He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him.
In last Sunday’s message about this passage, citing scholarly sources, the preacher at Hanover suggested that the beasts Jesus hung with in the wilderness brought comfort and support. Said pastor offered that some theologians say that for Jesus to be in community with the beasts hearkens back to the Garden of Eden when Eve and Adam – before chomping the forbidden fruit – lived in perfect harmony with all of creation.
Since Sunday several Saints have raised questions with me about this interpretation. What a joy it is to discuss the issues raised by different interpretations of scripture! Please know how much I value such conversations, and that they are always welcome.
Now, I would like to come out on this one: I offered that interpretation much more from a place of question than from a place of agreement.
For Thursday’s message I offer my preferred interpretation of the beasts in the wilderness. It comes from the theologian Maurice Sendak: the story of a young boy named Max who lands Where the Wild Things Are…
When Jesus, like Max, enters the wilderness he comes face to face with beasts who make his heart race. Then, like Max, Jesus and the beasts realize that, as different as they are, they value the same things: community, provision, order, security – and an all-out wild rumpus! In their wilderness both Max and Jesus experience the glorious transformation of their deepest fears into even deeper relationships.
So, from the gospels of Mark and Maurice, a Lenten wilderness exercise for us. First, name the beastly things that cause our fear. Then, harness the courage to overcome those fears and walk closely with what causes them. Finally, nurture the faith to believe that the beasts we fear today might be transformed into the companions we cherish tomorrow.
May God bless our journey with our beasts this Lent, that through them we would better know and understand ourselves.