Sermon Outline On Mark 1:9-15 (NRSV)
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
According to Mark, Jesus was tempted by Satan. Mark doesn’t tell us much more than that. He certainly doesn’t offer the details we find in Matthew and Luke’s gospel. They both give the same details that are missing from Mark. Mark’s message is not about those details. Mark tells us all he needs to say about Jesus’ temptation in 2 verses, 33 words in the New Revised Standard Version.
This brief account by Mark is given quiet a punch by the vigor of the language. The Spirit “drove him out,” (literally threw or cast him out). Jesus is led by the spirit in the other reports. Jesus was “tempted” (tested, put through trials). The temptation is from Satan (the adversary, the opposing one). Mark is the only gospel writer to mention the “wild beasts.” Finally, angels wait on Jesus not after it’s all over but during the tempting.
The language Mark uses, as brief as it is, speaks volumes. This language describes something that is both serious and personal. To be tempted by Satan is serious. To be tempted by the one who opposes God! You can’t get much more serious than that.
Mark tells us “immediately” the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness. “Immediately” is strong. No time to bask in the sunlight shining through the heavens that have been ripped open following his baptism. No time to bask in the light of God’s words, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. He is not led. He is driven. He is immediately in the wilderness. Sounds serious. Richard Donovan reminds us that throughout Israel’s history, the wilderness has been where the Israelites have been tested, but it is also where they have been deepened spiritually.
It is in this wilderness that Jesus is with the wild beasts. Being with wild beasts sounds serious. Just ask the Christians who were torn to pieces by ferocious animals during Emperor Nero’s reign. That would be during the 60’s, which is the time Mark writes this gospel. Maybe Mark was promising those Christians the same attention the angels gave Jesus. Endnote
Jesus was in this wilderness for 40 days. Forty days is always associated with intense spiritual experiences. Forty days does not so much describe a length of time as a quality of time. This is a serious, personal, spiritual time.
Mark tells us that it is Satan who tempts Jesus. Matthew and Luke refer to the devil, but it is that word Satan which means “the adversary.” It is the one opposed to God’s will who tempts Jesus. This is a personal encounter, a personal confrontation.
Mark also tells us that the angels are present through this trial waiting on Jesus. Angels are God’s personal messengers. God’s very own messengers are caring for Jesus, being of comfort and support.
We’re not talking about eating a piece of coconut cake, slipping into a second movie, speeding, or cheating on a test. Mark is not talking about purse snatching, cheating the IRS or our insurance company. No, this tempting of Jesus is far more serious, personal, and spiritual than that.
It is so serious, personal, and spiritual Mark sees no need to offer the details. Maybe that’s the reason Mark immediately follows this account with Jesus in Galilee proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Jesus said, “Repent and believe.” Those verbs in the Greek do not speak of momentary acts, but rather living in a constant state of repentance and belief. Endnote It was all about living in relationship with God. You do know that God’s kingdom can be found wherever people embrace God as king of their lives.
Fred Craddock suggests the following: “Jesus’ temptation was this: What am I going to do with my life?”
Could it be our greatest temptation is: “What am I going to do with my life in relation to Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?” The good news is it’s never too late to repent and believe until it’s too late.