Sunday, January 3, 2016

How Mark draws us closer to Jesus through Jesus' triumph over Satan - Mark 1:12-13

Mark 1:12-13 "Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him."

In the last week or so we have taken the time to walk our way through the opening verses of Mark's Gospel. We have aimed to approach Mark in such a way as to meet Jesus for the first time. The suddenness with which Mark thrusts the reader into the adult life and public ministry of Jesus gives the sense of giving us a first encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 

We began by first of all getting to know Jesus by way of the titles listed in Mark 1:1. As His primary name "Jesus" suggests, Jesus came as a true human being to save His people from their sins. However, it does not take long in the course of Mark's Gospel to see that this Jesus, though being truly man, was more than just a mere human being. The second title in Mark 1:1 - "Christ", heightens the identity of Jesus by asserting Him as the "chosen, anointed One" of Old Testament prophetic anticipation. Having multiple layers of meaning, Jesus as the Messiah is the Spirit anointed man, King, Priest and decisive revelation of God in human flesh. The third title "Son of God" certifies that our initial understanding of the other two titles is accurate. This particular title is also said of Jesus at His crucifixion by the Roman Centurion in Mark 15:39. Hence we met Jesus by way of His titles.

We then saw secondly the various testimonies of this Jesus. Mark quotes passages from Isaiah (and possibly Malachi) in Mark 1:2-3 to give us the prophetic testimony of Jesus. These quotations serve to demonstrate Jesus' continuity in both the life and prophetic identity of God with His people. Then we see the Personal testimony of John the Baptist in Mark 1:4-9 and 1:10-11. Then as we saw yesterday, the Divine testimony of Jesus in Mark 1:10-11 certifies that this Jesus is both commended for being truly Divine in his true humanity while being accepted as man who is also God at the same time.

Today's post aims to get us even closer to Jesus by pointing out His major triumph over Satan.

Jesus' temptation and triumph in the wilderness by Satan, and what it means to you
Mark's record of Jesus' temptation is startlingly brief. Mark 1:12-13 records these words - "Immediately the Spirit *impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him." The verses begin with the term "immediately", a word that one finds in almost 40 places in Mark's Gospel. What is surprising is the fact that the Holy Spirit Who came to anoint and empower Jesus at the baptism is the same Holy Spirit Who, in Mark's words, "impells" or "drives" Jesus in to the wilderness. This tells us that before Jesus could even begin to address the needs of fallen man, he first of all had to defeat the one who had led man astray in the first place - Satan. 

Now Mark and Luke's Gospel record this scene in more detail. Matthew's account has Satan tempting Jesus with regards to the lust of the flesh (Matthew 4:1-4); pride of life (Matthew 4:5-7) and lust of the eyes (Matthew 4:8-11). The Devil's inability to overcome Jesus results in him leaving Jesus until "an opportune time" (Matthew 4:11). Luke's version has Satan tempting Jesus with the same three types of temptation, with the distinction from Matthew being that the lust of the eyes or showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world consistutes the second temptation in Luke 4:5-8 (third temptation in Matthew 4:8-11) and the pride of life being the third temptation in Luke 4:9-12 (the second temptation in Matthew 4:5-7). Both these differences can be easily explained as understanding that Satan was contastantly barraging Jesus throughout the 40 day period of time. It is certain Satan changed up the ordering of the temptations to attack Jesus' in his humanity at different spots. Luke's version then closes out with angels ministering to Jesus.

So with Mark's version being rather short, it seems that since he was recording Peter's preaching about Jesus (according to reliable reports from ancient church history), Peter's usage of a then early copy of Matthew and newly penned Gospel of Luke coupled with is own recollections of Jesus resulted in a simple summary of this temptation account. 

Why would Mark include this record of Jesus' life? In light of Matthew and Luke's Gospels, it is clear that Jesus came to not only provide salvation from sin, but also destroy the works of the Devil (see Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8). As we meet Jesus for the first time, we are finding out how powerful He truly is. No man who had ever face Satan toe-to-toe ever triumphed. Adam failed. David gave into temptation. Without God's grace, Job would had totally caved into the deepest despair. Yet in Mark's account we get the sense that as Jesus was being tempted, He was walking in victory and not succuming to the Devil's schemes. He had angelic assistance for sure - however, those angels came to minister after the fact (compare Luke). Jesus achieved a work never before accomplished - defeating the Devil in the worst of circumstances. 

Now why is this triumph so important to you and me as Christians? Whatever Jesus experienced and achieved in His humanity meant that as redeemed human beings, we too could overcome the lust of the eyes, the flesh and pride of life (see this three-fold listing in 1 John 2:15-17). In-as-much as we are saved by Jesus' death - we are also saved by His life. Jesus saves believers from their sins because of His substitutionary death and saves them to live a possible life of victory over their sins due to His perfect life in them. This doesn't mean that as Christians we will end up achieving sinless perfection in this life (see Paul's statements in Romans 7). But what it does mean is that despite our occassional failures to trust God and choose sin, Jesus' credited righteousness covers the believer and empowers the believer by the Spirit to say "no" rather than "yes" the next time they are tempted. 

I'm convinced Satan's temptation of Jesus was continual, non-stop in not only those 40 days of wilderness experience, but also throughout the confrontations Jesus had with Satan's demonic emmisaries. Clearly Satan appealed through Peter for Jesus to skip the cross in Matthew 16 and used Judas to betray Jesus on the eve of His crucifixion. Yet, the New Testament is replete with the truth of Jesus' triumph over Satan being the foundation for all we need by the Holy Spirit to live empowered Christian lives in this dark world. 

May we aim to truly get to know Jesus as if it were our first time meeting Him. Mark's Gospel is exciting and I hope you dear reader have been blessed these last several days as we have aimed to get to know Jesus better. 

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