Note: If you didn't read Mark during Lent and want to read Mark 1:9-11 today. Please go to: https://www.storymakerlife.com/lent-with-mark (live the story/Mark: Journey to Jesus/Mark from Lent). You can pick up with Day 4 tomorrow.
Prepare to listen. Be silent for as long as you need. Pray: Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9)
Read Mark 1:12-13
12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
The image of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus “like a dove” still fresh in our minds, it comes as a shock to read that “the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness,” an uninhabited and hostile place. Mitzi Minor writes, “after the great high of the baptism moment comes the stark reality that the way of the Lord is a difficult journey” (Minor, 2001, p. 17). It was for Jesus; it will be for us too.
We can imagine that many who witnessed Jesus’ dramatic baptism were intrigued, expected him to do or say something by way of explanation. But, Jesus was driven, forced by the Spirit back into isolation for forty days. That’s long enough for people to forget or minimize what happened at the baptism. If the baptism gave Jesus momentum to begin ministry as a dramatic figure, the wilderness gave people time to forget Jesus. The intrigued crowd were probably mystified when they realized Jesus had vanished; driven by the Spirit deeper into that place most sensible people avoided.
But that’s not the primary point of Mark’s extremely brief account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. You may remember that both Matthew and Luke give a far more detailed account. Mark seems to brush it off. However, he expects his readers to ‘read between the lines’ and wonder about the symbolism, particularly in the last phrase: “he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
The mention of beasts should get the attention of readers familiar with apocalyptic literature, especially the books of Daniel and Revelation. The term beast was a common symbol to designate earthly powers and big government (see Daniel 7:3, 7) and, in Scripture, always has negative connotations. Beasts are rulers and governments on the side of God’s enemy, the devil and opposed to God. He juxtaposes beasts with angels, beings who are on God’s side as God’s messengers in Scripture. Mark, in a symbolic manner, has prepared readers for the battle that will rage during Jesus’ entire earthly ministry, between satanic forces and God. It’s a spiritual battle that plays out in the lives of real people and rulers in both the political (Rome) and religious (Jews) realms. (Substitute your government and religious leaders for Rome and Jews.) Mark doesn’t tell us that Jesus overcame Satan in this wilderness journey, neither does he say Satan left him. There remains a nagging question about who wins and how we’ll know.
Only those who keep reading to the end discover. And the end will surprise us.
The battle between Jesus and forces of evil (the beasts of our time and culture) continues. Whose side are you on and how do you know? What story narrates the way you live, vote and choose beliefs and principles?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus, give me the will and courage to stand with you against the beasts of my culture, in my government and society, so that your name shines forth in me and I live the story of your Good News. Amen.
Go and live in obedience to Christ who was with wild beasts and angels.