Victory in the Wilderness

The account of Jesus' baptism and ensuing wilderness experience, as presented in the last few verses of the third chapter of Matthew's Gospel and the first eleven verses of the succeeding chapter, is of vital importance to the Christian Scientist. Jesus' baptism was attended by an impartation of the Word which flooded consciousness with the glory and recognition of spiritual being. The Biblical account goes on to indicate that, assured of man's spiritual sonship, Jesus was led to repair to the wilderness, and that there, after he had "fasted forty days and forty nights,... the tempter came to him."

At this point we do well to consult the Glossary in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. In the definition of the word "day," as Scripturally employed, we find the following (p. 584): "The objects of time and sense disappear in the illumination of spiritual understanding, and Mind measures time according to the good that is unfolded." Definitions are also given there of the words "night" and "wilderness," all of which indicate that Jesus' forty days in the wilderness may represent a period not so much of time as of spiritual unfoldment, during which the inspiration gained at the time of his baptism was allowed to establish itself in consciousness. Thus had the children of Israel, some twelve centuries before, sojourned in the wilderness for forty years, learning ever more of divine law until ready to make the promised land their own.

Was it not this unfoldment of spiritual reality in Jesus' consciousness which exposed the ensuing temptations to believe in material unreality? Indeed, just as the most skilled mechanic is the most sensitive to defects in the running of an engine, defects which would escape the notice of someone less expert, so Jesus' growing understanding of Truth unveiled to his consciousness the errors to be mastered—errors which were unnoticed by those less spiritually equipped than he. The temptations themselves may be variously interpreted, but they may be said to represent the suggestions that Jesus should exploit for his personal satisfaction, advantage, and aggrandizement the spiritual dominion that accompanies a recognition of man as the beloved child of God, instead of dedicating himself to the task of lifting humanity to an understanding of the inviolable perfection of true being.

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Not in Vain
June 28, 1947

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