Scripture First Sunday of Lent (Mark 1:12-15)
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Mark’s Gospel reveals very little about the temptation of Jesus. Due to the nature of temptations it is a moment that demonstrates the humanness of Jesus. Sin is separation from God. Since it is a theological impossibility for God to be separated from God's self, the fact that Jesus is being tempted is a human experience. With the help of Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) we see a more detailed account of Jesus' temptation. While they each have their own agenda it does become clearer that the temptation surrounded Jesus’s identity. Jesus has to make a decision about who he would be. Would he fall the call be a spiritual messiah who is humble and selfless offering liberation from sin and death? Or perhaps he would elect a more worldly mission and be the messiah that all of Israel was awaiting: a political savior who would unify the nation, throw off Roman rule and solve societal problems of his time becoming a King who was worshiped and honored by his people. It is likely that this was not a decision that pitted a good angel on one shoulder whispering for him to do the right thing and the devil on the other shoulder attempting to convince him to select the other. No, Jesus was wrestling with his demons and it was probably a match that started long before he went to the desert and was not resolved until the Garden of Gethsemane. And so it is with us. Our most challenging temptations are not some child like depiction of the angel and devil. The most challenging temptations are those areas in our life that tug at us and plague us; the ones rooted in unresolved issues unique to each of us.
Materialism has been an issue I have wrestled with much of my life. Growing up in a family of nine kids and two parents my family lived a simple life. Very seldom did we have toys or clothes that had not been worn or played with by someone else. Often, we heard that we could not have a certain toy because we could not afford it. Even though, living simply built my character, for as long as I can remember I have wanted things. The temptation is that sometimes I buy things I do not need and base my value on what I own. It seemed like we were so different that everyone else. Why couldn't we be the "normal family?"
This weekend, that tension played out again. Having my car totaled in an accident it was time to purchase a new one. My choices came down to two options. Would I select a car with heated seats, a sunroof, more powerful engine, the surround cameras for safety or a car that would effectively serve its purpose? Truly though, this temptation was not about the car. It was about a brokenness within me that struggles to accept I am not my car, clothes or body type. I am not how I think others judge me. It was about my identity. Worse yet allowing myself to wallow in negative thoughts can take me to a pretty dark place of self loathing and depression. It becomes a battle to keep my head above water and trust that God loves me; to remember I have value even if I do not believe it at that moment. This is the intent of evil- to sow discord. When doubt becomes stronger than faith; darkness drowns out light, image overcomes substance, selfishness is more important than service; then evil has taken us away from seeing that we belong to God.
The desert was a place of purification and enlightenment for the Israelites before they entered the promised land. It should not be a surprise that it is a place where Jesus wrestles with his demons before his baptism and the start of his public ministry. This is what Lent is for us. A time of purification and enlightenment; a time of of discernment and unease; a time of discovery and owning our identity as children of God. We need this time, so that like Jesus, as we wrestle with our demons, we can emerge from the desert proclaiming with authority and conviction: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
· What tempts you away from being the person God created you to be?
· How does knowledge that Jesus was tempted effect your faith?
· How is the kingdom of God at hand in your life?
FAST from a material item that prevents you from being a disciple. Donate it to a non-profit if you are able.
PRAY to recognize the presence of God that is near.
GIVE a meal for someone who is sick, visit an assisted living be the presence of God for someone else.
Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1. He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991. Besides 12plus1 he also teaches part time for Dominican High School and Cardinal Stritch University. He is married to Maribeth. Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle puppy.