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Into the Wild


Our narrative lectionary reading for this upcoming week is from Mark 1:9-13.  It is a short little section where Jesus gets baptized by John.  The Spirit of God comes upon him and God praises Jesus from the clouds.  The Spirit then sends Jesus off into the wilderness for 40 days and nights.  In the wilderness he is tempted by Satan, and cared for by angels.

What stood out to me this week is the idea that Jesus is sent off into the wilderness as soon as he receives the Spirit, and just before his ministry begins.  In Jewish thought there was an enemy (Satan) who lived in and roamed the wilderness in the surrounding areas.  They called it Azazel.  When they offered sacrifice to God, on the Day of Atonement, they would release a second animal into the wilderness.  That animal was the scapegoat. It would carry the sins of the people, and it was given to Azazel. 

So Jesus began and ended his ministry with an encounter with Azazel in the wilderness.  Given into the hands of the enemy.  There is something deep there that I cannot even quite put words to. 

Don't we all have an experience in the wilderness?  A time of testing before ministry?  A time where we have to try our own strength so that we might believe in ourselves?  Does that mean we will also all experience some form of Jesus' second meeting with Azazel?  That we have a reckoning in our future? I suppose the whole point of the gospel is that we don't.  Jesus took care of the second meeting for us. He conquered Azazel, and serves as the new judge in the wilderness.  Praise God for a judge that is full of mercy and grace!

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