************ Sermon on Mark 1:13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 29, 2018
"He was with the Wild Animals"
Difficult Passages #10
Do you notice what is missing from Mark's account of the temptation of Jesus? Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark says nothing about the actual temptations faced by Jesus: to turn stones into bread, to throw Himself off the highest point of the Temple, and to bow before Satan.
But Mark does include one detail that is excluded by Matthew and Luke: Jesus "was with the wild animals." What does this mean and why does Mark include this?
I Mark's Audience and Message
A We need to start with Mark's audience. Mark wrote with the Romans in mind. This helps us understand his style and approach. So, the emphasis in this Gospel is on activity. Mark describes Jesus as He busily and quickly moves from place to place and meets the physical and spiritual needs of all kinds of people. Mark does not record many of our Lord’s sermons because his emphasis is on what Jesus did rather than what Jesus said.
B Next, we need to ask about Mark's message. Who does Mark say Jesus is? The opening verse of the book answers this question:
(Mk 1:1) The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God. As such, He is the Messiah, the King, the Ruler.
Mark immediately offers two proofs for this statement. First, he points to John the Baptist. Remember John's message?
(Mk 1:7-8) "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. (8) I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."John the Baptist is talking about the Messiah. According to John, the Messiah is Jesus. Jesus is someone powerful. Someone mighty. Someone Who can only be the Son of God.
Second, Mark points to the baptism of Jesus as proof that Jesus is the Son of God. A voice from heaven declared, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Mk 1:11). The word "Son" not only declares affection, but it also carries the meaning of "the one and only Son." The Father's announcement from heaven is supposed to remind us of what is said in Psalm 2: "You are my Son; today I have become your Father" (Ps 2:7). In Psalm 2 these are the words of God as He installed a new King on Zion (Ps 2:6). So, the Son rules. In fact, the Lord says,
(Ps 2:8-9) Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (9) You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.Therefore, all men and nations are warned to bow down before the new King and serve Him (Ps 2:10-12).
Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God. The One and Only Son. The Messiah. The King and Ruler before Whom all must bow or be dashed to pieces.
C We need to add one more element to answer the question "Who is Jesus?" Mark tells us Jesus underwent John's baptism. Now, this was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. A cleansing baptism.
But Jesus had no sin: neither actual sin or original sin. He was born perfect. He lived a perfect life. So, He had nothing to repent of. He needed no cleansing and no forgiveness. So, what was He doing at the River Jordan? Why was He baptized by John? Are you ready for the answer? He was taking the sinner's place. Even as He took the sinner's place in the judgment court of God. Even as He took the sinner's place upon the cross.
I want you to marvel about this and be amazed about this. The mighty Son of God, the One and Only Son, the Messiah, the King and Ruler before Whom all must bow or perish, took the sinner's place.
If we had to pick a "key verse" in this Gospel, it would be Mark 10:45.
(Mk 10:45) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.By the way, the title "Son of Man"is the way Jesus refers to Himself. It is a title that emphasizes His deity, His might, His power, His glory.
Mark identifies the book he wrote as Gospel. The word Gospel simply means "good news." To the Romans, Gospel meant "joyful news about the emperor." The "Gospel about Jesus Christ" is the Good News about another King. It is the Good News that King Jesus is the Son of God Who came into the world to die for our sins.
II The Temptation of Jesus
A It is within this setting that we need to read our text for this evening.
The Spirit "sent" Jesus into the wilderness. This is a strong word that Mark uses eleven times to describe the casting out, the sending out, of demons. The Spirit "sent" Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The eternal Son of God had a task, a mission, to perform. He was being given a test.
Notice the phrase that precedes this: "at once." "At once" is one of Mark’s favorite words or phrases. Mark uses it 42 times, 12 times in the first chapter alone. It expresses immediacy of time. So "at once" -- that is, immediately after His baptism by John -- the Spirit sent Jesus out into the desert. The same Spirit that descended upon Jesus like a dove, now moved in a different direction -- into the wilderness. "At once." No time was spent basking in the glory of the heavenly voice or the presence of the heavenly dove. The eternal Son of God had a task to perform and He immediately went to do it.
B In concise form, Mark presents us with three symbolic pictures. In the first picture our Lord was "in the desert forty days." Does this sound familiar to you? Our Lord’s forty days in the wilderness reminds us of Israel’s forty years in the wilderness.
Israel's forty years in the wilderness was one of the low points of Israel's existence. Think of the words and phrases that describe the people as they traveled through the wilderness when there was no water and no food: grumblers and complainers, hard-hearted, stiff-necked, disobedient, rebellious, idolaters, difficult to lead, never satisfied. How many of these words and phrases apply to us as well? Do you remember what God said about the people?
(Ps 95:8-10) do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, (9) where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. (10) For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways."Do you remember their punishment?
(Ps 95:11) So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest."They failed the test. They failed utterly. They were not allowed to enter the Promised Land and, because of them, Moses was not allowed to enter either.
Our Lord was also tested in the wilderness. We know that for forty days He also was without food and lacked water. Matthew tells us He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread" (Mt 4:3). Jesus could have done that; He could have turned stones into bread; He could have satisfied His hunger by using His divine power and might. Instead, unlike Israel, He trusted the Lord to provide.
He was tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin (Heb 4:15). Unlike Israel, our Lord did not fail when He was tested. In this first picture He shows Himself to be the true Israel. He is the holy Son of God, perfect in every way, without sin, fully righteous.
C Let's skip ahead to the third picture: Mark ends our passage by stating, "and angels attended him" (Mk 1:13). In the wilderness, where He was hungry, angels attended Him. What did the angels do? The Greek word that is used means "waiting at a table" or "caring for." It is the same word used for the office of deacon in the book of Acts when they waited upon the poor and hungry widows of Jerusalem. So, we can safely assume this means the angels looked after Jesus. They fed Him. They gave Him food to eat. And maybe, maybe, they did something else as well -- but more on that in a minute.
Every student of the Old Testament knows this is a picture of Elijah in the wilderness. Jesus received the same care from the angels that Elijah did in 1 Kings 19. Elijah was in the wilderness. He was about to go on a forty day's journey to Mt. Horeb (notice the number forty again). Two times an angel touched him and commanded him to eat a cake of bread baked over hot coals and to drink from a jar of water.
In the Old Testament, hardly anyone is greater than Elijah. He commanded dew and rain to stop and there was no dew and rain for 3.5 years. While he stayed with the widow of Zarephath, her jar of flour was not used up and her jug of oil never ran dry. At his request, the Lord sent down fire from heaven. God spoke to Him in a small quiet voice. The power and might of God was bound up and with Elijah. But Jesus, as the Son of God, is greater than Elijah.
D This brings us to the second picture: "He was with the wild animals." There is so much in this little phrase. This picture reminds us of at least three things.
"He was with the wild animals." First, the animals did not touch Him. The animals did not tear Him apart limb by limb. The animals did not devour His flesh. Jesus is like Daniel who was overnight in the den of lions. The lions did not touch Daniel either. Remember why? Daniel said,
(Dan 6:22) My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.We aren't told, but it is very well possible that the angels who attended Jesus shut the mouths of the wild animals -- even as they shut the mouths of Daniel's lions.
Think of how comforting these words would be to the Christians of Rome. What was happening to some of those Christians? They were thrown into the Colosseum where they were torn apart by wild and hungry animals. Jesus also faced the wild animals. So the Roman Christians were suffering even as their Lord suffered. And, they knew that the mighty Son of God was more than able to rescue them; but even if He didn't, they would continue serving Him.
"He was with the wild animals." Second, this picture is supposed to remind us of Adam in the Garden of Eden. The animals did not touch Jesus. They did not attack Jesus. They did not devour Jesus. They were at peace with Jesus even as they were at peace with Adam. Remember Adam with the wild animals? Naming them?
(Gen 2:19-20) Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (20) So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.Adam did more than name the livestock, birds, and beasts. He also looked them over to see if any would be a suitable companion. So, it was more than a quick look and name. In the Garden, Adam lived at peace with the wild animals.
Jesus is the second Adam. In the presence of Jesus, the wilderness was like the Garden of Eden before the fall into sin -- animals, wild animals, at peace in the presence of Jesus. This is what happens because Jesus did not fail and fall. The first Adam listened to the entreaties of Satan through the serpent. Do you know what Adam should have done? As the keeper of the Garden, it was Adam's job to chase the serpent out. As the keeper of the Garden, it was Adam's job to protect Eve. Jesus also faced the entreaties of Satan. But remained perfect and holy and pure in all His ways. So, says Matthew, "the devil left him" (Mt 4:11). There is no room and no place for Satan in the presence of Jesus.
"He was with the wild animals." Third, this picture is supposed to remind us of what is said by Isaiah about life under the Messiah in the new heavens and new earth:
(Isa 11:6) The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.So, in the wilderness what did Jesus do? He foreshadowed a life of peace -- with God, with the animals, with creation. In the wilderness Jesus gives us a picture of what life will be like without sin, without Satan, without evil. In the wilderness, Jesus gives us a picture of what life is like under Him.
(Cf Isaiah 65:25)
Who is Jesus? Better than John the Baptist. Better than Israel. Better than Elijah. Better than Daniel. Better than Adam. Better than you and me. He succeeds where everyone else fails. He is the pure and mighty Son of God.
Mark doesn't tell us this just to inform us. Mark wants us to say what was said by the Centurion at the end of his Gospel: "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mk 15:39). Mark wants us to believe Jesus is the Son of God. We either bow down before Jesus or we perish everlastingly.
Do you believe, congregation? Do you trust in Jesus? Have you given Him your life? Do you bow down before Him?
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