The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” (Mark 1:9-13, NRSV)
Mark's gospel is the shortest of the four gospels, and he wastes no time getting Jesus involved fully in his ministry. We're hardly into the first chapter, and Jesus is already baptized and sent out into the wilderness for 40 days of temptation by Satan. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus's baptism isn't recorded until the end of the 3rd chapter, and his temptation isn't recorded until the beginning of the 4th chapter. Before Mark completes his first chapter, Jesus selects his disciples, drives out an evil spirit, heals people at Simon's house, goes on a preaching expedition throughout the Galilee region, and heals a leper. Mark's Jesus is a focused and busy Messiah!
Another way to look at Mark's characterization of Jesus is that Jesus is intentional about why he came and what he will accomplish in the three short years he has for ministry. There's no time to play around or to be lackadaisical about his mission. We've all known people who are like that. We used to call them a Type "A" person because of their driven nature to finish tasks and realize goals as soon as possible.
And yet, Jesus still takes forty days in the wilderness to clarify his purpose and prepare his life for the challenges ahead. He practices the spiritual discipline of solitude, spending time with his Father to connect with God is open and strong. Of course, Satan tries to interfere, and although Mark doesn't go into detail in the same way Matthew and Luke do, Mark mentions the presence of wild beasts and the angels who attend to Jesus. Fully prepared by having spent time in the presence of his Father, Jesus heads off to begin his ministry.
We're in the season of Lent, a forty-day (not including Sundays), seven-week journey to Easter. We can choose to let the distractions of our busy lives keep our focus on the present tasks, but unless we also take time to spend some time communing with God, we will not have the strength or the wisdom to face the challenges of the days ahead. We entered into this pandemic shortly after Lent began last year, and many of us were able to use the disruption as a means of refocusing on God in ways we could never have imagined. The season's unexpected isolation allowed us to prepare for an unprecedented pivot to something we could never have imagined.
Although we're still amid the pandemic and there remain many unanswered questions about moving forward, let's be intentional about using this Lenten season as a time for preparing for whatever lies ahead. It's hard to prepare for the unknown unless we prepare with the One who knows our future. If we seek God in this season, we'll be ready for anything!