“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,
and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.
He was with the wild animals
and the angels attended him. (Mark 1:12,13)”
The Gospel of Mark is believed by many to have been written by John Mark, a youth at the time of Christ’s ministry, the cousin of Barnabas, traveling companion of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, and according to Eusebius (110 AD) Mark is the interpreter, explainer, of the words of the apostle Peter. This John Mark is the CNN reporter we are focusing on this year. We are reflecting on faith through his eyes.
“He was aiming to give a faithful outline of Peter’s preaching and teaching about the good news of the Christ to a Gentile audience in Rome,” according to an African Bible Commentary I often refer to. Mark is not trying to be chronological like Matthew and Luke. He does not open his book with the Bethlehem story but rather with the words, “In the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” “Gospel” means good news. Mark jumps straight to the baptism of Jesus that we studied yesterday, ending with the Trinity coming in “touchable” realities: the Father as voice declaring love without need to earn it, the Holy Spirit as a Dove descending or coming to us, and Jesus as “true man” identifying with us, his creation that needs forgiveness. As my husband would say, “That’s deep!”
John the Baptist calls people to a baptism of repentance, not in the temple and tradition, but in the wilderness at the Jordon. Jesus chooses there to start his journey with the masses. Next verse! “At once the Spirit sent him…” No dust gathering here! After the mountain top experience, it seems there follows a valley that tests — those wonderful truths we felt we discovered at camp, in love, from the stimulus check, after our person won the election—the valley happens. We return from college and the independence there to come home for vacation and the realities there. Within the first week of marriage we have a major fight. The stimulus check comes and is followed with a bill that eats it. On the horizon is January 20th and the fears of the nature of the transition.
Mark does not describe the desert experience except to describe it as a time of temptation by Satan, a clash of values. In those valley experiences the beliefs we have developed are tested. Hard times reveal my character and go to my inner core. I would like to think I am kind, loving, generous, and patient but…. The cake jumped in my mouth after the decision to diet. Those words jumped out of my mouth when yet again he did what I’ve asked him not to. My heart despairs when I turn on the news and hear all the reports of possible chaos. Where is my faith? Growing! Jesus walked through a desert time too and understands. Interestingly, Mark adds the detail that the danger did not only come from within and his temptation from Satan but he also was in danger, temptation to fear, without from the wild animals.
“Angels attended him.” God does not abandon us in times of temptation and danger. As we walk into 2021, into our political future, continue with the virus, struggle with the economy, make decisions about our future and how we want to live it, we do not walk alone. The good news that God comes to us in our baptism and walks with us through our temptations and dangers is “good news!!!” We are people of hope for 2021 not because of who we are but because of who He is. We will learn more about in the coming weeks. For now, it is good to know God comes to us. Blessings, you are not alone.