ESV Mark 1:9 abIn those days Jesus bcame from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he asaw bthe heavens being torn open cand the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And aa voice came from heaven, b”You are my beloved Son;1 with you I am well pleased.” 12 aThe Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 aAnd he was in the wilderness forty days, being btempted by cSatan. And he was with the wild animals, and dthe angels were ministering to him. 14 aNow after John was arrested, Jesus bcame into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, a”The time is fulfilled, and bthe kingdom of God is at hand; crepent and believe in the gospel.” (Mar 1:9 ESV)
Mark doesn’t lollygag around. One of his favorite words is “immediately.” The word drags us by the hand from scene to scene as Jesus heals people, casts out demons, forgives sins, and raises the dead. But the first place we encounter the word is in Jesus’ Baptism. We can almost still hear the Father’s words “You are my beloved Son” (v 11), and the water seems to have barely dried on Jesus’ head when the Holy Spirit pushes him into the wilderness. “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (v 12). Why? To be tempted. And that’s crucial! Now! Because we are tempted too. Now! It’s urgent that
Jesus, Who Was Tempted, Helps Us—Urgently!— When We Are.
With urgency, Jesus is tempted in all ways as we are.
Yes, immediately Jesus goes from water to wilderness. The Holy Spirit, who descended upon Jesus to dwell in him in his Baptism, now drives him into the desert with the same urgency with which God took the children of Israel from the Egypt side of the Red Sea to the wilderness side of the Sinai peninsula.
Was Jesus’ temptation an occasional thought that passed through his mind while he fasted? Was he limited to one temptation a day or two or three? Mark is sparse in his details about Jesus’ temptation, but this he does teach us: Jesus was tempted all forty days of his time there, for “he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan” (v 13). The writer of Hebrews gives us this insight: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15).
That Jesus was tempted in every respect may be offensive to some people, perhaps even to you—to think Jesus was tempted by the most heinous of sins. To steal? Okay. To curse? Possibly at the Pharisees when they were pestering him. To commit adultery? Now we start to get uncomfortable. We don’t get a laundry list of temptations for Day 4 in the desert or Day 38, but the fact still stands that Jesus was tempted in every respect throughout those forty days and throughout his ministry.
To the very end, Jesus is tempted—even on the cross. Remember, after these wilderness days, Satan waited for a more “opportune time” (Lk 4:13). Many would have given Jesus much latitude to have cursed his enemies, to have cursed throughout the incredible pain he suffered on the cross. But Jesus did not. He prayed to his Father; he prayed for his enemies; he gave comfort to the repentant thief who at least once and probably more times had given in to temptation that led to his own crucifixion. Jesus prayed for you and your temptations even as he died for you. And this was for you. By his complete and full temptation, without sin, without faltering one single time, Jesus has credited your account with perfect resistance of all temptation.
With urgency, Jesus comes to us with help and hope.
And now what of your present life of temptation? Examine you own heart. Do you have a temper? Are you tempted to get angry, perhaps even lose control? Are you tempted to push people around, use intimidation to get your way? Are you tempted by pictures, movies, books that arouse your sexual desires? Are you tempted to pride, to think of yourself as more intelligent or a better Christian? These are just examples of the way people may be tempted. As a pastor, in confession and absolution, I hear many, many sins and temptations confessed. From lying and gossiping, to drug and alcohol abuse, to sexual abuse to adultery and lust for both the opposite and the same sex. Only you know your specific temptations. But as a pastor I also know that there is forgiveness and compassion for you because Jesus knows all about temptation and He bore your sin in his flesh and took it to the cross, whatever your specific temptation may be.
At your Baptism, these words were prayed: “And deliver us from temptation.” Jesus has been and will continue to be by your tempted side until you are finally at peace and rest eternally with him. Because you are declared also to be the beloved son or daughter of the heavenly Father, you have all the help of his Son, Jesus.
Oftentimes, Satan plays the same old song of your temptations. Satan is a keen observer of behavior, and he will not let up until you breathe your last. But you are not without help and hope. Remember, Jesus was tempted in every way, and that means Jesus was tempted the ways you are tempted. Was he not tempted to anger and to fight back when he was arrested and tried on false charges, when he was spat at, whipped, scourged and hung on a cross? Was he not tempted to use his weight to push others around and intimidate them when he saw corrupt temple officials and cheating salespersons defile his Father’s house? Was he not tempted by sexual desires when the beautiful women of Jerusalem and Galilee waited on him and washed his feet with their tears? Jesus knows what temptation is all about and he is with you when you are tempted to give you strength to fight them. Because he was tempted in every way as you are tempted, you are not without help and hope. With that in mind, the offensiveness of his temptations slips away, and we have something to grasp firmly. Now then,
With urgency, we turn to Jesus when we are tempted.
Those great words of comfort from Hebrews even go on: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:15–16).
As tempted people, dare we draw near to God’s throne of grace? Certainly you can! Jesus has opened the way for you. Not only do we hold on to our Savior Jesus, who has been through the very temptations you are going through, but we also cry out our urgent prayers to our heavenly Father, who hears every word. “Forgive us our trespasses!” “Lord have mercy!” “Forgive me for being so short tempered with John the other day.” “Help me to resist looking at those nude pictures on the internet!” “Pardon my sin when I intimidated my daughter to get her to do something for me!” In Jesus own words: “And lead us not into temptation.”
And when do we so often pray these words? Immediately(!) before the Lord’s Supper, where we receive the body and blood of Jesus, who resisted all temptation. Dear people of God, this precious gift strengthens you, your flesh and mind and spirit, in times of temptation . . . and forgives you for every time you give in to those temptations. Jesus is here for you, even now—right now!—in your temptation, to help you resist and to restore you when you fall. Jesus, who was tempted, helps you when you are tempted. Thank God that he was tempted, and that he was tempted for you. Amen.