First Sunday in Lent – “The Proving Grounds” – Mark 1:9-15
“The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among wild animals and angels took care of him.” (Mark 1:12-13; NLT)
In this passage of scripture Mark is brief on words and expansive in thought.
Jesus comes to John to be baptized. This is to fulfil the testimony of righteousness and initiate the start of Jesus’ Ministry. When Jesus comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove. Like the Patriarchal blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to their sons; God’s voice speaks from Heaven for all present to hear. “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy”. Jesus needed to hear this blessing from His Father to instill courage in him for what he was about to face. Forty days in the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. We learn from Matthew and Luke that Jesus was also fasting during this time; which would make the wilderness endurance even more intensive. Matthew and Luke give three specific areas that Jesus was tempted in; but Mark gives the impression that there was much more. The testing lasted all 40 days.
The wilderness time for Jesus was the proving grounds. During Jesus’ Ministry he often went into the wilderness to pray; to have some alone time with His Father. But, this was different. The Spirit drew him into the wilderness to have face to face confrontations with the enemy. Being in the wilderness with the wild animals would expand his soul. Grappling with his enemy would strengthen him for many battles ahead. Mark does not give us the details of this 40 day testing; except the important detail that Jesus won. Then God sent His angels to bring His Son food to strengthen his body and words of encouragement from His Dad to strengthen his soul. Luke 4:14 tells us, “Then Jesus returned to Galilee with the Holy Spirit’s power”.
When Jesus hears that his cousin, John the Baptist has been arrested for preaching the truth; he boldly goes out and starts preaching the same message. “The Kingdom of God has come down. It is here. Repent of your sins and believe the good news.”
Lord, You went through the proving grounds to show us how to win against Satan. Help us not to be afraid of the wilderness proving grounds, knowing the one who guides us has been through it before.
Rev. Stephen C. Floyd, First Church of the Nazarene