The Temptation of Jesus

Posted by Thaddaeus

Mark 1: 12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.  After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Background:  Immediately after being baptized by John in the Jordan the same Spirit that descends on Jesus in Baptism now drives Him into the desert where He is tempted by Satan in the wilderness for forty daysForty symbolizes death to oneself and rebirth.  It is the symbol of penance.  It marks the completion of one stage and the beginning of the next -- the beginning of the Galilean ministry and the time of fulfillment.  The wilderness around the Jordan is a frightful place.  It is regarded as the abode of demons.  It symbolizes chaos.  The presence of wild beasts; perhaps many possessed by demons, reflects the disharmony among all creatures caused by Satan and his minions.  The presence of ministering angels recalls the angel who guides the Israelites in the desert in the first Exodus and the angel who supplies nourishment to Elijah in the wilderness.  The combined forces of good and evil are present.


The Temptation of Jesus:  Mark does not tell us anything about the nature of the temptations Jesus encounters.  The other synoptic writers tell us He is subjected to a triple temptation.  Jesus refuses to use his divine power for His own benefit.  The reference to “wild beasts” communicates the savage spiritual nature of the triple temptation.  Such temptations can only be overcome by the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism as well as prayer and fasting.  These three things sustain Jesus throughout His earthly ministry.  In first century Judaism, many believe that the Messiah will be another David; a military Messiah who will drive out the Roman Empire and restore the nation of Israel.  On the contrary, Jesus shows Himself to be the suffering servant; a peaceful Messiah who brings about His kingdom through spiritual means rather than through the sword.  By repentance – death to oneself and rebirth.