I often get asked about the Trinity – this uniquely Christian understanding that God is one being with three natures: Father, Son and Spirit. How did we get to this point? Is there a bible verse which gives us ‘the Trinity’, all neatly packaged up? The truth is that there is no one single verse I can point to, but it’s passages like today’s which demonstrate clearly how we got from the Jewish idea that ‘God is One’ to the Christian one that God is One… in Three – and Three in One!
God as Trinity is ultimately something to be experienced, not theorised, and it is through the ‘experiences’ of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament that the early Christians came to realise this extraordinary truth. We have a 3-dimensional faith, because we have a 3-dimensional God.
Today’s reading is Mark’s very condensed account of Jesus’ baptism and temptation. In Matthew, this is 16 verses; in Luke, 15 – in Mark, just 5 verses. You can feast on the finer points of these stories in the other gospels, but what is notable here is how we see the Trinity of love at work. The Son is joyfully affirmed by the Father in his baptism: (v11) ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ This Son is then sent by the Spirit into the wilderness (v12). The Trinity at work in unity and mission.
As an aside, it is striking that Jesus’ journey into the wilderness is Spirit-led. We often think of wilderness times as times of uncertainty or dryness or chaos, as ‘bad’ times – but for Jesus at least, the first thing we learn about time in the wilderness is that it was a work of God: he was sent by the Spirit.
This is powerful for us, too. We all have wilderness times, and the temptation is to think that somehow we have let God down, or that God is absent. There may be valid reasons why we think like this, but today, let’s take heart from this passage that God is at work in wilderness times. If you find yourself in such a time now, ask yourself (and God) the question: where is God at work? Is there anything of this time that might be led by the Spirit? That may only be something you fathom later – but I do believe we can ask the question now. God often does his best work in the desert.
As we reflect on how Jesus’ experience can relate to ours, let’s also rejoice that, thanks to the work of Christ, we too can be children of God. In other words, what God says to Jesus here is true for us, too. At the heart of a thriving Christian life is the deep realisation that we are our Heavenly Father’s precious children. So, today, take a few minutes to receive the Father’s affirmation to Jesus as yours: you are his beloved child; with you he is well pleased.