After his baptism, Jesus is literally “hurled” into the desert to be tempted by Satan. The word “tempted” comes from Peirazo and it means to put through an ordeal, to harass. Not “tempted to sin.” It’s where we get our word “pirate” from, to signify that it is something of an attack on a person to take something away. The account in Matthew 4:1-11 provides more detail of this account, but the essence is the same: just as Satan never stops attacking us by pitting doubt and distrust before us as an option (cf. Genesis 3:1-14), he does so also to Jesus.
This is monumentally significant. The first time we are introduced to Satan, he attacked the man and woman in the Garden with the very same strategy – doubt God, don’t trust Him, and trust me instead. And the results were disastourous. Now Jesus arrives, and Satan goes right back to it – don’t trust in your Father, Jesus; trust me instead. God had told Adam to obey Him regarding a tree and he will live, but he failed. Now he tells Jesus to obey Him regarding a tree, and he does. Only this tree will be a cross and the result will be death. But remember, God is doing something new. Death might not have the final word after all. But until then, Jesus must go into the deepest, darkest battle. You and I do too. And when we’re there, what will we hear? Will we hear, “Forget God. Trust me instead.” Or will we hear, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased?”
Now what is true of Jesus can be true of those who are united to Jesus. Repent – both John and Jesus say. Repent of your sins of immoral licentiousness, your sins of moral self-righteousness and even your sins of amoral detachment. Respond! The King is here and He’s setting up His Kingdom. The One who was there in the beginning to create the world, is now back on the ground to redeem it and recreate it. Turn away from every other thing that might stand in the way and follow instead the New King in town.
What John was preparing the people for, Jesus was proclaiming; it was the kingdom of God. And this was “gospel” – “good news.” This wasn’t a new ethical teaching, or set of wisdom and advice. It wasn’t even a political agenda, or privatized religious experience. It might eventually lead to aspects of each of these, but it was more than that. It was news that the living God – Yahweh – is now on the scene and on the move.
Time to wake up.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- Would you say that you are “shocked” or “awakened” by the message of the gospel? If not, how do you feel about the gospel? If so, why is that?
- “The whole Christian gospel could be summed up in this point: that when the living God looks at us, at every baptized and believing Christian, he says to us what he said to Jesus on that day. He sees us, not as we are in ourselves, but as we are in Jesus Christ…It sometimes seems impossible, especially to people who have never had this kind of support from their earthly parents, but it’s true: God looks at us, and says, ‘You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you.” (N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone). What would it mean to you to hear God say that to you? Would it change much, if anything, in your life? The way you viewed God? Others around you?