Faithlife Sermons

Get Out of My Face, Satan

Year B, 1st Sunday of Lent  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Story in Mark

The Story in Mark

The story of the temptation of Jesus in Mark is noticeable different than the other gospels. The key elements are included. We find Jesus in a desert setting for forty days. Wild beasts are in the vicinity. He is alone. Satan is tempting him and angels are attending him. Most importantly resists evil in all three accounts. But Mark does not mention anything about the actual temptations. He does not include the conversations that Jesus has with Satan nor does Mark mention Jesus quoting Scripture. If we just had Mark’s account of the story, the header to this section may have read, “Jesus in the Wilderness.”
Was the sequence and content more like Matthew’s or Luke’s? Jesus does not quote Scripture. If we just had Mark’s account of the story, the header to this section may have read, “Jesus in the Wilderness.”
Why does Mark leave out these important elements? I would like to suggest two possibilities. First, he is in a hurry to get to the Passion week. He does not spend time on events that he considers secondary in importance. The specific conversation was a secondary matter, so Mark could exclude it.
But Mark does not let us know what the temptation included. Was the sequence and content more like Matthew’s or Luke’s?
The second possibility may be from Mark’s understanding of the real temptation that Jesus faced. Mark believed that all the temptations could be condensed into one. Jesus would encounter this one temptation at Gethsemane. Kneeling in the garden while his disciples slept, Jesus begged the Father to take the cup from him. Three times Jesus said “Yet, not what I will, but what you will.”
The brevity of Mark’s account gives us insight into Mark’s understanding of the real temptation. That one would take place much latter when Jesus begged the Father to take the cup from him in the garden. The testing lasted until Jesus said “Yet, not what I will, but what you will.”
In the most
Once you strip away all the religious fluff that is the essence of the spiritual life. Our we going to do it our way or his way. Will we allow Satan to use good intentions to lure us off the path of righteousness? Will we allow the infinite number of distractions of life to cause us to swerve off course or will we remain faithful.
Mark’s brevity in his description allows us to examine the temptation from a different angle than if we were reading Matthew or Luke. Instead of considering the three challenges by Satan we can focus on other aspects of the story.
This morning I would like to focus on the actual word—temptation. The Greek word that is used in this passage is also used for testing and for trials. At the moment there are at least 34 parents in Parkland, Florida who are going to the most gut-wrenching testing that any parent could suffer. While different in substance the people of Houston, New Orleans, and other communities along the Gulf Coast continue to slough through the trial of rebuilding their lives after hurricanes ravaged their neighborhoods and homes. Only those families who lost everything to the fires in Southern CA can truly empathize with them.
The Greek word that is used in this passage is also used for testing and trials.
Fortunately, most of us have not had to face such devastating trials. However, many of us know what it is like to have to walk through difficult circumstances. They may be emotional trials or physical one. They are both very painful. We may not know what it is like to live in an actual desert but we have experienced times of dryness. The tragedies of life sapped us of strength. We felt weak and weary. A dryness coated our mouth and soul.
So what does the temptation of Jesus tell us about the spiritual life during these times of temptation?

Common Theme

So what is my point?
First, walking through a desert experience is a common theme in the Christian life. Moses had to flee to the wilderness to escape from Pharaoh's wrath. The people of Israel were sent into the desert by God after they expressed serious doubt over defeating the inhabitants of the promised land. Joseph had a wilderness experience when his brothers sold him to a band of Midian merchants. The situation worsened when he was wrongly accused of rape by Potifur’s wife. He spent years in Pharaoh's dungeon before the opportunity to step out of that dark prison came.
NT Wright offers a very harsh challenge to the reader:
The Lord and His Prayer Chapter Five: Deliver Us from Evil

If Jesus, straight after his baptism, had to go out into the desert to face the whispering and mocking and wheedling and beguiling voices inside his own head, which he came to recognise as the voice of the enemy, why should we suppose we will be spared something of the same?

And an ancient Jewish rabbi warned his disciples:
The Lord and His Prayer Chapter Five: Deliver Us from Evil

‘My child’, says the wise old Jewish writer Ben-Sira (2:1), ‘If you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.’

Growth Not Punishment

The desert is a time of testing. God uses the barren wasteland to build our faith. We must wait patiently for God to unveil his plan. It requires time, sometimes years before we share in the blessings of God. But during this period of refinement, God the Holy Spirit strengths our resolve to serve faithfully and with passion.

Growth Not Punishment

The spirit will lead us into the wilderness for a time of testing not because we have failed to accomplish a task or have committed an act of disobedience.
What happens to Jesus in the wilderness is as divinely orchestrated as what happened to him at the Jordan.
The temptation is the opportunity for Jesus to establish himself as a free human agent who chooses to follow God’s will for his life. He is a not a robot devoid of autonomy. He is not a puppet on a string. Jesus must be tested by Satan.
When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden he wanted them to choose whether they would obey him. With that choice to obey came the option of disobedience. God still sends his people into times of spiritual deserts. Times when money is scarce. Friends seem too busy to offer a listening ear. During these times are ministry seems ineffective. We may not feel competent. Every assignments ends with a flop. Few people come to faith through our ministry or grow in their commitments. Nothing appears to be going right.
The desert is a time of testing. God uses the barren wasteland to build our faith. We must wait patiently for God to unveil his plan. It requires time, sometimes years before we share in the blessings of God. But during this period of refinement, God the Holy Spirit strengths our resolve to serve faithfully and with passion.
In the desert God shapes us and tests us to determine if we are willing to say, “Not my way but your way Lord.
James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 40.
James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 40.

He Can Sympathize

The temptation of Jesus also tells us that he can sympathize with us during our experiences because he himself went through them.
In the book of Hebrews we read:
In the book of Hebrews we read:
Hebrews 4:15 NIV84
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Heb 4:15
Jesus understands the sorrow of life because he has grieved over the death of relatives. I think that we can speculate that the first death that occured in the his life was Mary’s husband, Joseph. We know that he was with Mary and Jesus when Jesus was 12 and the family visited Jerusalem at Passover. But that is the last we hear of him. He was probably many years older than Mary. It would be safe to presume that Jesus had a good relationship with Joseph. Jesus would have grieved over Joseph’s passing.
Later we will read about the death of John the Baptist. When Jesus hears the news, he seeks out a quiet space with just his disciples. He wanted to remove himself from public ministry, perhaps to grieve.
My friends, do you know sorrow, so does your friend and savior.
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