Luke 1:80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.
Commentary: On this little-discussed passage, I defer to the Rev. Dr. David J Lose from his post of December 15, 2012
Luke has a way of reminding us of the absolute humanness of the people whom God chooses to use. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary – Luke intends us, I think, to imagine them as down-to-earth, ordinary figures. They aren’t Greek gods of Roman heroes or heroines; they are pretty much just like us.
So also with John. And so Luke reminds us that the child, like any child, grew and that, over time, he became strong in spirit.
But it’s not just that. It’s also that he went out into the wilderness.
That would have meant something to those reading Luke’s account familiar with the stories of the Israelites. For the wilderness is always a place of testing. A place of trial. A place where anything that is not absolutely needful is burned away. A place where one is purified.
And a place that is lonely. I’d not thought before of how lonely John’s childhood may have been. We have no way of knowing how much longer Elizabeth and Zechariah lived. We do not know when John went to the wilderness. We just know, as Luke tells us, that he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel…about thirty years after his birth.
This, then, is John – fiery, wild-eyed prophet who was also once just a young boy who, like all other boys, grew in stature and spirit, suffered loss and loneliness, and was tested and tried until he was prepared to herald the dawn of God’s compassionate embrace of all humanity. Let us give thanks for him.
To Ponder: What kinds of “desert trials” have you endured? Is there an experience from your past that has uniquely prepared you for what you are doing now? Is this a desert time for you?