Gospel Reading: Mark 1:12-15.
Vs.12 The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness
Vs.13 and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan.
He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him.
Vs.14 After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee.
Vs.15 There he proclaimed the Good News from God.
Vs.16 “The time has come,” he said, “and the kingdom of God is close at hand.
Repent and believe the good news.
The Word of the Lord.
Historical Situation Mark 1: 12-15
The 1st Sunday in Lent is always an account of Jesus in the Wilderness and 2nd Sunday of Lent is always an account of the Transfiguration. The Church considers these two stories appropriate for the Season of Lent. They are told in Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels and this being the year of Mark, on the first Sunday of Lent, we have his short account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, with the addition of two verses announcing the beginning of His public ministry.
When did this happen?
This happened immediately after Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan where He had a profound experience of being deeply loved by God. The second part happens after John’s arrest.
Where did this happen?
V12-13 take place in the “wilderness” a harsh environment of desert without roads, intense heat and no shelter, little or no food and even less water, inhabited by wild and dangerous animals – a place of great vulnerability, insecurity, distress and fear. –
V14-15 in Galilee northern part of Palestine, consisting mainly of rural villages and good farmland for vines, olives, barley etc.
Who was there?
The Spirit (the Spirit of God – ‘force’ of God’s love). Jesus – coming to terms with the father’s love. Satan, (Personification of an evil force at work in world) Angels, (Manifestations of God’s presence) & John (who has just been arrested and is now off the scene)
V12: God himself was in charge of what was happening to Jesus – “the Spirit” drove Him. Jesus didn’t choose to go to the wilderness, he found himself in it. The wilderness was a place of uncertainty, doubt, loneliness, lostness – strong echoes here of the place where the Jewish people had wandered for 40 years. Like his ancestors, and like so many others down through the centuries, Jesus now feels the absence of God.
V13: 40 days suggests a significant length of time…a long, long, time. Alludes to the 40 years his ancestors spent in wilderness. “Tempted” for us today usually refers to a strong urge to do the wrong things but in the Bible it means ‘to be tested’ or ‘shaken up’ It was a frightening experience where Jesus was tempted to lose faith in God and to stop trusting. The “wild beasts” can be taken in a literal sense but also metaphorically as an embodiment of evil resistance, persecution, brutality and cruelty .God’s love and power He did not waiver in His mission. The “angels “were the messengers reassuring him that God was near even though he couldn’t feel it or see it..
V14: Mark gives no details of John’s arrest at this stage (comes later in Chapter 6). Jesus begins His ministry -“went into Galilee”- to be close to the poorest and most oppressed people in Jewish society. “the Good News” is the God who is coming is not a harsh judge but a loving merciful father and his saving power is already breaking into our world.
V15: “the time has come” The time is to get onboard and enter into this saving work of God is now.”.
“Repent and believe the Good News”- His experience of God was “Good News”. To repent means a change of mindset, a different way of seeing things: to see that the kingdom of God is already here, not in spectacular ways but in quiet, small, humble movements – the unfolding of God’s work in the world in an embryonic stage, and Jesus is inviting everybody to enter into it. It is the beginnings of a world where the dignity of every human person would be recognised, where mutual respect, compassion, mercy and justice would reign.
During Lent we are invited to turn away from our old ways of seeing and relating. We can choose to be part of a new way of seeing and thus be part of the unfolding of God’s work in the world.
Guidelines for Meditation.
Can you remember an experience when you suffered the loneliness, the anxiety, the darkness and confusion of life in the “wilderness”, as an individual, as family, as church or society –
Living with serious illness, Plunged into grief, Caught up in an addiction or scandal,
Being betrayed in a relationship, In dire financial straits,
In a major crises: fell into a sin that we thought we would never commit,
And you didn’t know where to turn or who to turn to?
Perhaps the experience of wilderness came “immediately after” what had been a beautiful time or moment in your life – of love, friendship, family togetherness?
Can you identify with the “forty days?” – it seemed to be a long, long time. There seemed to be no end to it.
Can you remember the struggle to “remain there”, when the temptation was to run away, to block it out, to numb the pain?
Can you identify with the experience of being “tempted by Satan” – tested in your commitment and faith until you felt like giving up?
Perhaps you can identify with the frightening experience of being surrounded by “wild beasts” – doubts, fears, torments etc., real or imaginary?
Can you remember how even in the throes of that wilderness you were aware of “the angels looking after you”? People who stood by you, stood with you, reached out to you to support and care for you.
Can you now in hindsight say that it was the “Spirit” that drove you there? I thought at the time I was lost, even abandoned by God, but I can now say that God let me go through it and it has made me a better person.
The meditation now moves in another direction –
Can you remember a time when “Jesus came into Galilee” – someone or some event that changed your life, or your family, or church or country, significantly for the good?
Can you remember how you just knew that “the time had come?” The time was right. Time to move on, to let go..
Can you remember how you felt at that time that “the kingdom of God was close at hand?” It was now possible – within reach.
Can you remember how you knew that it would mean some kind or “repentance?” A change of values, of priorities.
Can you sense in your heart that what was happening was truly “good news” for you, your family, your country. You trusted that it would be great news.
Can you remember the pain and loss on hearing “John had been arrested”? Thinking it was the end. But it turned out to be the beginning of a new stage