1st Sunday Lent – Jesus tempted in the desert? So what?

Jesus Tested in WIlderness

The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness (AKA, desert) to be tested by Satan. He was with the wild animals and angels ministered to him. So what?

Named the “Beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased,” satanas (not Santana) tested Jesus concerning his identity as Son, his mission as suffering servant, and his path through rejection, suffering, death, and the cross to resurrection.

Mark’s use of wilderness tells us how, throughout his ministry, Jesus was in the wilderness constantly tested – identity, mission, & path.

Today: what does all this look like? And, so what?

Wilderness is the place where paths are made straight & purpose clarified

Mark 1:3f (NRSV) — 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 1:35–37 (NRSV) — 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”

Mark 1:45 (NRSV) — 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.


  1. Wilderness is the place of the profound encounter with God for mission

Exodus 3:1f (NRSV) — 1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.

           as well as humanity’s woundedness

Exodus 14:11f (NRSV) — 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

Psalm 95:7–9 (NRSV) — 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

  1. Wilderness is the place where a door for healing human rebellion opens

Psalm 63:1–3 (NRSV) — 1 O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Hosea 2:13–15 (NRSV) — 13 I will punish her for the festival days of the Baals, when she offered incense to them and decked herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, says the Lord. 14 Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.


To tempt; test, put to the test; prove; try 

Mark 1:12–13 (NRSV) — 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

  1. The Pharisees tested Jesus / Satanas = Peter (chapter 8)

Mark 8:10–12 (NRSV) — 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. 11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

Mark 10:2 (NRSV) — 2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Mark 12:14f (NRSV) — 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.”

Genesis 22:1f (NRSV) — 1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

Psalm 95:7–9 (NRSV) — 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

So whatEvery day you and I are tested regarding who we are (identity in Christ), how we bring the gospel to others in word and deed (mission), and willingness to follow Christ through inner and outer rejection to resurrection (path). Being tested is part & parcel of our walk with the Lord. Like it?

I don’t.

However, what if being tested was not about proving we’re no good or incapable of keeping to Jesus’ teachings or unworthy. What if testing is about 

  1. encounter with God in the wilderness
  2. clarification of our mission & relation with God
  3. manifestation of our woundedness
  4. SO THAT we can be taught anew this holy season?

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