Mark 1:13 καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.
From the baptism of John to the temptation of Satan. God’s Spirit drove Christ. At the river Jordan, Jesus of Galilee was baptized by John. Here was one not needing baptism, descending into the murky waters. His perfection and primacy are demonstrated in the rending of the heavens. The heavens are torn open. Ripped at the descent of a dove and the voice of a Father’s approval. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
From this moment the Son of Man, the sinless spotless lamb begins His ministry. His ministry culminates in another rendering of a heavens. The Historian Josephus tells us that there was a beautiful tapestry “inscribed with all the heavenly spectacle.” This large curtain hung in the temple of jerusalem and in Mark 15:38 we see the work of God, the ministry of Christ in the rending of this fabric heavens. The curtain is torn open. Ripped is the barrier that separated man from God as on the cross, that which separates us from God was removed.
From the moment you passed through the waters of baptism, where God gives you the benefits of this rending of the heavens, you have the benefit of hearing the voice of God declare, “you are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” It comes in the words that go like this, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The separation between you and God is removed as you are His.
Christ comes up from the waters of the Jordan at His baptism, the Father and the Spirit appear with him and Christ is immediately driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. There He is tempted by Satan for 40 days. He was with beasts and He was ministered to by angels.
Baptism and temptation don’t seem to go together very well. From the waters of washing to the pressure of temptation. The life of Christ doesn’t demonstrate much separation and neither do our lives. As baptized believers one might think that we are delivered from temptation, but I would suggest that evidence in my life is the opposite. The more I lean on my baptismal grace, the more I realize the temptations around me. Temptations and pressures come at us in a variety of ways. Our daily lives are filled with struggles that make our days difficult and threaten to cloud our view of Jesus.
Children face the difficulties of growing up, making decisions, finding friends, listening to parents. Teenagers face the temptations of living for God when the world loudly encourages a life lived for pleasure and self alone. Singles struggle to find their way in a culture that promotes and caters to families and those in relationships. Parents are tempted to take shortcuts in raising children and to forget that Christ is the center. The older generation among us may be tempted in the midst of loneliness and feeling that life is no longer important or worth living.
Temptations abound in this broken world where sin crouches at every door. Life as a child of God is not lived free from temptation. We are not baptized out of temptation. We are baptized in a world of temptation. We are baptized for temptation because in our baptism we find our source of strength to overcome temptation.
Christ faced temptation and perfectly overcame it for you. Jesus, the perfect one who pleases God was born in the likeness of you and me. He is one of us to save us. He endured what you and I endure. He was tempted as we are tempted. He faced the real pressures of a real person in this real world.
This small scene in Mark is a glimpse into a large scale onslaught that Christ faced. All of the harsh realities of the wilderness tested the human limits of mind, body and soul. This was a hostile environment where loneliness is oppressive, hunger and thirst are constant companions. The beasts and the angels are all he has for company.
The wilderness in these two verses was not the extent of the temptation of our Lord. Throughout his ministry, he was burdened by the pressures of ministry as he left his family, was rejected by the town that raised him, he was allured by the praises of crowds who didn’t get it. The wilderness temptation was only a prelude to a deluge of temptation that assailed our lord on his road to the cross.
The first recipients of Mark’s Gospel knew about a life of temptation. Their lives were constant facing pressures to abandon their faith. For some their lives ended in martyrdom. Neros burning of Rome in 64 ad was blamed on the Christians leading to the arrest and condemnation to death of many believers. Talk about temptation they were persecuted for their faith by being clothed in the skins of wild animals only to be torn to pieces by wild dogs. Jesus dwelling with the wild beasts probably had a different ring to it for them than it did for us. Some of the Christians were covered with tar and set on fire to light Neros courtyards and gardens at night.
And what about today? Christians in the Middle East are being killed by Islamic militants. We don’t face death but Christians who are in the world of academics are often considered to be committing academic suicide when they confess a Christian worldview. Our careers and livelihoods are not on the line but we are tempted to quietly live out our faith hoping it will not offend those around us, lest we have to defend our faith. As baptized children of God we are tempted.
Jesus never promised this would be easy. Life with him is a treacherous existence. Parents who baptize their children without looking at the implications of a life with Christ are often playing into Satan’s hands. Same with confirmation. To take a vow and then take a break is only inviting a complacency that could lead to destruction. Our faith is more than a formula, it is a formation. It is a lifetime of walking with the one who walked perfectly for us.
Satan’s cunning invitations trick us all the time. The evidence of our following his deceptive voice is all around us. Husbands and wives cast their marital commitments aside believing the grasses are greener on the other side of the fence. Individuals wallow in self pity because they are convinced bad things only happen to them. Many are fooled into thinking that drugs, alcohol, and sexual satisfaction will solve or help forget serious problems.
What about you? Where is your temptation? Do you know the strength to overcome temptations lies outside of you? D you sometimes feel as if you have been baptized into temptation? Do you know the strength to overcome is found in the one who was baptized and driven into temptation? What you need in your temptations is the one who overcame temptation, living perfectly for you. Died undeservedly for you. And rose triumphant for you.
Our savior withstood the temptation. He did not crumple when faced with the pressures and temptations of this broken world. He endured perfectly so that he could fix it. And fix it he did. By tearing the curtain, the heavenly looking drapery that separated man from God was removed. By tearing the flesh with the piercing of the nails and the spear in the side. Your sins were punished as God tore his sight away from the filth on the cross. The temptations that you have succomed to have lost their power. The accusing luring of the devil cannot take you from that which was won there on the cross for you.
God has seen you in your need. He has seen you like a bent and broken reed. He has promised not to break you. He restores you by sending His son who proclaimed and claims the Gospel for you. The kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe. This is for you a reality. Your repentance and your faith mean gospel for you. Good news for you. Your temptations will come but Jesus has won. So when satan points his finger at you and calls you a failure you can point to the cross and show him where it’s been put. Failures are ended there.
When satan directs his temptations your way, remember your bapstim. Remember you are cleansed and renewed and strengthened by them. His work is washed out as you are in Christ.
Once upon a time, there was a boy who was running across a field on a beautiful day. Suddenly he fell into an old abandoned mine shaft. Down at the bottom the shaft became very narrow and he was wedged in. He couldn’t free himself from the cold, damp, dark, and tight space. Desperate he shouted for help. People came to the top of the mine shaft and reassured him “everything will be all right. we will get you out. God will take care of you…”
None of those well meaning words could free the boy. It was only when they tied a strong rope to a strong man and lowered him into the shaft that the boy knew he was being helped. The mans strong hands grasped the boy’s shoulders and held tight as the two were pulled back to the top of the shaft.
This is what God has done for you. He doesn’t simply coach you from a distance speaking words of encouragement and direction. He doesn’t simply speak calming ineffective words. He has come and grabbed you by the shoulders wrenching you from the predicament of sin. You are rescued from certain demise. Your situation is made right by Him.
Yet still we are facing temptation and we are waiting that final deliverance from this valley. Christ’s return will be a great and glorious, you-won’t-miss-it reality. And on that day with Christ finally and fully satan’s voice will no longer reach us.
Take heart. You are not left alone in this struggle. You are baptized. You are clothed with Christ. God has put Him on you and He is your strength. His goodness is yours.
May you be strong in Him today.