What has history to do with Christ? Everything! In our first few looks at the book of Mark, we have seen repeated connections between Old Testament narratives and promises to Christ. Mark is teaching us principles for understanding and interpreting history. Even our playing out of history today!
Mark has taught us the following parallels:
- Jesus is the Angel of the Lord who led Israel out of Egypt and in the wilderness. An interesting note often missed is that it was the Angel of the Lord who came down and gave the Law to Moses.
- Samuel (John the Baptist) anointing David (Jesus) to be king (1 Samuel 16).
- Elijah (John the Baptist) passing on his “spirit” to Elisha (Jesus).
- Jesus is the promised offspring of David, who will rule forever (Son of Man).
- The Israelites (Jesus) coming into the Promised Land (Jerusalem).
Mark’s Jesus is none other than the Redeemer-King who unites and fills up all of history. Jesus is Law-Giver, Prophet, King, and Liberator. What will he teach us next?
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. – Mark 1:12-13
“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”
Driven to conquest
The newly anointed King begins to fulfill His calling by the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t move on too fast! The word translated as “drove” is good, but a stronger translation could be “forcefully cast out.” This same word is used for casting out demons. So why was Jesus “cast out” into the wilderness? It wasn’t that He wouldn’t go. That would be resisting God, which is a sin. I believe we are getting a hint that Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the pawns of the Devil is inescapable. Not only is Christ’s warfare sanctioned by the Spirit (baptism/anointing), but the Spirit demands it. The Trinity is behind the unstoppable force of the Kingdom of God.
One more note of importance, the Greek word for “drove” is used in the following verses:
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. – Matthew 12:35
And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” – Matthew 13:52
A wilderness Spirit
The Holy Spirit is not unacquainted with manifesting Himself in the wilderness. He was present while the people of God were wandering in the wilderness after crossing the Red Sea. The whole time He was “hovering” over them. He was protecting them from ultimate destruction due to themselves and others.
The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus Christ before going into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit strengthened and protected the human nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. Another Exodus, with the presence of the Spirit descending upon the New-Israel (Jesus), is an indictment of Israel at that time. The Spirit removed his presence from Israel and its physical temple and came to rest on Jesus. Jesus is the New Israel.
Forty days of dominion training
“And he was in the wilderness forty days”
Of course, Mark doesn’t take a break in hammering home important points. Jesus is the fulfillment of all history preceding His coming, and He is the watershed of all history to follow His earthly ministry. Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years, and Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days.
First, Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years because of their disobedience. They lacked the faith and courage to go into the promised land, judge the wicked nations populating it, and establish God’s Kingdom. Jesus wandered in the wilderness for forty days. Not because of His own sin, but from the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was taking on the failures of His people.
Second, we should remember the “scapegoat” in Leviticus 16. There were two goats on the Day of Atonement. One for a sacrifice and the other (scapegoat) was sent away. This was done for atonement, or the covering Israel’s sin. The sin of God’s people would have resulted in them losing access to God presence, if not for God’s grace. Jesus would be the one to die “outside the camp” on the cross to bear the curse of the Law. Jesus is the one who was forsaken by God for the atonement of His people, Christians. This wilderness example is preparing us for the death of Jesus.
The Gospel is Law
An interesting note from Leviticus is that grace is commanded. To put it more provocatively, the Gospel is Law. One author pointed this out clearly:
A great problem emerges when we see the revelatory law chiefly as a legalistic system of commands that one must keep in order to obtain eternal life. The law is a revelation of God’s grace that demands belief and trust (faith) in the great God of heaven and earth. That belief, in turn, requires fidelity in the form of a heart-charged (not a moralistic) obedience. The law is anything but legalistic. The law inspires and demands love for God and his glorious, life-imparting precepts.
The sacrifices were substitutes for the penalty of death that God had righteously leveled on sinful man (Lev. 16; 17:11); the animals died so that sinful men and women would not have to die. These sacrifices showed that sinners cannot save themselves; they must trust in God to save them. The Jews were required (“Law”) to live by grace through faith in the coming Redeemer (“Gospel”). The OT Law in its sacrificial system is filled with the Gospel. In the OT, Law includes Gospel.
– P. Andrew Sandlin, Wrongly Dividing the Word: Overcoming the Law-Gospel Distinction [Kindle Edition], loc. 357, 366
The Gospel is mandatory. The Gospel is Law. May every man and nation repent and believe.
A little defeat lost the cosmic war
“Being tempted by Satan”
Deny the dragon and take the world
To understand the defeat of Satan in the wilderness and its significance for all of time, we should dust off some good ole’ Biblical Theology.
What might have been…
In Genesis 1-2, God created Adam as His vice-regent to rule over the world while being in submission under God. Adam and Eve were to take dominion over creation, multiply and fill the earth, and “work” and “care for” the garden (Genesis 2:15). Later, the Hebrew for “work” and “care for” are also used for “protecting” and “serving in” the temple, as well as general obedience to God’s Law. Man was to steward and improve upon the inheritance they had received from God.
Short of glory by a hard fall
The problem is that man disobeyed God. As Douglas Wilson has said repeatedly, God placed man in a garden of “yes” with one “no”. The one “no” was to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good evil. They did. There are debates on whether God would have allowed Adam and Eve to eat after a time of testing, or if it was a permanent ban. But the point is that they chose to disobey and act like gods. The result is that they lost their inheritance … the world. When Adam sinned, he gave over his authority to the serpent (Satan).
The nature of the temptation
How do we know the inheritance (world) was passed on to Satan through the disobedience of Adam? “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.” (John 14:30) From the lips of Jesus, we learn that from post-fall to Jesus’ time, Satan was the ruler of the world. A position once belonging to Adam. With that background laid out, we can appreciate what the temptation entailed. When Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and said, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me,” (Matthew 4:9) the offer was legitimate. The adversary (Satan) had the authority to give all the kingdoms to Jesus on the spot because he ruled the world.
Jesus’ response: Gotta earn it the right way
Many expositors go wrong here. They see Jesus’ response, “Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve,” (Matthew 4:10), and they take that to mean that Jesus isn’t concerned with ruling the kingdoms of the world. Huge problems arise from this take on the text.
Jesus said nothing about His desire, or lack thereof, for the nations. Quite technically, Jesus said, “I won’t worship you.” To attribute to the text that He wasn’t interested in the nations is entirely fanciful. Taking this view could be because of an honest error in exegesis, “wish fulfillment” for a theological presupposition, or straight-up deception.
From the text itself, we are safe to presume the opposite conclusion. Temptations are only effective if there is a desire for the thing offered. Temptation takes a good desire and offers a wicked and lawless route to obtain it. Jesus was hungry; that’s why He was tempted with bread. Jesus was facing difficulty; that’s why He was tempted with God’s deliverance. Jesus desired the kingdoms of the world; that’s why He was tempted with the nations.
The take-away from the temptation is simple. Jesus did not say he did not want the kingdoms, but that He wouldn’t gain them by sinning.
Did Jesus get what He wanted?
Satan doesn’t give up in the Gospels. After his colossal failure to tempt Jesus, the Devil’s lackeys (Pharisees) start issuing accusations against Jesus. After besting Satan, Jesus went into the temple to read a prophecy from Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21). Jesus declared that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy. He is God’s chosen one to heal and set captives free.
In direct contradiction to everything Jesus has taught, the Pharisees say Jesus is working for Satan.
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. – Mark 3:22-27
Jesus says a few things. Satan wouldn’t destroy his own kingdom by working directly against it. Satan is the strong man. Only a stronger man can bind a strong man. Once the strong man is bound, then his stuff can be taken. Now we put it together and the picture is clear.
Who is the strong man? Satan. What is his stuff? The world (which Adam lost when he was disinherited). Who is the one casting out Satan? Jesus. Then, who is the one binding the strong man, Satan? Jesus. What is Jesus doing? Plundering Satan’s stuff.
Jesus got what He wanted
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
“And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him”
The Spirit brought Him to the testing ground, carrying the burden of His people’s sin, to see if He would be the faithful, royal Son of God. He succeeded. The wilderness was the preparation ground for the rest of His earthly ministry. The text here contains the combo of “40” and “wilderness.” These carry the ideas of testing and deliverance. He was tried and afterward taken care of by angels.
What does this tell us about Jesus?
- Jesus is the new Israel, who is protected and cared for by His heavenly Father.
- He is the scapegoat who took our sin on Himself, and was forsaken by God.
- Jesus is our Captain in our battle against unrighteousness in our hearts and in the world.
- Jesus is the stronger man who defeats Satan, binds him, and takes the “nations of the world” from him.
So what? (application)
Denying good results through unethical means
Just like Jesus, to gain something good, even something promised to us from God, we cannot sin to get it.
Treat difficulties as training for future success
God may bring us into times of testing, but we must see it as a preparation for future ministry.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
Testing is the time to walk by faith, and trust in the victory of Christ to give us victory in life.
Acting as little “plunderers”
Jesus dealt the death blow at the cross. Satan is doomed and has lost any claim to the world. However, he still has influence due to the sins of God’s creation, both believing and unbelieving. Christ has renewed us to the place of dominion, giving back the inheritance that we once lost. Jesus said that the “meek” (controlled/tamed power) will “inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Paul says that Christians should grow in meekness (Greek word translated as “gentle”) since it is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Putting it together means that we, by growing in meekness (or the degree by which we are guided by God’s Law), we will following Jesus in plundering the remain vestiges of Satan’s grasp of the world. How do we do this?
- Conform our attitudes and actions to God’s Law.
- Expand our knowledge and service in the places that God has given us influence, which in turn gains us more authority. As we grow in godly and ethical authority, as Christ’s representatives, so does God’s Kingdom on earth.
- Cultivate the skills (based on passed successes) and giftings (imparted by the Holy Spirit) to be more effective.
- Identify and specify your life calling. The one thing that you can do the for the Kingdom now, and as an inheritance for the future, which would be extremely difficult to replace if you were not to complete the task (thank you, Gary North).
Matt is a husband, father, and an avid reader. He holds a bachelor’s degree from New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy in Applied Christian Studies.