Do people get you? Do you think that people around you really understand you or understand what you are going through? When you go through something like an illness or the death of a loved one, it’s nice to know that people care but it’s even more special when someone understands what you are going through. I remember attending the funeral of a man who used to attend Faith Church. When I saw his daughter before the funeral service began, I gave her a hug and she said to me, “You know what this is like, don’t you.” It’s important to us to have someone understand what we are going through. What we see this morning as we continue our study of Jesus’ life is that Jesus gets what we are going through. Mark makes it very clear that while Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus fully understands the human situation and understands the trials that we face as a result of the sin and evil that are in the world. Let’s see how Mark develops this in Mark 1:9-13.
I. Once again, let’s review Mark’s emphasis as we see it in verse 9.
Last week, we saw that Mark’s approach in his gospel is to suddenly announce the coming of God’s plan of salvation to his people. We saw that there are not birth stories for either John the Baptist or Jesus for Mark’s point is to say that right now God is announcing the good news that will change everything. John is preaching his message of repentance in the desert, the place where the people were formed and where they must go in order to be re-created to be God’s new people. John’s message is one of judgment but also one of grace for those who confess their sins will also have their sins forgiven. This salvation will come from the Coming One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Verse 9 says that right at this specific time, Jesus arrives in the desert. The suddenness shows how God now is interrupting history to redeem his people. Here we have Jesus coming to the desert representing the people of God. Last week, we saw that the people must come to the desert to repent and become God’s people once again. In being baptized Jesus acknowledges that God’s judgment on Israel is just. However, at the same time his baptism says that his mission is to take on himself the judgment of God for God’s people.
However, notice the detail that Mark says that Jesus comes from Nazareth. A comparison of verses 5 and 9 will show what Mark is doing as Jesus arrives. Judea and Jerusalem are the central province and the holy city. Nazareth in Galilee, a region associated with disinterest in the Law. But what happens with the ones who come from these areas? In verse 5, ALL the people from Judea come out to be baptized by John. In verse 9, a single person comes from Galilee to heed John’s call to the desert. Mark is suggesting that all those from Judea and Jerusalem who came out to John are still rebellious to God’s call. Contrary to expectations, the only one from Galilee proves to be the unique Son of God who genuinely responds in the right way to the call in the desert. The one giving the Spirit humbles himself to receive the baptism of repentance.
“As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Many had come to the Jordan to be baptized by John, but only with Jesus was the “coming up” from the water answered by a “coming down” from above. In that regard, the “heavens being torn open” is a significant detail to notice. This echoes Isaiah 64:1, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and that you would come down, that the mountains would tremble before you.”
This prophecy is now being fulfilled as Jesus has come down from heaven and God is with his people. In the first exodus from Egypt, God had said that he would not come down until the people had been consecrated by confessing their sins while in the desert. Jesus comes to the desert to confess the sin on behalf of the many people. We will see that in God’s response, Jesus shows that he is not only the representative of God’s people but one whose repentance was perfect.
God’s response was the Spirit descending as a dove and the voice from heaven. The Holy Spirit and the dove must also be understood from the Old Testament. This is an allusion to Genesis 1:2 where the Spirit is hovering over the waters at creation, which suggests the action of the dove. The descent of the dove signifies a new creation, corresponding to the rending of the heavens. In the voice from heaven, God addresses Jesus as his only Son, the object of his love. The voice from heaven also recognizes that Jesus is the one who will fulfill the task of being the Messiah. Now while Jesus was baptized just as any other person who came to John, there is no indication that anyone other than Jesus understood the significance of that event. Only from the perspective of the resurrection can we know what Jesus’ baptism really meant.
III. Jesus’ temptation is described in verses 12-13 and once again notice the desert.
“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.” Notice that Mark states that this happened “at once.” The same Spirit who descended upon Jesus at his baptism now forces him to travel more deeply into the desert. Jesus stays in the desert for 40 days. This is how long Moses stayed on Sinai and how long Elijah wandered in the desert on his way to Mount Horeb. In their case, the 40 days reflects a crucial period for their coming mission.
There are a couple of other details that Mark does include that bear mentioning. Mark alone notes that Jesus was with the wild beasts in the desert. Someday Isaiah 35:9 and Ezekiel 34:23-28 both say that when the desert is transformed into paradise, no ravenous beasts will be in it. For now the wild beasts serve to stress the evil character of the desert. Jesus confronts its horrors, the loneliness and the danger of evil when he meets the wild beasts in the desert which represents the realm of Satan. Mark also refers to the ministering angels. The theme of the angels who guide and help Israel through the desert is prominent in many of the narratives in the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 19:5-7, an angel provides nourishment for Elijah in the desert.
The point of these verses is that Mark thinks of the temptation, the being with the animals and the service of angels as continuous events in the course of Jesus’ ministry. Mark’s account is dominated by Jesus’ ongoing confrontation with demonic forces and enduring temptation from the evil one. Jesus lived his whole life in the realm of evil as he fought against it.
Proctor asked, “Daddy, why do you all want to sing for the white folks?” Proctor’s dad answered, “They need the experience of having us stand there and sing this music, and we're going to keep on singing to them 'til times change down here.” Proctor continued, “It's kind of a continuing testimony to the fact that they were totally human and they were not going to succumb and not going to have their hearts eaten out with evil. There where my daddy was, standing in this same tradition, trying to make all things work together for good.” Proctor’s father immersed himself in the evil of all that racism in order to try to change it. Jesus immersed himself in the deep desert to be in midst of evil for us.
We still live in the realm of the deep desert. In the world today Christians are targeted simply because they believe in Jesus. Islamic terrorists behead Christians to terrorize other Christians. The power of Satan is attacking us and tempting us through those threats. We live in the deep desert of sin in our nation with all of its injustices. The Charleston shootings show just how real the racial divide still is for some. When people are killed purely because of the color of their skin, it reflects the fact that we live in a desert world that still is reeling under the effects of evil. We are in the deep desert of sin in our workplaces. Some have bosses that are unreasonable or unjust. Some work in places that are unjust in how they pay or treat their workers. We are still in the deep desert with respect to our families at times. There can be brokenness even where there should be unity and love. There are the effects of sin and evil even in the closest of relationships. We live in the desert today with the wild animals and beasts. Ray Charles once said, “There's nothing written in the Bible, Old or New Testament, that says, "If you believe in me, you ain't going to have no troubles.” Brothers and sisters, we are living in the deep desert!
However, the good news is that Jesus went to the desert to defeat all those evils! That means Jesus knows the pain and frustration of dealing with all those things that cause us pain and frustration; he was there and faced it all. He understands us and he gets us when we face those things. But even more, Jesus defeated those powers! Those things may frighten us or frustrate us but those powers are defeated! In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We need to cling to that perspective when things seem to be overwhelming.
Moreover, Jesus had ministering angels but we have something even greater: we have the Holy Spirit of God ministering to us, equipping us so we can persevere! In John 14:16-18, Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus said that he will give us the Spirit who will defend us and stand with us. We are not alone in this desert of evil but have the power of God in us and among us!