Daily Devotional for January 9
January 9 Mark 1:1-13
In two terse sentences Mark leads us into the desert with Jesus
at the beginning of his public ministry. This event immediately
follows Jesus' turning-point encounter with John the Baptist,
in which God whispered the name "Beloved Child" in Jesus'
ear as he rose up from the watery tomb of the Jordan. The
psychological and spiritual experiences of Jesus in that desert
are described in symbolic words like "test," "wild beasts,"
and "angels." In the wilderness Jesus wrestled with the demon
questions of his personal identity, his mission in life, his
relationship to power and prestige, and his ultimate
dependence and trust in God.
In the Christian tradition the desert has always been a place
to face the ultimate questions and issues of life. Those who
left the cities and towns were called "ascetics" (from the Greek
word askesis, meaning exercise), or athletes for Christ. Some
left to escape persecution; others fled because they were tired
of the shallowness and emptiness of urban life. They believ-
ed that, like Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, they would hear the voice
of God in the desert, and that in finding God they would also
find their authentic selves.
The desert is still a place where we hear the voice of God
calling us to our true selves: the desert of failed relationships;
the wilderness of rejection by loved ones; the solitude of unjust
exclusion from churches; the wastelands of wrestling with the
demons around us and within us.
Yet the desert is also a place of cool winds, sweet water, and
nourishing bread, a place where we meet the one who sus-
tains us lest we fall from the heights, dash our feet, or starve
in selfishness. When we find ourselves in a desert, we can
therefore take comfort in the promise recorded by Hosea:
"Therefore I will allure Israel, and bring them into the
wilderness, and speak tenderly to them. And I will give Israel
vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope."
From The Road to Emmaus - An inclusive devotional Edited by Joseph W. Houle
Emmaus House of Prayer - Washington D.C