“Immediately the Spirit *impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 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.” (Mark 1:12-13)
Absent from Mark’s account of the Lord Jesus’ temptation are the details of how Satan sought to entice Him. There is no description given of the dialogue recorded both in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels between Jesus and the devil. But two interesting features are present in Mark’s version which we do not find in the others.
The Holy Spirit Drove Jesus Into The Wilderness
A different term is used by Mark than Matthew or Luke. While the other two state that the Lord was led by the Spirit, Mark says that He was driven (or impelled in the NASB) by the Spirit. At first glance, these words might not seem to significantly differ, but Mark’s expression has a much stronger meaning than those of the other two writers. While Matthew and Luke employed a root word meaning that Jesus was essentially guided into the Wilderness, Mark described the Lord as literally being cast out!
Obviously, we know that the Lord went willingly where the Holy Spirit brought Him, but the idea of the Lord being driven brings to mind a much greater sense of urgency and compulsion. It was the will of God that Jesus go out into that desert place to face the enemy and the path upon which the Lord was to walk led straight through the wilderness. The Spirit brought Him there immediately and without delay right into the face of temptation.
The Wild Beasts Were With Him
No other Gospel writer felt the importance of including this detail and it is initially puzzling that Mark would feel the need to. For we would assume that wild animals are present in a desert and wilderness place, wouldn’t we? Bible expositors disagree on whether the wild beasts are to be understood as instruments in the hand of Satan being used to enhance our Lord’s torment or are to be grouped with the ministering angels who safeguarded Him from harm. Some suggest that Mark mentions the animals simply to underscore the desolation and loneliness of the place of Jesus’ trials. But I wonder if the Holy Spirit wasn’t inspiring the Gospel writer to illustrate a different picture.
That the wild beasts were in league with Satan seems highly unlikely since the Lord Jesus is shown again and again to be in complete control over all of His creation. This is the One Whom even the winds and seas obey (Mark 4:41). Additionally, while the angels would certainly have been able to strengthen and refresh our Lord, assisting Him in an hour of physical weakness by serving Him sustenance at the conclusion of the forty days in a place where little vegetation grows, of what help would the animals be? We were told that John the Baptist fed on wild locusts, but we are not told that Jesus actually ate the wild beasts to end His fast.
The wild beasts do, however, remind us of another place in Scripture where their presence was significant and that is the Garden of Eden. After all, the Garden of Eden was the place of temptation for the First Adam and here we have the temptation of the Second Adam. The Apostle Paul compares Jesus Christ, the infallible Man, with Adam, the fallen man, even calling Jesus the “Last Adam” (e.g., Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:45-47). Christ is shown to have overcome where Adam failed and the response of each one is sharply contrasted here in the face of Jesus’ temptation.
Yet this is no paradise where the Lord faces His trial. The docile creatures of Eden are replaced by the wild beasts of the Wilderness and the lush, green garden filled with trees bearing sumptuous fruits is nowhere to be seen amongst the arid sands of the desert. The stain of sin has marred the perfect creation of God and the place where Jesus faces Satan is much different from that where Adam encountered him. The Spirit of the Lord drove man away from Paradise after he sinned (Genesis 3:24) and He drove Christ into a fallen and corrupted “paradise” to succeed in the very way in which Adam had failed.
The Beloved Son Is Driven Into The Wilderness
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (1 Peter 4:12)
We should consider one final thing about this passage of Scripture. Mark 1:11 ends with the words, “You are my beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased“, while the very next sentence begins, “Immediately the Spirit *impelled Him to go out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). God permits those whom He loves to be tried and tempted. The trials that we face and the temptations that we endure are not a sign that we are out of the will of God, no, they are usually indicators of just the opposite. Testing and temptation are never viewed in Scripture as a punishment or something which afflicts the wicked, but as something which proves the people of God. We often wonder why God permits the trials and tribulations of this life to come upon us, yet the Word clearly warns us that we will face them (cf. John 16:33).
The Father put His sign of approval on Jesus at His baptism and declared Him to be His beloved Son in Whom He is well-pleased. And what was the very next thing that God did? Send Jesus somewhere peaceful and quiet where He could enjoy all the luxuries and comforts of life? No. He sent Him right into a place where He would be confronted by Satan! The Father sent the Son to a dry, arid, and lonely place without even food or water for comfort. Yet the Father was well-pleased with the Son in all ways.
Let us not think it strange when we face our own trials and temptations, supposing that our Father has disowned us or has become displeased with us. Perhaps we have committed some grievous sin and moved ourselves out from under His hand of protection by our own foolish choices, though we never cease to be His children. Or perhaps we are standing exactly in the place where the Spirit has driven us because He loves us enough to allow us to be tested, that His faithfulness through trials be proven in our own hearts.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published July 23, 2014]
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]