Mark 1:9-13 Reflections Part 4

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"the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness" (Mark 1:1)


the Spirit immediately drove him out

Note the word ‘immediately’. Things move swiftly in this action-packed Gospel of Mark and words like ‘immediately’, ‘at once’ are frequent.

With confirmation of identity and divine approval comes strength to face temptation. Like Jesus we, too, shall have trials but in him we are overcomers
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ (John 16:33)
The Holy Spirit led Jesus to a place of testing, a place of temptation, the wilderness. We have seen the wilderness as a place of humility, repentance, revelation and now it is a place of testing. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry was no different. He had grown in wisdom, he had grown in humility, he had grown in his relationship with the Father. He had reached the moment of divine approval and now comes the time of testing. Any sort of official recognition and approval, any certificate or university degree comes after a test or examinations. You cannot drive a car without first passing a test to obtain a driving license. There is normally some sort of exanimation that evaluates our real preparation for the task ahead and consolidates our awareness of that preparation. The spiritual life is no different. This time of testing comes to all of us. As we have been baptised into Jesus in him we have access to all that he is and all that he has. In him we have victory, in him each one of us can say “I have conquered the world”; in him we are overcomers
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37-39)
This is the protective fence that we have. The love of Christ, which is invincible, dwells in us and enables us to overcome all testing that the world can throw at us, all the trials and tribulations so let us be full of confidence, trust and gratitude and above all
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
Yes, even in time of trial and suffering: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”. (Philippians 4:13). Forty days is a long time to spend in the wilderness, away from all distractions listening attentively to the guidance and will of the Father before acting, before beginning his active ministry. It reminds us of the forty years the Israelites spent in the desert after their liberation from the slavery in Egypt before entering the Promised Land, it is also the number of days of Lent when we go through a time of fasting in preparation for the joy of the resurrection of Easter. Jesus, like Job, goes through a period of testing. Both were overcomers.

We tend to forget that behind all trials and tribulations lies Satan, the adversary, and the supernatural forces which are acting behind the scenes, a warfare was going on and still is. Satan has not given up. From the wilderness to the cross he attempts to make a public spectacle of Christ and of Christians. The cross was the most dramatic attempt of Satan to do this (Colossians 2:15) but this apparent defeat was transformed into victory. He is now out to do the next best thing, make a public spectacle of us. To show us how weak we are, how incoherent, how defeated we are outside of the protective power of God. There can be no true victory unless, like Christ, we, too, spend time in the wilderness, in communion with the Father. ‘Take courage; I have conquered the world!’ listen to the voice deep down in the ground of your being, in your spirit, it will resound loud and clear. We shall overcome. We shall overcome the world, temptation, persecution, everything that the forces of evil can throw at us.  Without Christ we cannot survive, with him we come out of the battle victorious in he who gives us strength:
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
In his Gospel Luke says Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit when he entered the wilderness:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness (Luke 4:1)
After this period of testing or temptation Luke says he came out full and empowered by the Holy Spirit:
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. (Luke 4:14)
If we are called to do the work of God it can only be in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only God can do the work of God and he does that through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We are now about to see Jesus working in the power of the Holy Spirit communicating the good news, calling, healing, liberating people from all sorts of oppression.

It is interesting to note that in the simple actions and situations of these few verses we have a brief overview of the whole of the Christian message and spiritual journey. Every action related in Mark is full of spiritual and theological significance.

Robert Walsh

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