I saw one of the most beautiful scenes of my life when I was 19 years old. I was sitting in the living room of a cottage in a valley. There was a large window in front of me. As I looked out the window, there was a crystal-clear stream flowing between two large trees. There were a number of colorful birds flying through the air. A couple of horses were galloping in an open field beyond the stream. To fit the mood of the scene, there was soothing music playing throughout the cottage.
There was only one problem with everything I saw. It was all a mirage. It didn’t exist. I was not in a valley. I had just joined the military and I was in survival school. I was in a large wooden box in the mountains of Colorado, sitting on a stool with a burlap bag over my head. The cadre conducting the training had deprived me of sleep and I was hungry.
It was a few years after the end of the Vietnam War and they were training me (and others) about what being a POW would be like. They were pumping recordings of propaganda in the voice of an Asian woman into the box I was sitting in. This was reminiscent of the recordings of Tokyo Rose in World War II.
Because of my lack of sleep, the voice of the woman turned into the soothing music I thought I heard. The whole beautiful valley in front of me was a hallucination. I don’t know how long I “saw” that valley, perhaps just a few seconds. I soon realized, however, that I was sitting in a wooden box in darkness, listening to a woman speak in broken English about how terrible the United States was.
While the valley was a good escape from reality, even if it was only for a few seconds, it wasn’t real. It is always healthy to remain in the real world. I am reminded of that when I read about a particular time in the life of Christ. As He started out His ministry, everything looked great. John the Baptist paved the way for His coming to the nation. Multitudes came out to hear John speak. He pointed them to Christ.
When the Lord was baptized, the heavens opened. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him miraculously in the form of a dove. The voice of the Father proclaimed that He was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. Jesus had the Father’s approval resting upon Him.
Any first-time reader of such things would look at what was happening and conclude that all was going to end well. The nation was going to receive Jesus with open arms. If that is what the reader saw, and if he continued reading any of the Gospels, he would find that was just a mirage.
In Mark, in the very first verse after the baptism of Christ, Jesus is driven into the wilderness. While there, He is tempted by Satan for 40 days and lives among the wild animals (Mark 1:12-13).
The reader may have thought that all was going to go smoothly in the ministry of Christ. Jesus, of course, knew better. Mark brings the reader back to reality.
The wilderness was a place of death. Satan was the epitome of opposition. When God created the world, there were no wild animals. Their presence in the story of the temptation of the Lord indicates that there is something wrong with the world. The Lord, through His life and ministry, will undo all these things. But difficult times lie ahead. The scene at His baptism at the hands of John quickly changes.
I was fooled in that box in the mountains of Colorado. The Lord was not fooled. He knew what was real and what He was facing.
There is a lesson for us as believers. Sometimes we can be fooled by the allurement of the world. When things are going well, we can think that this world is our home and that it is full of all that is good. But that is a hallucination.
The Scriptures tell us that this world is fallen. It is a place ruled by death and sin. The believer should not see it as his home, but look forward to the day when Christ returns, rules, and then creates a new earth.
When we look at the world, we may think we are looking at a beautiful valley while listening to some calming music. When we come to our senses, however, we understand we are sitting in a box with a burlap bag over our heads. At the present time, that is not as fun. But it is always best to remember where you are.