Led by the Spirit into the Wilderness

Ivan Kramskoi, “Christ in the Desert,” 1872 (oil on canvas)

inspired by Matthew 4:1-11

Led by the Spirit into the wilderness
Jesus fasted from food
to the extremes of human possibility.
And it was then,
then, that the devil set to work.

Then the devil set to work
chipping away at Jesus’ identity:
“If you are the Son of God…”
Immediately after hearing the Father’s delight,
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
Jesus faced sharp temptations
toward false relevance, false spectacle, and false power,
all laced insidiously with the words of Scripture,
as the devil set to work.

Even as the devil set to work
Jesus stood His ground against temptation,
armed only with the Word of God
and His deep sense of belovedness,
as He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Led by the Spirit into the wilderness
Jesus began the long walk to the Cross,
finding the way up is down,
and playing the long, hidden game of the humble victory of God’s kingdom,
even as the devil set to work.

Beginning Lent with Jesus :: Ivan Kramskoi, “Christ in the Desert”

Christ in the Wilderness - Ivan Kramskoi.jpg
Ivan Kramskoi, “Christ in the Desert,” 1872 (oil on canvas)

The journey of Lent begins with attention on Jesus. We trace His pathway through incarnate life to death on the Cross. One of the first inklings we have in the Gospels that Jesus’ life will bring salvation at a great cost comes in the prophetic words of Simeon to Mary at Jesus’ presentation in the Temple: “a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). This sharp word often fades away in much of our reflection on Christmas and Epiphany, but it stands out like a sore thumb. When He grows to adulthood, this theme of costly salvation stands out starkly in Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil” (4:1-2). The emptiness of Jesus’ stomach parallels the wilderness in which He wanders. There the devil comes to destabilize Jesus with slippery questions about His identity and purpose: “If you are the Son of God…If you will worship me…If you are the Son of God” (4:3, 7, 9). Ivan Kramskoi’s painting captures the emptiness and utter aloneness of Jesus during these encounters. The landscape seems beautiful but barren, the sun is setting and the day grows dark. Jesus’ demeanor displays a heaviness and perhaps even foreboding about what the night might bring. The encounter between Jesus and the devil echoes the story of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, caught between the land they fled and the land they hoped to reach. Hungry and tired, they began to lose their way geographically but, even more importantly, they began to lose their way spiritually. But this story of temptation does not merely reflect Israel’s exodus. This episode also echoes our own wandering in wilderness places as people destabilized and tempted, grasped by sin yet reaching for redemption, confused about ourselves and seeking after God. Jesus entered the wilderness for us that He might provide a way through it. Lent helps us see again our need for God but also that there is a way Jesus has made for us through the darkness of sin and death. We do not need to make our own way to the Promised Land. We couldn’t find our way even if we tried. Jesus went before us and carved out a road through the devil’s harsh terrain.

Dan Ryan: Seeking Transformation through Jesus [MissionsFest, week 2]

This past weekend at Eastbrook we continued our pause on our preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?”, in order to continue our annual MissionsFest. Last week Dr. Ed Stetzer was with us for a message entitled, “The Commissions of Jesus for a Post-COVID Church.” This week my colleague, Pastor Dan Ryan, spoke about where Eastbrook is headed with local and international mission through a message entitled “Seeking Transformation through Jesus.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

  1. Revisiting Dr. Stetzer’s sermon:
    a. We are Sent
    b. To All Kinds of People
    c. With a Message
    d. Empowered by the Holy Spirit
  2. Busyness vs Transformation
    a. Losing sight of the end goal
    b. What is the end goal?
  3. Transformation in Jesus
    a. Luke 4:16-21
  4. Integrated Transformation
    a. Our mission is to Proclaim & Embody
    b. It is a mission focused on the Spiritual and the Physical
    c. Mission lives in the tension of these two
    d. Jesus was fully man and fully God, a whole human and a whole spirit
    e. As Jesus is, so is our mission integrated
  5. Seeking Transformation
    a. What does it take to see transformation?
    b. Example: Milwaukee Rescue Mission
    c. Moving forward in Local Outreach
    i. Seek the Holy Spirit
    ii. Serve Together
    iii. Build Relationships
    iv. Seek Transformation
  6. Afghan Arrivals
    a. Opportunity to support
    b. Building teams around each arrival
    c. Your chance to join us
  7. Focusing on Transformation
    a. Stories from overseas
    b. How to join in – Perspectives & Short-term
    c. Prayer

Digging Deeper:

  1. Read Jesus’ Commissions again, particularly Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:16-20 and spend time unpacking the different parts of each commission.
  2. Read Luke 4:16-21 and also Isaiah 61 and envision a city and a world where this takes hold.
  3. Spend time away with God this week reflecting on the connection between His Commissions and His Transformation, and what part He is calling you to play.
  4. To unpack the theological understanding of this transformation, read Surprised by Hope by NT Wright
  5. Reach out to a fellow brother or sister in Christ who is serving in the city or world and invite them to a shared meal or over coffee to hear how they have witnessed God’s work of transformation.