CHAPTER 12: 1:12-13. The Temptation of Jesus


Mark's very brief account shows first that the presence of the Holy Spirit with Jesus, which was manifested in peaceful gentleness 'like a dove' at his Baptism, now compelled him to go into the desert.


The Greek wording is strong; meaning literally 'threw him out into the desert'. There Jesus faced alone the full implications of what had been revealed at his Baptism. Because Jesus was fully human, temptation to choose an easier way than what had been revealed to him, to manifest God's rule in the world, assaulted him with its full force. Did he have to take a way which would be utterly lonely and misunderstood by his followers? Could the horror and darkness of the suffering ahead be avoided while still following the will of God? To find the fuller account of the Temptation we have to turn to Luke 4:1-13 and Matthew 4:1-11, but the three kinds of temptation described in those passages really add up to one, the temptation to try to find an easier way to victory over sin and evil. But there was none, and Jesus accepted what had been revealed to him, that he was the Servant who must suffer for the sake of others. The synoptic gospels all indicate that there were other times when the assaults of temptation came to Jesus, a particular example being in the agony in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-36), but in every case Jesus fought his way to victory. For the Christian, this is a very important message from the gospels. Temptation is part of human experience because of the sinful impulses which are in us, but it can be fought against and defeated in the power of the Holy Spirit.

At the end of this very significant Introduction, we ask two questions and make a comment:


(i)   Why is Mark's account so terse and brief compared with the accounts of Luke and Matthew on the same subjects? A suggested answer is that it was either because Mark was satisfied with brief references to what was known in greater detail in the Church and therefore saw no reason to write at greater length, or he did not actually know more details. Whichever is the correct answer, Luke and Matthew both considered it necessary to give much fuller accounts with greater interpretation for their readers;


(ii) Where did the details of the Baptism and Temptation of Jesus come from? The answer seems to be that they came directly from Jesus himself, as he spoke later with his disciples;


(iii)        We should note that in the Introduction there is no indication of the times when what is described took place; neither does Mark indicate how much time elapsed between one event and another. This tendency continues into the rest of the gospel and we cannot work out whether the ministry of Jesus took a number of years or only a number of months. To Mark, it is not important; he is satisfied with general statements about time such as 'not long afterwards' or 'in those days' or 'after John had been put in prison'. The approach that we find in the gospel of Luke is quite different; he wants his readers to be aware of the precise historical setting for the ministry of Jesus Christ (Luke 3: 1-2).