Encounter in the Desert Part 1: The Cave

A re-telling of the story of the temptation of Jesus
(The name ‘Jesus’ is the New Testament form of ‘Joshua’)

The cave in the desert

In the darkness, Joshua was overcome with alternating emotions of elation and sorrow; euphoria and dread, while chaotic and confusing images stormed in his mind. He could make sense neither of his intense feelings nor of the images and was afraid he was losing his sanity. Joshua felt a pressing need to seek a place where he could sort through his confusion and found himself walking through the night deep into the lonely desert.

Joshua found a scrawny bush that provided a little shelter and lay down under it. The day had been long and tiring; Joshua was exhausted and was asleep within minutes, but even in his sleep he still experienced the chaos of thoughts and feelings.

Out of that chaos emerged a more defined figure—it was a little boy. Joshua could discern the little boy was withdrawn but saw that he was approaching a group of children.

“C-c-can I p-p-play with you?” asked the boy. The children pointed at the boy and howled with laughter at his stuttering. The little boy ran away. Joshua felt what the little boy felt—humiliation, loneliness, and fear.

The picture swirled and the little boy was replaced by a man. The man was a farmer. He had worked twenty hard years to provide adequate food and a nice home for his family. He stood upon a hill and, with deep satisfaction, surveyed the home and farm he had built. Far away, a cloud of dust arose and came nearer until a host of horseman burst into view. The fields were trampled, the animals slaughtered, and the home set ablaze. Within an hour all was lost.

A little girl visited her favorite aunt and uncle. Long after everyone was asleep, her uncle came to her and woke her. ‘Uncle what are you doing?’ asked the little girl, but her uncle covered her mouth with his rough hand. The little girl struggled and cried, but no one heard.

Joshua awoke in a sweat. He lay on his back looking up at the dark sky. Tears filled his eyes like wells and overflowed to run down each side of his face. He slept no more for the rest of the night.


When the sun appeared, Joshua searched for a better shelter. After a time, he found a small cave to protect him from the sun, and (wonder of wonders!) there was a depression in the floor of the cave about three inches across and filled with water about two inches deep. Joshua smelled the water and it did not appear foul. He put his lips to the surface and sipped; it tasted like good water. He sipped again and then drank it all. The water from the depression completely satisfied his thirst, but it was all gone. There was none left.

All day long Joshua sat in the hot cave, prayed to God, and considered his mission as the Anointed One. The voice of God said at his baptism, ‘You are my beloved son,’ which confirmed that Joshua was indeed the Anointed One because the assertion alluded to God’s words to David regarding the Anointed One:

He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

Joshua’s responsibility as Anointed One was immense; his task enormous. He remembered the words of of Solomon often quoted by his teacher:

Lord, you chose David to be king over Israel, and swore to him about his descendants forever, that his kingdom should not fail. But because of our sins, a Roman rose up against us—a man alien to our race. He laid waste to our land, so that no one inhabited it; he massacred young and old and children.

As the enemy was a stranger and his heart was alien to God, he did in Jerusalem all the things that gentiles do for their gods in their cities, and the children of the covenant adopted these practices. Those who loved the assemblies of the devout fled from them as sparrows fled from their nest. They were scattered over the whole earth by the lawless ones. For there was no one among them who practiced righteousness or justice.

Observe, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel. Fortify him with the strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to purge Jerusalem from gentiles who trample her to destruction, to drive out the sinners from the inheritance, to smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter’s jar, to shatter all their substance with an iron rod, to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth.

He will gather a holy people whom he will lead in righteousness; and he will judge the tribes of God’s holy people. And he will have gentile nations serving him under his yoke, and he will purge Jerusalem and make it holy as it was even from the beginning. And he will be a righteous king over them, taught by God. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy, and their king shall be the Lord Messiah. He will not rely on horse and rider and bow, nor will he collect gold and silver for war. Neither will he build up hope in a multitude for a day of war.

Blessed are those born in those days to see the good fortune of Israel.

How was Joshua to accomplish all this? Would God provide a clear plan, or would God simply lead him moment by moment. What of the armies? Some said the Anointed One would need no armies; others said that he would lead the armies of righteousness to victory over the Romans. If he were to lead armies, he would need righteous and able generals. Where would he find such men? How would he approach them?

When the sun was sinking into the west, Joshua prepared to sleep. As he lay down he noticed the depression in the floor of the cave had refilled with water. He got up to investigate. He could not tell from where the water came. There was no hole in the floor for it to seep up like a spring. He looked for a possible drip, but neither detected any falling drops nor found any place from which a drip would come, and he had heard no dripping throughout the day.

Joshua drank the water and lay down to sleep. In his sleep, Joshua experienced a shooting pain. He saw a man a man in agony; he felt the agony. There was a wooden frame, and men were driving stakes through the man’s flesh and into the wooden frame. The man cried out in anguish. The men lifted the frame from the ground and as the man’s body came into view Joshua could make out his face; it was he! It was Joshua, himself! Joshua on the wooden frame cried out again in pain, and Joshua in the cave awoke in a sweat.

So now he knew how it would be. God had spoken at Joshua’s baptism; he had identified Joshua as the Anointed One by calling him ‘My beloved son’, but he had identified him further by adding: ‘In whom I am pleased.’ The second allusion was to a comment by the prophet about a servant who would suffer much. Somehow Joshua’s mission as Anointed One would involve him in great personal suffering and death. Joshua slept no more that night…

The story continues next time.
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17 Responses to Encounter in the Desert Part 1: The Cave

  1. michaeleeast says:

    An interesting take on the sojourn in the desert.
    Jesus was developing compassion for the world’s suffering.
    He was opening his heart.
    He was also being led towards the cross.
    I look forward to the second part.


  2. Intriguing post, I am most curious to see where you are going with this. As I read the three scenes from the dream I could in a sense feel their pain too, and a yearn to help them.


  3. lotharson says:

    Hello Tim, what you have written is truly wonderful :=)

    I did not know you were also a talented writter 😉

    But I still don’t have any problem believing that Joshua encountered the deceitful beings populating the books of Jacque Vallee.


  4. sheila0405 says:

    I guess I’m the only one on here that is completely confused. I’ll have to wait for Part 2.


    • Sorry for the confusion Sheila. I think you will see developments in part 2. Do you wish to elaborate on your confusion?


      • sheila0405 says:

        When I saw the name Joshua, I thought about Moses’ right hand man. I don’t recall him by himself in a cave. So then I decided that Joshua was an allegory for Jesus. But Jesus didn’t drink for 40 days. (Or eat, either). Also, Jesus knew why he was sent by God–to be a sacrifice for our sins, and to then rise from the dead. So, I’m a bit confused with a man in a cave who seems not to know why he is there or what happens next–and the refilling of the hole with water really threw me for a loop. I must have missed something, so I will wait until Part 2. Or maybe I’m just really dense.


        • michaeleeast says:

          I don’t think your dense Sheila,
          but Tim is offering an alternative interpretation
          in which Jesus is perhaps not fully conscious of the mission
          he is to fulfill.


        • I certainly understand the confusion Sheila!

          I guess I should have been more clear about Joshua. Joshua is not an allegory for Jesus. Joshua and Jesus are actually the same name; Jesus is the name used in the New Testament for Joshua, just as Judas was Judah, James was Jacob, and Lazarus was Eleazar.

          According to the historian Josephus, in New Testament times there were many people named Jesus; it was not at all a unique name. I use the name Joshua to bring home the human element of Jesus.

          Fasting for long periods involves not eating, but a person cannot survive without water. None of the accounts of the temptation suggest that Jesus drank nothing. In fact, after 40 days, he was hungry–not thirsty. This is consistent with the experience of those who fast for long periods today. Hunger goes away after about three days, but it returns at around 40 days as the stored nutrients of the body are used up.

          I think it is an open question when and how Jesus began to understand himself. It certainly was not when he was a toddler; he was not born knowing everything. How did his self-awareness grow? I think it is clear that it was in the desert that Jesus began to come to terms with his mission. Otherwise, what was it about?


        • Sheila, I am sure others are confused about the name ‘Joshua’. I have added an explanation at the top of the article. Thanks!


  5. Pingback: Encounter in the Desert Part 2: The Parchment | Jesus Without Baggage

  6. Pingback: Encounter in the Desert Part 3: The Adversary | Jesus Without Baggage

  7. Pingback: Encounter in the Desert Part 4: The Battle | Jesus Without Baggage

  8. Pingback: Was Satan the Serpent in Eden? | Jesus Without Baggage

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