First Sunday of Lent: Mark 1:12-15
12 At once the Spirit made him go into the desert,
13 where he stayed 40 days, being tempted by Satan. Wild animals were there also, but angels came and helped him.
14 After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God.
15 “The right time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!”
Other readings: Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22
Temptation: we all experience it, and so did Jesus. Mark sums up Jesus’s desert testing in just one sentence. Luke and Matthew tell us about the same event, but they give us the in-depth versions of the Devil, called Satan here, trying to tempt Jesus to sin. (Luke 4:1-13; Matthew 4:1-11)
Mark’s account only really gives us the headlines. Immediately after Jesus was baptised (Mark 1:9-11), the same Holy Spirit that came down on him as a dove now leads him out into the desert, apparently for Satan to tempt him.
From Genesis 2-3 we learn that being tempted by the Devil in whatever form is part of being human. Jesus’s temptations were another way in which he shared the human experience.
In the New Testament we find ideas and characters we may already have discovered in the Old Testament. Jesus’s 40 days in the desert is something like the 40 years spent by the Israelites journeying in the desert after their escape from Egypt, or Exodus. The Israelites suffered temptations and dangers, but always had God’s help. The Book of Numbers describes some of the events.
In the Book of Job, Satan accuses Job in front of God. But God has a plan for Job, despite appearances to the contrary. In both cases God promises and is faithful. Jesus too learns that God is faithful to his promises. Mark does not elaborate. But he seems to be saying that temptations are part of life for the Christian. The good news for us is that they can be overcome with God’s faithful and loving help.
Why do you think Jesus had to suffer these temptations? Does Hebrews 4:15 shed any light on this? How do you deal with temptations? Do you expect help from God?
Jesus used Scripture to help him overcome the temptations he faced (Matthew 4:1-11). We can do the same. Speaking the words of the Bible aloud can strengthen the will and remind us of God’s help. Find a verse from today’s readings and make it your own prayer. You could write the words on a piece of paper and keep them beside your kettle. Pray them every time you make a drink.
Let us consider today’s other readings. In Genesis 9:8-15 God makes a covenant with Noah and all living creatures: he will never again send a flood to destroy the earth. When God sent the flood in Noah’s day it rained for 40 days. We are reminded of this covenant every time we see a rainbow.
1 Peter 3:18-22 reminds us that Jesus was innocent and without sin. Not only did he withstand Satan’s temptations in the desert, but also throughout the rest of his life on earth. Yet he died in our place so sinners like us could come to God.
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word
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