The temptation of Jesus: Mark's view

TEXT: Mark 1:12-13

Mark was, apparently, a man of few words. He described the entire temptation encounter between Jesus and the devil and in the wilderness in two verses.

Fortunately, Matthew and Luke give us greater detail - although John doesn't mention the encounter at all.

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT

This account, a centerpiece for Christianity, shows Jesus' humanity, the authority of the Word, and the release of Satan's authority over believers in Christ. It also shows the importance of resisting the tempter and how to do it.

Few other places in the New Testament show the human and godly sides of Jesus than in the story about His temptation in the wilderness.

Here in the wilderness, we see man, God and the devil locked in a struggle of, literally, Biblical proportions. Jesus, who had already emptied Himself of all the power He had in heaven with the Father, and who had wrapped himself in the weakness of our flesh, now has denied Himself of food for 40 days and 40 nights.

Those who have never fasted don't know what 40 days and 40 nights without food means. They don't know just how weak Jesus was in that flesh and how His spirit had cried out to God the Father.

Yet, Mark only devotes two verses to the temptation of Jesus - and, while Matthew and Luke do go into great detail, John doesn't even mention it in his account of the Gospel. Why?

Perhaps it is because the temptation of Christ, for all of its significance, is only part of the story of salvation and - although important - would have meant little had Christ failed the wilderness test, or had He not been obedient to God to the point to where He died on the cross for our sins.

THE RACE

Paul described the Christian life to the running of a race. The prize is not given to the winner of the race until the end of it. Those who quit running won't get any reward.

If Christ had not successfully subdued the devil, we would all have lost, and He would have not been suitable to God for sacrifice for our sins, having violated the principles behind every scripture He had quoted to the devil:

  • "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (REFERENCE: Matthew 4:4 and Deut. 8:3).
  • "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (REFERENCE: Luke 4:8 and Deut. 6:13)
  • "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord your God" (don't provoke Him). REFERENCE: Luke 4:12 and Deut. 6:16.

You can bet that Jesus would not have, had He accepted any of the devil's offers, received anything the devil promised Him, because the Evil One is the "father of all lies" (REFERENCE John 8:44 - where Jesus reveals Satan's true character).

EXTENDED TEMPTATION

Some think that Jesus was only tempted at the end of 40 days, but Luke shows that is not so. Jesus was tempted for ALL of those 40 days (REFERENCE John 4:2) - which culminated with the three greatest temptations.

Christians should not think it strange when they go through a similar experience. Sometimes, temptations don't go away quickly - they hang on for awhile. Regardless of the length of the temptation, Christians, like Jesus, need to read, think on, speak aloud, and hold onto the Word of God, resisting the devil to the point to where he has to flee from you (REFERENCE James 4:7).

Don't let an extended temptation discourage you - press onward. It does have an end.

YOU ARE THE 'WEAKEST LINK'

The devil loves to attack us when we, like Jesus, are at our weakest. And temptations are just a fact of life - for both believers and non-believers. Note in Luke 4:13 that Satan only left Jesus "for a season." The NIV says, "until an opportune time". You can bet that at least one of those times was in the garden of Gethsemane.

So, everyone goes through temptation - not once for all time, but all the time. The victory is in how we deal with that temptation. And we have help in this regard.

Jesus knows what temptation is like, and so is able to comfort us when we are tempted. Hebrews 2:18 says, "For in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted." The NIV says, "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help them who are being tempted."

You've likely read 1 Corinthians 10:13: "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." [ NIV ]

Note that the duration of the temptation is not mentioned in that passage, but rather the passage assures you that you will be given strength to stand up under temptation  for the duration of the temptation, regardless of how long it lasts.

Also note that God limits the duration of that temptation, as well. What does that mean? It means that our temptation has a definite end point. So, take courage, then, you who are weary.

Like Paul, we find that Jesus' strength [ NIV: "power" ]  is made perfect in weakness (REFERENCE 2 Corinthians 12:9). So, we come to know Christ's power through our weakness, and learn to utterly depend on the Lord to see us through - not in our own strength, but in His.