A sermon on Mark 1: 12-13

“Jesus walked that Lonesome Valley – He had to walk it by himself, Oh nobody else, could walk it for him – he had to walk it by himself.”

I love this song despite its melancholy story – we’ve been in that place of loneliness, knowing that we’re carrying it all by ourselves.  For some that’s how this past year has felt – carrying our grief by ourselves as we can’t have funeral services, carrying our illness by ourselves as we can’t have visitors in hospitals and care facilities. 

Last year in March, when we first heard that we’d have to social distance, it sounded nice to take a week or two on my own, but then that time grew – and grew; it was no longer a relief to come home alone, even for an introvert.

It’s Lent again; we’re entering the nighttime of this penitent, soul-searching season again – and there’s still so much isolation.  The theme of night – from sunset to sunrise struck all five of us on our planning call – it has felt like we’ve been a year in this shadow of night. And in night we so often feel alone, like we’re carrying it all ourselves.  Like the people in the spiritual – we must go and stand our trial; we have to stand it by ourselves.

Yet, our Scripture from Mark today – just two sentences – puts the lie to that image of Jesus alone in the desert.  For “he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”

Jesus surrounded himself with people – the disciples, those who listened to him day after day as he preached and healed, and yet we know that many times he was alone in his ministry.  No one really understood him.  But in the hours of his greatest trials, he was not alone.  In his temptation, the wild beasts were with him – this does not sound like they were threatening him, rather that they comforted him in his temptation.  One commentator this past week focused on how this pairs with Christ’s healing not only of the human world, but all creation, as he prayed with the beasts in the wilderness as Adam and Eve walked with them in paradise.  And as he hung on the cruel, cruel cross, the women and the disciple who loved him did not leave. 

“Jesus walked this Lonesome Valley” is a beautiful song, not because it proclaims the good news, but because it prays with us in the dark nights of our soul, as the beasts were with Jesus.  It waits on the hungers of our deepest fears as the angels waited on Jesus.  We know what alone feels like, and that song captures it.

Yet, what it really points to is not exactly the words it says.  In those moments when we feel most alone, as the night closes in and the last rays of the daylight fade, leaving us alone and afraid, we are reminded precisely that we are not alone.  That Jesus walked this path before us; that Jesus stands our trials with us.

As the church, we live out this promise.  We stand with one another in our trials.  We walk with one another on our hardest journeys.

If you want to learn more, see the full story here.