A Hostile Haunt - The Holy Spirit For An Inspired Life

A Hostile Haunt - The Holy Spirit For An Inspired Life

In any number of popular books on the holy spirit you’ll be told that the holy spirit is the source of power: power to work miracles, power to bring joy, power to preach well. All of this is true. Just not here, not at the start of it all for Jesus. Here, along the Jordan River, the holy spirit exercises the power to drive Jesus out into the battlefield of Satan.

This is the first action of the spirit in Jesus’ adult life, and it grates unexpectedly against the spirit’s gentle descent. The shift is jarring. Jesus can’t for a split second linger in the pleasant confines of his vision, with heaven opened, a divine voice directed at him, a spirit-dove’s docile descent into him. He won’t for a moment remain on the shores of the Jordan River, basking in the words “beloved” and “my son.” He can’t because the spirit, which arrived as gently as a dove, now drives him into the wilderness immediately. There is no hiatus to breathe in the majesty and mystery of his visionary experience.

Yet the ruthlessness of this action is matched by its necessity, for Jesus had to leave behind this remarkable experience on the banks of the Jordan River in order to exercise his vocation and to grasp, ultimately, God’s commitment to him. The simple detail that Jesus was “with the wild animals” points to this. Typically, wild animals were seen as a threat, as in Psalm 22:11-21 and Ezekiel 34:8. Mark, however, uses simple grammar: “he was with,” which indicates peaceful coexistence (Mark 3:14; 5:18; 14:67). Jesus coexisted peacefully with wild animals. The usual hostility between human and beast is gone. Jesus, in essence, reestablishes a forty-day epoch of Eden, when the animals live peaceably with human beings.

The simple detail that Jesus coexisted with the animals fulfills all sorts of Israelite hopes for a restoration of Eden, for a return to a peaceful coexistence with wild beasts. According to the Israelite prophet Ezekiel, God promises, “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land, so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely” (Ezekiel 34:25). Closer at hand lies the vision of the prophet Isaiah, which contains the memorable description of an anointed leader on whom the spirit rests, a ruler who would usher in an era of universal peace.

 

Excerpted from Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit For An Inspired Life by Jack Levison

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