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Gospel of Mark 1: 9-15 (NIV)
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Scripture does not make it absolutely clear why Jesus was sent into the desert for forty days. That it was God’s will for him is evident: “the Spirit sent him out into the desert”. The Gospel according to Matthew (4: 1) states that Jesus “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” however it seems to me unlikely that resisting temptation was the sole purpose of his time in the desert.
The baptism of Jesus effected a separation between his earlier life as the so-called carpenter (Mark 6: 3) and his itinerant preaching and healing ministry during which he led and taught a small band of dedicated disciples. We can wonder whether this time in the desert was for him a time of preparation, a time of putting behind him the tradesman of Nazareth and of learning more fully the will and the ways of the Father. That it was a time of deep and consistent prayer is not stated specifically in Scripture however the fact that Jesus was fasting for forty days implies dedicated prayerfulness.
Whatever the full extent of God’s purpose in having Jesus alone in the wilderness for that period, the evil one tried to take advantage of the situation. It seems that even today Satan will do whatever he is able to do that could “fling mud in the face of God”. Here was an opportunity to try to do so through God’s own Son. We should be ever mindful that the devil and the evil spirits at his beck-and-call are able to recognise the Son of God whenever they encounter him. Similarly they know which people among us have committed ourselves to Jesus as people of his kingdom.
Jesus did not tolerate the temptation of Satan. He used the word of God to rebuke the evil one. This must be an encouragement to us all to become even more familiar with the word of God. We need to be ready and equipped to defend ourselves and those for whom we pray with God’s word in times of temptation or attack. As the Apostle Paul urged (Colossians 3: 16), “Let the word of God dwell in you richly”.