Jesus went from the glory of His baptism into the fire of testing in the wilderness. He battled Satan and His human weakness 40 days and came out victorious, ready to preach the kingdom of God.
“Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:12-15)
Mark’s account of Jesus’ testing in the wilderness is brief compared to what Matthew’s gospel tells us. Mark again advances his story with the Greek word that means “immediately”; Mark actually uses the phrase 41 times in his gospel to make Christ’s ministry seem fast-paced and exciting (which it was!). Mark tells us that the Holy Spirit “drove” or made Jesus go out into the desert. God wanted His Son to be tested. Imagine Jesus going 40 days without food (a detail that Matthew gives us in Matthew 4), being continually tempted by Satan to use His powers as God to create food and end His hunger. Imagine Jesus, lonely and with only wild desert animals to keep Him company, being reminded continually by Satan that He is God’s Son and greater than the angels who are ministering to His frail human body to keep it alive. Why not just end all this suffering and use His powers to escape the desert and rule people now as king? Why submit to the Father’s painful plan to suffer and die for sinful, ungrateful, rebellious humanity?
Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus passed this test and all the tests that He faced on this earth. In fact, He didn’t just pass the testing that the Father allowed Him to face; he aced every test of His faith and obedience with a perfect score. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but [One who] was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Unfaithful Israel had continually given into temptations and grown bitter during their 40 years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. But Jesus was the faithful Son who came out of His 40-day trial stronger and ready to do His Father will. Notice what Jesus did after coming out of the desert. John the Baptist had been arrested and his ministry ended. It was time now for Jesus to preach the kingdom of God. It was time to issue the call of salvation: “Repent and believe in the gospel!”
Matthew’s account shows us how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations and the weakness of His human nature – He quoted Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11). If the Son of God needed the Word of God to survive spiritual testing, how much more do we? I have been a Christian now for 16 years. One thing I have definitely experienced and witnessed is the power of the Bible, the living Word of God, to bring spiritual strength to people. I have seen God’s Holy Spirit bring memorized Bible verses to my mind while teaching, preaching, witnessing, and praying. I have seen it happen with coworkers, friends, and students. I have watched the Word of God soften people’s hearts right in front of me. I see the Bible soften my own heart every time I read it. Jesus’ passing of the wilderness testing shows us that if we lean on God’s Word and the power of His Holy Spirit in us, we can overcome temptations and not sin.
But we are not yet fully like Jesus; far from it. We will still fail and sin at times. Christians are not perfect. But today’s passage reminds us that we have a Savior who was perfect for us. Jesus lived the life that we were designed to live but could not because of our sin. The gospel Jesus preached after coming out of the wilderness is the same gospel that saves us today. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have repented and believed. Your life has changed and you are now growing in Christ. So what do we do when we fail the tests, when we sin? We go to God in prayer, and we repent and believe! We ask for His forgiveness and for His help to overcome the trial next time. We thank Him for having taken every sin we ever committed and every sin we ever will commit, and nailing them all to the cross of Calvary. Earlier we looked at Hebrews 4:15; the next verse tells us the response we should have based on what our perfect High Priest has done for us: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” I am praying for God’s grace to bring you joy today.