Thursday, October 8, 2015

Gospel of Mark: Jesus’ Temptation

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Mark 1.12-13

Here we find Jesus dealing with something that we face everyday: temptation. But though an everyday occurrence, it is something that is well understood by so few. 

So, what does it mean to be tempted? It’s to be presented with a choice. Which will it be, love and obedience to your God or attempting to chart a course for your own satisfaction and happiness? In some way or other, every temptation boils down to this choice.

So, Jesus is presented with the choice. Satan, the adversary of God’s people, wants to thwart the mission of God that Jesus is to pursue. If he can get Jesus to fall, to choose poorly, he will have succeeded in defeating the mission. You can see this quite clearly in Matthew and Luke’s accounts of this temptation. Jesus is recorded there as making the choice between God and self clear by His replies to Satan. In all the accounts, Jesus is presented with the choice, but He chooses wisely. (As Luke makes clear, while this is a setback for Satan he doesn’t give up.)

This is also another place where the number forty pops up. Here, Mark is making a connection with the forty years that Israel spent in another wilderness during the days of Moses where they also were on a mission, to be a kingdom of priests interceding for the sake of the world. There they were similarly presented with choices. But time and again, they chose poorly. Mark’s point is that Jesus is able to do what Israel failed to do. He will succeed in the mission given to Him by the Father.

One more thing. The Spirit of God has a role here. He is the one who drove Jesus into the wilderness so that He could be presented with this temptation. The Spirit’s work is often viewed in terms of being a comfort to the saints as well as their encourager. And He is that! But here we see another aspect of His work. Just as He did with Jesus, the Spirit brings us into situations where we are presented with that choice. He does this for our good because there are many good things that can come from facing such a choice. There are times, for example, when we can be encouraged when we see that we have chosen wisely, evidence that there has been progress in our developing a love for our God. But there are also times when our pride needs to be exposed to ourselves as we see that we are not nearly the perfect people we think we are. In His grace the Spirit brings us into these situations.

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