Lent 1 – Overcoming Satan and Temptation
Sunday, February 21, 2021
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You Can Trust Jesus
Aproduct you can trust. People who sell you items want you to trust them. They want you to trust in their product. How they get your trust is fascinating. Some cite science, telling you how, because of science, this product is better or safer for you. Others appeal to the numbers of people, as if to say, “so many people try this, so you can trust it.” My favorite ads are the ones who bypass your brain entirely and go for your gut. Who cares if this product is reliable? It’ll be fun! This morning we ask that sort of question, but not about a product. We ask the question about a person. How can we trust Jesus? In the gospel according to Mark, we read: “<12> Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. <13> He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving him.” (Mark 1:12–13 CSB17)
In these words, the Holy Spirit “throws” Jesus into the wilderness.1 And where the Spirit throws Jesus is important to consider. We want to understand that there is a difference between the prairie and the wilderness.2 Here, if you are left alone on a summer’s day in the middle of the prairie, the worst that might happen is that the mosquitoes might get to you. Where Jesus went, it was different. Think more of Australia today. My brother-in-law is from Australia. And he mentioned that people in Australia really don’t go out into the wilderness. And they don’t go out there because it is just not safe. There are predator animals out there that can get you. There are insects and scorpions that can get you. If that it’s enough, there are plants that can poison you. Think of that when you think of Jesus in the desert.
So that is what is in the wilderness. But what is going on in the wilderness. Jesus is continually being tempted by Satan over the span of 40 days. This too is a fact we need to think through and consider. You can trust Jesus. How do you know? He was surrounded by not just scorpions and wild animals. He was surrounded by Satan. In the other two gospels we hear of the top three temptations that Satan hurls at Jesus. Here in Mark we hear instead that Jesus was continually and constantly tested and tempted by Satan over the span of 40 days. And that makes us ask the question: How long would you last? How many times would it take for Satan to take you and then break you? Not very long, would it? You can trust Jesus because he was surrounded by Satan and he was faithful.
But my dear friends in Christ, there is also another reason. For Jesus wasn’t just surrounded by Satan. He was also separated from us, fellow humans. This past year, we can begin to have an understanding of what it might have been like for Jesus. God created us to be social creatures. We need each other to correct us when we act or think incorrectly. We need people to build us up when we are on the right path. We need people to encourage us to take our stand when we have to go out into the world and speak the truth. We need people to encourage us when we come home. We need this as humans. But there were no humans there for Jesus—just the scorpions and wild animals.
So let me ask you the question again: How long would you last? If you were there surrounded by Satan and separated from your fellow human beings for 40 long days, how long would you last? When I ponder this question, there are times I yearn to be a child again. When I was a child life there were people there: Parents, siblings, teachers to hold my hand and both correct me and encourage me. But now, as an adult, there is more freedom to think and act alone. And sadly this freedom leads to the freedom to simply sin more and give into more temptation.
My dear friends in Christ, this is why we can trust Jesus. He was surrounded by Satan and he was separated from us fellow humans. And he never gave into Satan—not even once. And in the words that follow we see what that means for us: “<14> After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: <15> “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”” (Mark 1:14–15 CSB17)
As dark and depressing as the previous words are, these words are just the opposite. With such forceful joy Jesus lets us know that you can trust him. And there are three reasons why we trust him. First, we can trust Jesus together. You can’t tell it from reading the english, but Jesus gives us two invitations in these words to repent and trust. But the invitations are plural. He is not speaking to us as individuals. He is speaking to us as a group. Because Jesus was surrounded by Satan and separated from us, now we have the privilege of confessing our sins and trusting in him—together. What an amazing comfort and strength that is. Whether you are at home on your couch, or here in these pews, we confess our sins. And there is this amazing strength in knowing that each of us is not alone. We each give into temptations. And together we admit it. And we each believe in Jesus. And together we speak of this fact. All this comes to us because of Jesus’ faithfulness.
Second, because Jesus was surrounded by Satan and separated from us, Jesus promises to be there for you. How many times in your life have you given into temptation? How many times either from the pressure of others or thoughts and desires coming completely from yourself have you given into temptation? So very many times. And what we deserve because of this is to be separated from God forever in hell just as Jesus was separated from us in the desert. But we are not. Instead, when God looks at us he sees the countless times Jesus was tempted and never gave in.
And finally, Jesus isn’t just there for you, he is also there with you. Day by day each of us has temptations that belong to each of us individually. We know them and they hurt us. They hurt us not just because they have brought us harm as we have given in. But they also hurt us in the very real and specific way that we think that we are alone. And there are times you might seem as if you are alone. But, my friends in Christ, you are never alone. The same Jesus who was surrounded by Satan surrounds you with his care. The same Jesus who was separated from us, will never separate himself from us. He sees your trials. He knows what it is to be pressured by others. He knows what it is to be alone. And he will be with you.
So this morning, let us rejoice that we can trust Jesus. He was surrounded by Satan and resisted. He was separated from us and yet trusted. So let us, together, repent of our sins and believe in him. Amen.
1 “ⲉⲕⲃⲁⲗⲗⲉⲓ” (Mark 1:12 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲉⲣⲏⲙⲱ” (Mark 1:13 GNT-ALEX)