For forty days the Church around the world celebrates the season of Lent. Why forty? Primarily, that number was chosen to commemorate Jesus’ forty day temptation in the wilderness in which he resisted Satan, demonstrating his allegiance to God in his journey to the cross. The account of Jesus’ temptation in the Gospel of Mark which we read on Sunday morning is one of the lesser-detailed accounts of his temptation, and certainly contains some strange details regarding the wild animals and the ministry of angels:
Mark 1:12-13, “The Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”
The point of the passage is not in the details, however. One of the reasons Jesus was tempted was to demonstrate his humanity. Humanity is tempted daily with the allures of comfort and power—Jesus faced the same temptations. Another reason, however, was to demonstrate his divinity. Jesus spoke with the authority of God’s Word and though tempted, resisted Satan and did not sin.
Because Jesus—fully human and fully divine—was tempted, yet without sin, the author of Hebrews concludes:
Hebrews 4:13-16, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The implications of Jesus’ temptation are good news for the Church. We admit, as a church, that while all is not right in the world, similarly, all is not right in us. We are too willing to bend our knee to Satan and serve the gods of comfort or power. We need to be made right with God, in desperate need of a priest who will present us before God as righteous. No human priest can accomplish this for all broken people everywhere, because all human priests are likewise imperfect, limited to a specific place, and then die. Jesus, by living the life we were unable to live (without sin), dying the death we deserved to die (in our place), and rising to give new life to all who follow him, serves as our Great High Priest and makes us right with God.
This week, take note of every temptation and remember that you are not alone in your temptation. Pause to consider on your response, looking to Jesus as your example. And when you fail, confess—naming your sin and agreeing with God about it—to your Great High Priest who sympathizes, and “draw near to the throne of grace to find help in time of need.”
May the God of endurance and encouragement give you hope as you imitate Jesus during this season of Lent.