Tag Archives: temptations of Jesus

Baptism and the Passion of Christ

 

Christ tempted

 

 

“It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1, 9-13)

We read Mark’s account of the baptism of Jesus this year and we will read from his gospel all this year.

Mark’s account of the baptism and temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is the most succinct of the four gospels. Only five sentences. The theophany at the Jordan is quickly over. The heavens are open, and the Spirit, like a dove, descends on him. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased,” a voice from heaven says.

But then, the Spirit drives him out into the desert “at once.” He’s tempted for forty days, and the forty days point to a lifelong experience Jesus has. Wild beasts will always be in the world he lives in, and angels will always minister to him. Mark does not name his temptations either, they’re varied throughout his life. Ours are too.

The heavens open at baptism, all the gospels say. But more than the others, Mark’s gospel says that baptism calls us to participate in the Passion of Christ. His account and his gospel are important for understanding what baptism means for us.

The Temptations of Jesus

The temptations of Jesus in the desert probably reveal his human side as much as any other gospel story.

Though scripture says he was “like us in all things except sin”,we tend to see Jesus unlike us: a miracle worker, an assured teacher, a master of circumstances, someone above it all.

But look at him in the desert, weary, vulnerable, struggling for footing in a dangerous land. Was much of his life really like that?

Think of the demands people made on him. The blind man shouting from the roadside, the paralytic lowered from the roof, the woman pleading for her daughter were just some of the many who pressed their cares on him at every turn. Did he tire of it all?

Is the Evil One’s first suggestion, that he turn stones into bread, a lifelong temptation Jesus had to lay down this everyday burden, the burden of doing good, and rest?

Lord, art thou weary? Is the work

the father trusted to thy care,

his ruined temple to restore;

beyond thy mortal strength to bear?

Is thy omnipotence indeed

too sorely pressed in this our need?

Lord, art thou weary? –Janet Erskine Stuart

And what of the other temptations in the desert? Think how pressured he was by the political and religious establishments of his day to conform to their standards and be quiet. Just go along, they said, and you have a place with us, even a place of honor. Jesus called those powerful people “children of the devil”.

Yet was he tempted to conform and go along just the same?

Even his own disciples were his temptors. Listen to their advice to him: “Leave this place and go up to Judea, so that your followers will see the things you are doing. No one hides what he is doing if he is well known. Since you are doing these things, let the whole world know about you.” ( Jn 7:3-5)

Why waste time here in out-of-the-way Galilee? Use your spectacular power, they told him. You can be a world-wide success.

He must have responded to them as he responded once to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.”

The desert temptations must have been temptations Jesus faced everyday. If they are, how like us he is: tempted to give up under our daily burdens, tempted to compromise and follow the crowd, tempted to seek some extraordinary power rather than the quiet power found in ordinary life.

Can we be like him? Tempted, but still victorious? Will he not deliver us?

Lord Jesus,

we would rather see you strong

than hungry and weak.

Forty days alone,

no miracles, no eager crowds,

no friendly space to buoy you up,

no companion but the Evil One.

This is not the Jordan

where the Father said:

“Here is my Son, listen to him.”

And the Spirit, like a dove,

watched your every step.

Here alone,

you are a weary man,

tired by the daily strain,

at the limits of your strength.

Where would we learn this story,

but from you?

And did you speak of a lifetime

more than forty days

Were your days like ours?

“Turn these stones into bread.”

Were there days like desert stones,

when you walked in waterless places,

and grew weary doing good?

“All these kingdoms will be yours, if…”

Were there days

when promises looked better broken;

right and truth only unreal dreams;

and life secure somewhere else?

“Throw yourself down…”

Were there days

when the journey step by step,

simple words and simple deeds,

hardly seemed to make a difference?

By the mystery of your temptation

in the desert,

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.