Below we have the latest installment of Bob Dunne’s book, 909 Days that Changed the World. We will post two chapters a week for the summer months. We suggest reading it quietly and putting yourself in the scenes. You might be amazed at how closer you can get to Jesus! Should you be interested in your own copy, the book ($14.95 plus sales tax) can be bought from his publisher Leonine Press, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. It is also available in Nook and Kindle. You may also get an autographed copy directly from Bob by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter Two: Temptation in the Desert
As Jesus leaves the river, he rushes to catch up with the rest of the caravan on their way to Jerusalem. He has been recognized as the Messiah by John, but by no one else, so the caravan is not waiting for this one straggler. His mother Mary, traveling with the women of the caravan as is the normal custom, doesn’t even realize Jesus has fallen behind. Exiting the water on the Judean side, Jesus breaks into a fast walk—almost a run—on the dry, dusty road trying to catch up. He never will.
A few miles along the road from the Jordan to Jerusalem, on the left, is the ancient, great city of Jericho, the same city surrounded by Aaron’s men and taken down by the blast of trumpets well over a thousand years before. Off to the right there are a number of sharp rising hills. From the top of these hills, the terrain quickly turns into a barren desert that stretches for many, many miles into Samaria. The view is breathtaking as the Jordan River is visible back to the east and Jerusalem is visible to the west. Although he has almost caught up with the caravan, for some reason Jesus feels driven to abandon his chase. He stops, watches them begin to disappear in front of him, turns, and begins to climb up one of the hills. Getting to the top, he begins to pray, and feels impelled to spend more time in the desert. Mary, that very night when she can’t find Jesus anywhere, realizes Jesus is no longer with the caravan. Someone says they noticed a man they thought might be Jesus climbing up the hills when they had left the Jordan. What is Mary to do? Not surprisingly, she immediately thinks back to the days when he was twelve and lost for three days. Having pondered that event many times over the years, she decides to continue on with the caravan towards Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus, as he told her and Joseph some eighteen years ago, “must be about his father’s business,” so she will trust him to catch up with her when he sees fit.
The caravan arrives in Jerusalem, the feast takes place, and there is still no sign of Jesus. Where can he be? What should she do? Should she wait in Jerusalem or go back with the caravan?
Mary decides to return to the Jordan with the Galilean caravan when the feast is over, but as she arrives there, she changes her mind and decides to wait for Jesus. Perhaps he is still in the desert? Perhaps he did go to Jerusalem but “was about his father’s business” there and hasn’t finished? She approaches John, asks him if he has seen Jesus, and when he responds he has not, she asks if there is a place she can stay to see if Jesus will be returning this way. Her heart is heavy, but as she looks into John’s eyes and hears his tone of voice, she senses John is aware of the truth about her son. John tells her of a little shack along the Judean side of the riverbank where she can safely stay. This place is nothing more than a hut, one built long ago and now abandoned, consisting of one room, open windows, and a dirt floor—but John and his disciples will see to her safety and comfort. She graciously thanks him and bids farewell to her caravan as it continues to Galilee. Mary waits and, as she does so often, ponders in her heart what all these events can mean.
Jesus meanwhile ends up staying in the desert for forty days, fasting, and constantly in prayer. He is alone. After the forty days are over, he is visited by the devil, who attempts to take advantage of Jesus’ hunger: “Command these stones be turned to bread” (Luke 4:3) he says to Jesus. In order to get Jesus to show his true powers, the devil urges him to “Throw yourself off the cliff and have your angels save you” (Luke 4:9); and most insidiously, he tries to get Jesus to take the easy way out: “If you only worship me, I will give you dominion over all the earth” (Luke 4:7). But Jesus will have none of it. He sends the devil on his way, knowing full well that within two and a half short years the devil will, apparently, have his final victory. But this victory will also be the devil’s final defeat, and it will happen some thirty miles west of this spot on a hill outside of Jerusalem. For now, though, angels come and refresh him.
Meanwhile, all the time Jesus was in the desert, John is still baptizing at the ford of the Jordan River. Many more people are being baptized, and the chief priests and elders from Jerusalem are hearing so much about John they think it best to go and interview him. So after the feast is over, they send a number of priests, Pharisees—strict interpreters of the law—to question John. When they arrive, they find him and his disciples preaching to all those passing by. Dressed in all their finery as priests and therefore standing out from the others there, they ask to speak to him, and he complies. John’s disciples and all those travelers present stop and turn their attention to this meeting between this wild-looking prophet and the well-schooled priests. Surely this will be very interesting….
“Are you a prophet or are you the Christ?” (John 1:21) they ask him, and respectfully he tells them he is neither the Messiah nor a prophet. “Well, then, who are you?” they ask. “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, but there is one to come after me whose sandal I am not worthy to tie,” (John 1:17) he responds. ‘Well, the good news is that this man, John, is not declaring himself to be a prophet or the Messiah,’ think the Pharisees to themselves. Content with this conviction, they decide to push him no farther, and John also seems content to let them take their leave, still as much in the dark about him as they were before they arrived. For their part, John’s disciples and the others listening are a little confused at the abruptness of this meeting. It will get even more confusing for them as time goes on.