Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tested by the Accuser
The Judean desert is beautiful from afar, but go there and you will find it is a dry, hot desolate place where you can easily wander for 40 days without seeing a fellow human being. You will find relief in the starry night-time when the heat abates for a while. You might see the shy desert animals that Mark mentions in his account – foxes, birds of prey, small underground mammals, maybe even a Judean leopard.
You would be thirsty. Water is scarce but if you know where to look you might come across a wadi, a steep mostly dry valley, with puddles of tepid muddy water – enough to survive, but not enough to satisfy.
But you might have a good day and find one of the rare oases, like the En Gadi oasis near the Red Sea.
And He went without food for forty days and forty nights, and later He was hungry
If you are not fasting, as Jesus was, you might do what John the Baptist did and raid a wild bees nest for honey or chase after a locust. Obviously these activities come with the cost of insect stings!
This is not a place for rich, majestic encounters with God. It is a place for fasting, for survival, hunger and thirst and for prayers that become more desperate as the time goes on.
We may not be in the Judean wilderness, but we can have a “wilderness time”. In the wilderness time we feel inwardly dry, thirsting for something, hungering for something. The wilderness time is a time of emptiness. A time when our spirits are troubled and even though we may have people around us, we feel alone. When we pray but don’t feel that God is there, or that God is not interested.
When Jesus walked into the wilderness he met with the Accuser (Hebrew הַשָּׂטָן ha-Satan, the accuser or slanderer, usually “Satan” in English)
The Accuser appears in both the Old Testament and the New and is a being sent by God to test a human. This could be a heavenly being, or another human, or a part of the person being tempted. So, we are not talking red tights and a pitchfork, we are talking about something much more elemental. An Accuser, a Slanderer.