“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” Mark 1:12-13
Somehow it’s reassuring to me that Jesus was tempted. I mean, I’m tempted all the time with food that I know I shouldn’t eat. Of course, there are other temptations that I face, too, but food seems to be the biggest roadblock that I encounter throughout the day, especially in the afternoons when I take a break and want to snack. The snacks that appeal to me are rarely the healthiest. I don’t reach for carrots and celery sticks or yogurt and fruit or a low carb protein drink (who can feel filled up with a liquid meal?).
What I have realized for decades is that I’m an emotional and habitual eater, so my goals actually have changed over the years as I try to shift my listening to my stomach to hear when it is actually hungry, and then I try to be sure I have the snack or meal in mind that I’m going to eat when the time comes. That doesn’t preclude me from thinking about it often throughout the three to five hours in between eating, but at least I’m reaching a better point of self-control.
In this passage from Mark, we don’t find any specifics about what kinds of temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness, only that he was tempted. It’s interesting to also read the end of verse 13 where Mark writes “the angels waited on him.” Jesus wasn’t alone in his temptation-facing. He had angels there to care for him. His time of temptation was a time for strengthening his mission and ministry, and through the struggles of resisting temptation, he would have had a better understanding of his calling, his identity, and his readiness to be someone who questioned the status quo of his society and the Jewish authorities.
Our times of temptations provide us with a “yes” or “no” answer. We either give in or we don’t. Through both, we learn about ourselves and about our ability to do what is right. We aren’t alone in our journey, either, even when it may seem as if we are. Jesus has set the example for us, and while we can never measure up to his abilities, we can take on the mind of Christ and draw closer to him as we learn from him and grow in faith.
The wilderness is a lonely and often frightening place full of doubts and fear, and yet, we still aren’t alone. I read somewhere that when it feels like we have no faith, we just keep acting as if we do and we will find it again. Maybe Jesus went into the wilderness and experienced temptations so that he could relate to us. He was both human and divine, and we believe he was the incarnation of God. Jesus was God’s way of identifying with us, walking with us, understanding the struggles of human life.
There is something reassuring about God understanding. Somehow maybe it will help us to be a little more forgiving of ourselves and others because we know God understands and forgives us. Have a blessed Lenten journey!