“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” (Mark 1:12-13 ESV).
When traveling to distant and sometimes unfamiliar places I miss home, with all of my family, friends, and normal routines. Though I am usually busy and in the presence of many people, I can still feel lonely and isolated because of who I am not with and what I am not doing. Loneliness is a condition most of us experience at times, and it is one that is not generally pleasant.
After Jesus went to the Jordon River to be baptized by John, he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days. Though by all human standards he was by himself, Mark makes it plain that he was not actually as lonely as we might assume. In the short two-verse version of Jesus’ temptation in the second Gospel account, we find four other presences accompanying him. These I call “four things we can never escape.”
First, Jesus was “driven by the Spirit”
I think Mark’s choice of verbs is deliberate and significant. Our Lord was about 30 years old and had been anxious for his Father’s business since at least the age of 12 (Luke 2:41-52). Surely he was anxious to begin his earthly ministry. I cannot imagine that he wanted to spend more than a month alone in the wilderness. Yet that was God’s plan for this particular time. He would not, and could not, avoid God’s spirit – that is, God’s purpose and plans for him.
Neither can we. We can neglect the Spirit, disobey the Spirit, quench the Spirit, but we cannot escape God’s purposes.
Second, we cannot escape physical circumstances
Jesus was God in the flesh, and as such he could feel heat, cold, rain, sun and all other conditions. He also was vulnerable to dangers, just as are all other humans. Mark says “he was with the wild animals.”
The key to survival and happiness is acceptance and perseverance. As Paul said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
Rather than complain about the cold or the heat, the rains or the drought, let us learn to appreciate this world which God has given us and be thankful for all of its conditions.
Third, we cannot escape evil and temptation
Even alone in a harsh environment with little to apparently tempt him, Satan found him and he also found much with which to lure Jesus from his purpose on earth. We often blame our circumstances for our sins.
I once counseled a man who found it impossible to stay faithful to his wife (his words). It turned out that he would visit bars and pick up women there. I told him, “Stay out of bars.” But I knew that if he could not practice self-control he would find temptation in other places just as easily.
Where we are is not the problem. Many parents send their children to private schools so they will not be confronted with all of the temptations found in some public schools.
It is true that in many private institutions children may not be confronted as openly or often with drugs, violence or other problems. But temptations will occur. There is no perfect place where sin is completely absent.
Fourth, Jesus was ministered to by angels
We cannot escape God’s grace. Wherever we go, no matter how sinful and separated by God we become, God’s love can find us and his grace can cleanse us. Nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God which is expressed in Christ Jesus his son (Romans 8:39).
We can refuse and resist grace, but we cannot go beyond its reach. If and when we seek repentance and obediently trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we will be drawn back into fellowship with God and with all of his people (1 John 1:5-10).