A meditation by Michael Pahl on the First Sunday of Lent, March 1, 2020, called “Show Us Your Hiding Place.” It’s a reflection on the story of Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1-11, part of our Lenten series called, “show us…”
Here is a brief written excerpt:
Let me ask you: Where is God in this story?
I know, I know, someone will say, “Well, Jesus is God.” But—and don’t let this shock you too much—that isn’t how Luke portrays Jesus. Jesus is portrayed by Luke as walking in all of our humanness, all our human vulnerabilities. Jesus is portrayed by Luke as the fully Human One.
Here in the desert, as with Jesus down the road in Gethsemane, as with Jesus further down the road on the cross, God does not seem to be in the story. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus cries out to God in agony, bleeding through his pores: “God, take this cup from me!” On the cross of Golgotha, Jesus cries out to God in abandonment, bleeding from his wounds: “God, why have you forsaken me!”
For Jesus in those moments, as here in the desert, God seems totally absent.
At home we have a plaque made for us by a family friend for our wedding over 25 years ago. It lists several of the names of God in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. There is Jehovah Jireh, “God Who Provides.” There is Jehovah Rapha, “God Who Heals.”
Isaiah 45:15 gives another name for God, a name which you’re not likely to find in any of these lists of names of God. The name Isaiah gives God there is this: “Truly, you are ‘God Who Hides.’”
How’s that for a name of God: “God Who Hides.” God is “The Hidden God.” Anyone else relate to that? Can anyone else here confess with Isaiah, “Truly, God is ‘God Who Hides’”? I know I can.
But “The Hidden God” is not “The Absent God.” Was God with Jesus in Gethsemane? Was God with Jesus on the cross? Was God with Jesus in the desert? The answer, we say by faith, has got to be “Yes.”
In our Gospel text this morning, you can catch a glimpse of the Hidden God in the opening words of the story: “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” Luke’s Gospel emphasizes God’s presence with Jesus even more strongly: “Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.”
The Spirit of God—the invisible presence of the Hidden God—was with Jesus all the way.
The description of God as “Spirit” is one of my favourite descriptions of God in the Bible. In the Hebrew Old Testament, the word for “spirit” is ruach. In the Greek New Testament, the word is pneuma. Both words literally mean “breath” or “wind.” The Spirit is the very breath of God, the wind of God, the invisible, moving presence of God.