What are We Seeking?
"What did you go out into the wilderness to see?
The donkeys had a care-free life until the 4th century B.C. A few lazy farmers got tired of doing their share of the work. “Eureka!” someone said, “I won’t have to work so hard, if I can get this donkey to do it” — the invention of the donkey driven mill. It was a little clumsy at first. The donkey did not see the point of walking in circles all day, and he and the farmer quarreled a good deal. Then the farmer had another idea — a blindfold! Cover a donkey’s eyes and it will walk in circles all day long — head held down, submissive, and servile. Uncover the donkey’s eyes, it will quit kowtowing immediately and have one thing in mind: freedom.
Humans are very much like donkeys. If the demons can keep our eyes shut, they have us in their power — plodding along in meaningless circles, head down and compliant. If our eyes open, the demons lose their power — we become free.
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet” (Matthew 11:7-9).
The wilderness symbolizes the journey for truth.
All of us, at different times of life, seek truth. Since we were little children, we tried to put two and two together. What do the grownups mean? What behaviors lead to good results? What can I get away with? Why does it matter? Is there a God? Should I follow Him? We continue asking these questions throughout life. We wonder as we wander through the wilderness, as the Jews wondered when they walked off into the desert.
“A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’ (Isaiah 40:3).
The news around town was that there was prophet by the Jordan. He preached with authority. He challenged people to change their ways. You can imagine all manner of people going out searching, each person with his own motivation. Some wanted to find God. Some wanted a change in their heart. Some wanted a leader to spearhead a government coup. Others just wanted a new thrill, or maybe something to laugh at. Others still, especially among the intellectuals, just wanted something to criticize.
"What did you go out into the wilderness to see?”
Christ challenges us: What are you seeking in your wilderness?
Are we looking for God intentionally? Are we seeking holiness, whole heartedly? Do we talk about religious things, and spend our days chasing thrills and distractions?
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?”
This is precisely what we spend much of our life seeking: a reed, vanity, nothingness.
“A man dressed in soft clothing?”
Heaven knows how much of our life is spent chasing after soft clothing, maybe a new frothing machine, or a television show to dull the senses — anything cozy and cushy, which pampers the unquenchable appetites.
“I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity…I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine…I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards…I gathered silver and gold…I got singers…and many concubines…Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2).
In his book, The Way of the Ascetics, Tito Colliander describes how we live like slaves to our desires.
“Take a look at yourself,” he writes, “and see how bound you are by your desire to humor yourself and only yourself. Your freedom is curbed by the restraining bonds of self-love, and thus you wander, a captive corpse, from morning till eve. ‘Now I will drink,’ ‘now I will get up,’ ‘now I will read the paper.’ Thus you are fed from moment to moment in your halter of preoccupation with self, and kindled instantly to displeasure, impatience or anger if an obstacle intervenes.”
A captive corpse — the halter of preoccupation with self — egoism — it sounds like the donkey, harnessed and blind-folded.
What do we “go out to see” in the wilderness of each given day? Oftentimes, we start off, right out of bed, on a quest for pleasure and praise — adoring the never appeased god called “Me.”
Jesus Christ comes to set us free.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
What does liberty mean?
Liberty is the freedom to thrive — no longer pulled along by passions like a donkey on a mill, no longer chasing after reeds, no longer slave to the ego. Liberty means freedom to love God and our neighbors.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
God did not create us to live like harnessed donkeys. He created us to run like stallions. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is the path to freedom.
“What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.”
Indeed, what a prophet, the Son of God. There is no one so majestic, so grand, so beautiful and loving, as our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no one and nothing worth getting out of bed for, so much as our savior.
Will we seek Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, and mind?
When we lie on our death bed, our conscience will ask of us, what did you spend your life seeking: reeds, comfort, or the Prophet?
May God open our eyes.