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Sermon February 18, 2024

Lent 1 B 2024 From Baptism to the Wilderness Sermon

Mark 1:9-15

Some of you may be having a bit of “déjà vu” this morning as I read the Gospel text for you today.  As you may recall, the text we just heard is the same text that we heard on January 7th, when we celebrated the Baptism of our Lord Sunday.

A few weeks ago, we heard “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the River.  And just as He was coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on Him.  And a voice came from heaven. ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleases.’” 

Well, today we hear what happened after the voice from heaven spoke.  Our text today states that the Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness.  And He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on Him.” 

Yes, the plot moves fast.  The Gospel of Mark wastes no time.  In just a few short verses Jesus is baptized, and then He is plunged into conflict and meets His opposition. 

Mark is very direct, and he leaves out all the stuff that might distract us.  And the word “immediately” stands out in this gospel.  When Jesus was baptized, “immediately” we are told, He saw the heavens open.  And after His baptism, Jesus was “immediately” driven out into the wilderness.   

Jesus went “immediately” from His baptism in the River Jordan to His temptation in the wilderness.  And that, my friends, is how it is for us too.  When we were baptized, Satan, with all his power, tried to separate us from God and His Redeeming Activity.  And we too were driven out into the wilderness. 

I think you will agree with me when I say it is a jungle out there.  And that the world is not the same place it was before Adam & Eve sinned.  Today we hurt one another.  We say bad things about one another.  We lie to one another.  We take things that belong to others.  And these activities are just the tip of the iceberg.    

Jesus was driven to the wilderness.  And like the wilderness we face, it was a cold, savage, and dark place.  In the Bible, the desert is described as a place of danger.  It is depicted as a remote, desolate, and lonely place.

But the desert is also described as the location where God tests His people.  Moses, for example, and the whole nation of Israel, were tested in the wilderness during their journey to the promised land.     

And Jesus Himself was no exception to this pattern of preparation. Jesus was driven out into the wilderness.  Jesus needed His wilderness time to prepare Himself for the suffering and cross that God had in store for Him.

And get this.  We are told that “He was with the wild animals.”  Mark is the only Gospel text to mention this detail.  Mark did so to highlight that even though the wilderness may be uninhabited by humans, it is a place where wild animals dwell and the abode of ugly beasts.

And what kind of animals are in the wilderness?  How about Scorpions, Mountain lions, the Syrian Brown Bear.  And yes, snakes too.  The wilderness was not a safe place to be.  The wilderness is unpredictable.  When one ventures out into the wilderness, one does so at one’s own risk.   For you see, no one knows what may be lurking under a rock or behind a shrub.

And yet, God sent Jesus to overcome the dangers and the temptations that are located out in the wilderness. We are told that Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness.  And while in the wilderness He was tempted by Satan. 

This was all part of God’s plan.   Jesus had to face Satan’s temptation; and get it right.  Our first parents, Adam & Eve, had failed in the garden.  Now it was Christ’s turn.  Jesus had to prevail, and Jesus had to overcome temptation, and Jesus had to face the danger in the wilderness.  

Make no mistake about, You and I are in the wilderness.  This world is a wilderness.  And Satan is on the prowl.  Scripture states that Satan goes about like a roaring lion, looking for people he can devour. 

Satan is like a deadly snake, ready to strike and poison anybody who crosses his path.  And we too, like Christ, are surrounded by wild beasts, who are watching, and waiting to rip our faith to shreds. But thankfully, Christ did prevail.  And Christ overcame the temptations thrown at Him in the wilderness.  And now, Christ is on our side, ready to bestow upon us the rewards of His faithful service.

Yes.  Everything happens fast in Mark’s Gospel.  First John appeared in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Then Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan.    

And after Jesus was baptized, the heavens were torn apart, and the Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove.  And a voice from a Heaven declared “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And then Jesus was driven out into the wilderness, and for forty days he was with the wild beasts, and He was tempted.  And the angels waited on Him. 

And when it was over, and after John the Baptist had been arrested, we are told that God’s appointed time had come.   

Yes.  Jesus had faced the temptations of Satan head on; and did not sin.  And now His ministry, and His Redeeming Activity among us, could begin.  Today, we know His ministry led Him to the Cross.  And His death.  His Resurrection.  And His Ascension. 

And that is why, as we read this text, we can joyfully sing “Though hordes of devils fill the land, all threatening to devour us.  We tremble not, unmoved we stand; they cannot overpower us.  Let this world’s tyrant rage; in battle we’ll engage!  His might is doomed to fail, God’s judgment must prevail.  One little word subdues him.” 

And that one little word, my friends, is Jesus, the One who overcame all the temptations Satan could throw at him.  The One who journeyed to the cross.  The One who suffered and died to correct the mistake we humans made in the garden so we can be reconciled with our Father who art in Heaven, forever and ever.  Amen.  

Let us pray:  Lord God, our strength, the battle of good and evil rages within and around us, and our ancient foe tempts us with his empty promises.  Keep us steadfast in your Word and, when we fall, raise us again and restore us through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.