3-Week Series: Double Blessing


Summary: A look at the up and down nature of life as illustrated in Jesus own experiences....

Dakota Community Church

March 01, 2009 am


Mark 1:9-15

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

"And just as (euthus –– immediately) he was coming up out of the water" (v. 10a). Mark uses this word, euthus, more than the other three Gospel writers put together. It means immediately or directly. The NRSV "just as" fails to convey its abruptness –– its immediacy –– its directness –– its decisiveness.

"Coming up out of the water" suggests immersion baptism, as does the Greek word, baptizo, which means "to dip, to immerge, to submerge, to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, or to overwhelm" (Thayer, 94).

"Jesus’ encounter with Satan in the wilderness is probably related to the baptismal scene. In the baptismal scene we hear clearly who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. In the wilderness is revealed to us a major task of the Son of God. He will overthrow the rule of Satan and bring in the fulfilled time of salvation" (Jensen).

Mark 4:13-15

Then Jesus said to them, "Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

While Mark doesn’t describe specific temptations, Matthew (who uses Mark as one of his sources) will tell about three temptations: (1) to make bread from stones (2) to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple and (3) to worship Satan (Matthew 4:3-10).

"He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan" (v. 13a). Forty is a number often associated with intense spiritual experiences. God caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights to cleanse the earth (Genesis 7:12). The Israelites were in the wilderness forty years. Moses spent forty days and nights on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18; 34:28), and Elijah journeyed forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).

"and he was with the wild beasts" (v. 13b). It seems odd that Mark would mention Jesus being with wild beasts. While a number of species make the desert their home, they tend to be reptilian rather than mammalian –– quiet, hidden, unobtrusive. The desert appears to be barren –– empty. Why would Mark mention wild animals? While some scholars have suggested that Mark intends to show Jesus living peaceably with wild animals, most reject that notion and see the wild beasts as allied with Satan:

“‘With the wild animals’ (meta ton therion). This phrase, distinctive to Mark’s account, holds the key to his temptation narrative. ’Wild animals’ intensify the foreboding character of the wilderness…. They frequently appear in league with the forces of evil…. Hostility marks their relationship with humanity after the fall" (Guelich, 38).

Mark’s Gospel was probably written in the 60s when Nero was having Christians torn to pieces by wild animals. "Given the ravaging of Christians by ferocious animals during Nero’s reign, it is not difficult to imagine Mark including the unusual phrase ’with the wild beasts’ in order to remind his Roman readers that Christ, too, was thrown to wild beasts, and as the angels ministered to him, so, too, will they minister to Roman readers facing martyrdom" (Edwards, 41). If this Gospel was, as seems likely, written during or shortly after that period of persecution, we can be sure that the mention of wild animals did not bring to mind the peaceable kingdom to Mark’s first readers.

So Jesus is baptized and God voices approval from heaven and immediately the Holy Spirit leads him out into the wilderness.

1. Life is full of peaks and valleys.

In the natural realm.

First the joy of White Christmas, followed by the bills and freeze of January.

First the thrill of the wedding and honeymoon, then that first year of learning to live together.

The birth of a child, the sleepless nights.

Landing the dream job, going to work everyday.

Winning the national championship and then saying good bye to the team as the season ends.

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