First Sunday in Lent – Mark 1:9-15 | Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness
This last Wednesday you were marked as exiles.
For Eden can no longer be home for sinners.
You were created to live forever, but not like that.
Wallowing in sin and grief, in pain and in shame –
That is no way to live;
Not then, not now, and certainly not for eternity.
Acknowledging this, you entered into the 40-day wilderness of Lent,
Covered in sackcloth and ashes;
For you are dust, and to dust you will return.
Like father Adam and mother Eve;
Like their son, Cain;
Like Israel, you are exiles in the wilderness.
This is a land of Nod,
A place of wandering, so very far east of Eden, you can’t find it on a map.
It’s where sinners go.
It’s where they live, and it is where they die.
So what’s Jesus doing there?
He’s the only One who is without sin.
He’s the only One whose forever home is still with His Father in Heaven.
Why should He live as an exile?
Why should the Father’s only-begotten Son, with Whom He is well pleased,
Be subjected to this?
Jesus did not get lost on His way back from the Jordan.
The Spirit drove Him out.
To show that, St. Mark uses the same word that describes how a sower spreads seed.
Though the Holy Spirit did not leave Him alone,
Nevertheless, The Spirit cast Jesus out into the wilderness like seed into rocky soil.
The freshly baptized Christ is ekballo’d, cast out, into the land of dust and ashes.
The Spirit, you could say, exiled Him.
And yet Jesus is not passive.
None of this happens against His will.
Jesus does not go into the wilderness with reluctance.
He goes like Isaac in this morning’s OT text.
Of course we feel sorry for him.
We imagine that he had no idea what was going on.
But he did know.
Isaac knew and at any moment he could have easily overpowered Abraham,
But he did not.
He carried the wood on which he was to be sacrificed willingly.
He laid down.
That’s kind of weird because sacrificed animals weren’t supposed to see it coming.
If they did, they’d get spooked and would struggle.
Even the ram would have tried to run away had it not been caught in a thicket.
Tackling them and binding them would have freaked them out.
That’s why they were never tied up.
In the entire OT, Isaac is the only sacrifice that is ever bound,
He is also the only sacrifice who sees it coming, and lies down anyway.
In the same way, Jesus is aware of what awaits Him.
Like Isaac, He is strong.
But He will not exercise His strength.
Instead, Jesus becomes weak.
From fasting and journeying, Jesus is incomprehensibly exhausted.
Christ willfully endures the most severe temptation as a man,
For all men who refused to endure it –
That is, for everyone – for you.
Jesus must because you did not.
You did not resist temptation.
Not even a little.
You laid down for it.
You gave yourself over to it:
To anger and to gossip,
To lies, complaints, and schemes,
And desiring what is not given to you.
You could have kept your mouth closed, but you opened it.
You could have walked away from the temptations in your path,
But you walked into them.
You could have looked at the ground, or kept your eyes on the road.
But you consciously chose to look instead, to take in the view.
For these things appeared beautiful and good, like the fruit of the tree.
You looked, and you desired.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin,
and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Death and exile, from which you will never deliver yourself –
You must be delivered.
In the wilderness Jesus endures temptation without laying down for it.
He does not even imagine it or entertain it.
But He endures it for those who would and could not.
He endures it for you.
Christ has come from heaven to earth to make His home with you.
He has bathed Himself in your sins in the river Jordan.
He has journeyed into the wilderness because that is where sinners go.
If Jesus is going to deliver you from exile, He must come and get you.
In the wilderness, there’s an important detail that easily gets overlooked.
St. Mark is the only Evangelist to note that Jesus was “with the wild animals.”
They’re wild and hungry.
And yet, they do not try to devour Him.
The language suggests that they accompany Jesus.
With every step toward the cross,
Jesus is loosing the ties by which this world is bound.
He is restoring Eden in the midst of the wilderness.
He is making it a suitable place to live again.
A new home for redeemed and returned exiles,
Where lions will lay down with lambs.
In order to unbind the world, Jesus Himself is bound.
As Isaac was willingly tied, so Jesus goes uncomplaining forth,
Resolute and intentional,
Carrying the wood up the mountain to Calvary’s altar.
There, as God promised Adam and Eve,
As He promised Israel,
As He promised Abraham,
There, God provides the Sacrifice to end all sacrifice.
Thus, for the sake of Christ, Isaac is released.
Thus, for the sake of Christ, Israel is given a land they did not earn.
Thus, for the sake of Christ, you are returned from exile.
You’ve dropped your sins off in the water,
And Jesus has carried them with Him into the wilderness.
He has dragged them to the cross, where He was crucified for them,
And they were buried with Him in the tomb.
But when Jesus rose, they did not.
The only resurrection your sins get is when you go to the tomb and drag them out again.
That’s the only way they can still do you harm, is when you resurrect them.
Please don’t do that.
You don’t have to live like slaves to sin,
You’re a free people.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.
Christ your Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.
Christ your Messiah has shepherded you home.
And so you are safe.
For your God is a Fortress.
Satan can no longer harm you.
The Kingdom is yours forever.