, too, open ourselves to a period of testing. It is a time for introspection, devotion and humbling.
The 40 days of Lent are an intentional entrance into the wilderness. Here we have a renewed opportunity to reprioritize our needs, remove our presumptions about God, and evaluate our ambitions in the light of the mission of God.
During Lent we follow Jesus into a time of testing.