Sunday, January 31, 2016

This week's lesson (January 30 - February 5): Victory in the Wilderness

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 -- Mark 1:12f (NIV).
Read Mark's account of Christ's temptation, and you'll be surprised by what he leaves out.
Unlike the accounts in Matthew and Luke, you see, there's nothing in Mark about the nature of that temptation -- no request that stones be turned into bread, no challenge to prove God's care, no offer to trade the kingdoms of this world for an act of worship. 
Instead, we have this laconic account:
  • the Spirit sent Jesus into the eraemos -- a desert place.
  • He was there 40 days.
  • Satan tempted him.
  • There were wild animals in that desert.
  • And the angels took care of him.
That's it. Nothing more. A big disappointment all around . . .

Until you read Mark 1:35 and you realize that Peter's critique of Christ's priorities also took place in an eraemos -- a desert place (or better yet, "a deserted place").

And every time Jesus goes someplace by himself to pray -- yes, every time he's by himself in an eraemos -- we learn a little more about the temptation Jesus faced there in the desert . . . 
The same temptation, as a matter of fact, Jesus faced all through his ministry.

No, I'm not going to tell you what this temptation really was; you need to read the Gospel of Mark for yourself.

But in telling this story the way he does, Mark makes the same point that's at the heart of this week's lesson: it's the fact that following God is a process. We don't defeat temptation and move on, in other words; we don't get it over and done with so that we can get on with our lives.

Instead, we need to continually choose -- to continually decide who we trust . . . and it's a decision we need to make over and over and over again.
And every time we make that decision, we learn a little bit more about God.
Every time we make that decision, we learn a little bit more about ourselves.
Mind you, Mark doesn't come right out and say this -- not exactly.
In his gospel, it's what he doesn't say that's important.

(This is an edited version of the commentary I wrote for the Sabbath School lesson on March 23, 2008.)

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