July 13, 2016: Jesus: Into the Wilderness

~by Susi Pittman

A question: Why would our authors of Sacred Scripture bother even mentioning that Jesus was in the desert with the wild animals? Why not just have said He was in the desert ministered to by the Angels?

And immediately the Spirit drove him forth into the desert. And he was in the desert forty days and forty nights, being temped the while by Satan, and was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

Mark 1:12-13

Then Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit, to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came …

Matthew 4:1-3

Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit about the desert for forty days.

Luke 4:1-2

I agree with so many theologians that believe that it was important to convey that Jesus came to redeem the whole of creation. Jesus’ going into the “wilderness” (the wild lands) of Israel harkens to the fact as it unfolds in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. It is a four-fold event.

We see first that He was led by the Spirit to go there; secondly he would be in the company of the wild animals that lived there; thirdly the Angels would be present to minister to Him; and fourth, the devil would come to tempt Him. Each of these is a wonderful subject matter to delve into, but my heart rests in the fact that He would choose the company of wild animals and Angels as he prepared to meet Satan face-to-face.

In the Old Testament Book of Isaiah 11:2-3, we see a foreshadowing of this exact event from the prophets…God setting the world and all creation right through a Messiah.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.

**Remember “fear of the Lord” is meant as “reverent awe.”

In Jewish tradition, Adam had broken the perfect harmony between man and the other creatures, as well as the whole of creation with his sinful disobedience to God. The prophets however, foretell of the “new Adam” that would come and restore this harmony.

Jesus fulfills the prophecy of the Old Testament as the “new Adam.”

The first man, Adam, became a living soul; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit…The first man was of the earth, earthly; the second man is from heaven, heavenly.

1 Corinthians: 45,47

The Jewish countryside in Jesus’ time would have been scattered with farms where crops were grown and domesticated animals would graze. Wild animals proposed a threat to both man and beast. There would have been; Asiatic lion, the Syrian brown bear, the Arabian leopard, the Asiatic cheetah, the white Orynx, the Persian fallow deer, the Roe deer, the Sand Cat, the Reed Cat, Arabian ostriches, Asiatic ostriches, the Saw-scaled viper and the Levant viper, the Arabian wolf, the Ibex, the Rock Hyrax, the Gazelle, the Camel, Wild Boar, Red fox, Blanford’s fox, the Badger and Hyenas. There would have been numerous birds, reptiles and insects.

So, Jesus’ going into the wilderness where He would be with His creation in its many diverse forms and with His heavenly companions of Angels was seen as extremely dangerous. But this wasn’t just a mere man going out into the wilderness, this was the God-man. As the “new Adam,” He united with His earthly animals whom He created to respond first to their Creator, (all animals are hard-wired by the Creator to be what they are) and with His heavenly creations the Angels. I believe, because they were specifically chosen by Our Lord because they were the perfect companions. Neither the wild animals or the Angels had the ability to turn against their Creator, because they were created to serve Him. Animals serve Him by design and the Angels in Heaven chose by their free-will eons ago to serve Him eternally.

There was fraternity with the animals and Angels.

Their presence WAS important and was so mentioned in Sacred Scripture because Jesus’ redemption exceeds the bounds of the “human world.”

There are those negative theologians who see Jesus in the wilderness with the wild animals as nothing more than being part of the hostile environment that Jesus would be tested in. But again, I ask you, if that were so, would that not contradict what Jesus’ mission was truly about?

Jesus’ messianic mission was to reconcile all things to Himself and to bring peace, bridging the abyss between man and creation, paying for it with His blood.

Through him he should reconcile to Himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross.

Colossians 1:20

The presence of the animals and the Angels resounds with great clarity to this Scripture.

I envision Jesus in the desert surrounded by wild animals that recognized their Creator and responded to Him with the loving affection we can only know from a beloved pet. The lion would have kept Jesus warm at night and the breeze of the ostrich wing would have cooled Him in the day.

In Jesus, the “new Adam” we are delivered from the sin and violence of this world and welcomed into the perfect harmony of eternal peace and love…and Jesus’ journey into the wilderness is a message, a foretaste as to what awaits those who love the Lord.


Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; a member of the St. John’ s Catholic Writers Guild;
a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the National Wildlife Federation, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.



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