March 7, 2014
Mark 1: 9-13
The 40-day season of Lent draws its symbolic structure from the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Mark’s account of this event is brief and lacking in detail compared to the accounts given by Matthew and Luke, but he still has this story right there at the beginning of his gospel. In fact, we haven’t yet heard Jesus say a word, but here we have him being sent, driven by the Holy Spirit out into the wilderness to face temptation. This is Mark saying, “You can’t get to the good news of the gospel until you first go through the desert.”
That’s because the desert is a place of bareness. In the desert, all the distractions and creature comforts are stripped away, and you are forced to confront yourself and come to terms with who you really are. This was at the heart of Jesus’ temptation. He had come into the world to do the Father’s work. But how exactly would he complete that mission? Satan was offering him alternative ways to define his purpose. Power, security, wealth – these things could be Jesus’ if only he would yield to what Satan was asking. These things are a long way from the path of service, suffering, and sacrifice that the Father had laid out before him. They were temptations indeed.
But Jesus rejected them. He chose to stay true to his vocation as the obedient and suffering servant. He would not let the ways of the world define either his mission or how he accomplished it.
We face the same temptations all the time. Temptation is more than just the occasional (or frequent) impulse to break a rule or do a wrong thing. It’s deeper than that. Temptation is the tendency to define our lives on terms other than God’s. We too have been called to a life of service and sacrifice and, yes, suffering love. And when our lives are said and done we will be measured not by how many accomplishments we have achieved or how high up the ladder we have climbed or how beautiful we kept our home or how well-liked we were by the world around us. We will be measured by faithful we have been to our vocation as the children of God – children who have been called to follow our Lord on his path to the cross.
Lord Jesus, thank you that when you faced the temptations of Satan you stood firm and steadfast. Just as much, thank you that on the cross you substituted your faithfulness for my waywardness. Give me insight this day to recognize the temptations that come my way. And by your strength, help me to stand firm in your love. Amen.