Summary: How Jesus transcended the “if” / “then” logic of the Satan’s temptation. Jesus was human like us, but he knew how to overcome, and he teaches us. Please read on and be blessed!!!
This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 22nd February 2015; (St Oswald’s is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries).
“Please be seated, and join me in a short prayer.” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. Amen. (Psalms. 19:14)
Today's gospel reading is very familiar to us all; it is the story of Jesus being baptised in the River Jordan, … anointed by the Holy Spirit; and driven into the wilderness, … emerging after forty days to start his ministry.
I am putting this in its simplest form as what I am about to say is not as simple. ... Now, many Christians claim to have had a personal revelation or an encounter with the Lord; a conversion that has totally changed their lives. You maybe one of them, and I for one, … love to hear these stories, ... but only recently I have managed to put these testimonies into a logical order, and it came as a surprise to me that these encounters follow the same logic as this mornings gospel reading.
First of all there is a period of pain and suffering, normally a long drawn out period, where hope seams to have faded into the distance; and where life for the believer is just so unbearable to keep on living. … It is at this point in time where a prayer to the Lord is somehow answered, ... and something happens, ... something magical, but something without apparent logic, ... from which comes great relief, … that God is alive and he is watching over them.
Normally these experiences last for seconds, ... but they restore all hope and confidence, ... if fact they inspire the believer for the future, leaving an ecstatic feeling that may last for days, maybe even weeks; …, ... and then, ... something goes wrong, ... and they descend into a doldrums, ... a wilderness of where their faith is severely challenged.
Are you with me? I hope so, because that is exactly what happened to Jesus at his baptism, … and it is therefore an example for us all to follow. Let us go through it quickly and you will see.
First there is the long period of suffering; ... well we know very little of the early life of Jesus, and we do not know what kind of mood or state Jesus was in when he went forth for his baptism that morning, ... but we do know that he did suffer on this earth, otherwise he would not have been an effective preacher of the gospel, ... and he would not have been able to related to the people as well as he did.
Next, Jesus was baptised, first with water and later by the Holy Spirit, verses 10 and 11 says, "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: ... And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". …
Can you imagine a voice from heaven saying that you are my beloved son, or daughter, in whom I am well pleased? … Unlike the films we have seen, Jesus must have been elated at this; his spirits must have been raised sky high, ... the Holy Spirit of God expressing His true identity, and I am sure that Jesus could not contain himself.
But, and there is always a but, verse 12 and 13 then tells us, "And immediately the spirit drove him into the wilderness. ... And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; ... and the angels ministered unto him".
The Greek word here for driven is a very string word where Mark reserves for exorcisms or violent acts, from which we can conclude that it was necessary after such a high experience to be put to the test in the wilderness, ... it is not because God has left us, no, ... it is because God is developing us, or forming or reforming us into something else, ... something that he wants us to be.
And I just wish I could have heard this message 20 odd year ago; because that is exactly what happened to Jesus after his period in the wilderness, verse 15, "And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. ... Now after that John (the Baptist) was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God".
Jesus was now anointed, and qualified to continue with his ministry. Can you see how God was with Jesus during this time of trial, but it was a time necessary to mould Jesus into the son that God wanted him to be, ... the son who was about to do the work of his father in heaven. ... And although the bible cannot convey this, I have no doubt that this wilderness experience for Jesus was absolutely horrendous.