Temptation

Mark 1:9-13(NIV): At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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.”

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Two verses. Mark only gives us two verses, two sentences, on the temptation of Jesus. We know that the Gospel of Mark is brief and basic and events happen quickly and immediately in Mark’s Gospel. Still, I wonder why Mark doesn’t give us more details about the temptation of Jesus. Matthew gives us eleven verses on the temptation of Jesus and Luke gives us thirteen. John’s Gospel does not mention the temptation encounter with Satan. Mark does relate something to us that the other Gospels fail to mention. Mark tells us in Mark 1:13 that Jesus was with the wild animals in the Judean desert. In Jesus’ day there would have been many more wild animals living in the desert than there would be today. Mark seems to want us to understand that God and the angels took care of him and kept him safe during those forty days of temptation.

From our reading of the other Gospel accounts we know that Satan tempted Jesus with temptations that appealed to Jesus’ personal needs. Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. According to Matthew, Jesus was then taken by Satan to the highest point of the temple and was told to throw himself down, that God would protect him. The evil one wanted Jesus to attract attention for himself and to put to the test God’s faithfulness. And the last temptation according to Matthew was the devil taking Jesus to a mountain top and showing him all of the kingdoms of the world. Satan told Jesus that all of these kingdoms could be his if only he would bow down and worship him. It was a temptation that would offer Jesus the power of controlling the kingdoms of the world without having to take the way of the cross. Jesus answered each temptation by quoting scripture to the evil one. Luke tells us that, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”

How are you tempted in your daily walk with God? Are you tempted with things that appeal to your own personal needs or desires? Satan wants us to serve our own self-interests instead of serving and giving of our time and ourselves to others. Satan sought to tempt Jesus with things that would be personally gratifying to Jesus. However, Jesus came to serve others and to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus serving others instead of himself.

As followers of Christ, we are called to resist the evil one and the many temptations that he sends our way. We must be aware of what Satan is vigorously doing to keep us from following Christ and serving and caring for others. The evil one wants us to focus on our own needs and to put ourselves and our priorities first and foremost. We see this daily in many advertisements that stress the importance of putting yourself and your needs and desires first. Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 16:24 (NIV): Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

The Gospel writer Luke tells us that Satan left Jesus “until an opportune time.” Satan does this to us today as well. We endure a season of tempting and then the evil one leaves us for a time. He wants us to think that we have defeated him and that we have conquered our temptations all on our own. And then suddenly, without warning, Satan strikes again. And this time it is usually more intense. The evil one wants you to believe that you are a bad person, a failure, someone who is incapable of really serving God and living a Christ-led life. Satan wants to get inside your head and lead you to believe that God is somehow disappointed in you or doesn’t care about you.

 The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV): No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. It is during these times of temptation that we must turn to God through the might power of prayer so that we can stand firm against the onslaught of the evil one.

And finally, James gives us some great guidance on how to oppose the evil one. James 4:7 (NIV): Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Let Satan know that you are aware of the reality that he has already been defeated. Jesus defeated death, sin, and Satan by His work and sacrifice on the cross. Satan stands defeated and as a believer you must repeat that promise of our complete victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. Tell Satan that he stands defeated and that you are a follower of the risen Christ.

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