A nd 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. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
The Gospel of the Lord
T he temptation of Jesus. Mark doesn’t say very much about it — he devotes all of two lines to it, but let’s just take a minute to really think about it. If we do, we’ll see that Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness was not much better than being crucified itself! Imagine being ravenously hungry, alone, with only dangerous wild animals for company — besides having to say no to Satan himself! And for over forty days! Sounds like a super extreme version of one of those survivor reality TV shows, doesn’t it — where it’s man versus wild. They send out a group of contestants into a forest far from civilization with maybe just a backpack of a few essential items, and they have to survive the dangers of the forest. Whoever survives, wins. And it’s not a small prize either — the prize money itself amounts to a cool million dollars! And then there’s the respect, fame and glory. After all, who would put themselves through such torture for something that wasn’t worth it?
So why did Jesus decide to go into the wilderness — what was the prize he was looking for? And was it worth it? Even though Mark doesn’t spend too much time writing about Jesus’ temptation — far less than Matthew and Luke did — he does tell us something very important that the other two gospel writers don’t. In their versions of this story, both Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was “led” by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, but Mark writes, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness to be tempted.” He uses the word “drove” instead of “led”, and in doing so, immediately conveys the power of the Holy Spirit — not just as a quietly leading light, but as a powerful driving force.
And if you think about it, there’s something that ‘drives’ each of the contestants of those survivor reality shows too — the need to prove themselves, a desire to be famous, the need to overcome a fear — it could be anything. It is this ‘driving force’ that causes them to sign up for the challenge — and it is also this that will take them through in the moments that they feel like giving up. For instance, if Bill signs up to impress his children who will be watching on TV, they become his driving force. And maybe when he needs to wade through a freezing lake, the thought of his children will propel him through the last leg of it! Jesus, after his baptism, was filled with one of the most powerful driving forces ever — the Holy Spirit — that compelled him to go into the wilderness. And through all that he suffered there, it was this driving force, the Holy Spirit, that kept him going and strengthened him. And all because he believed that we were worth it.
So what is our driving force? Like Jesus, we too receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he promised them (as he promises us), “ I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” ( John 14:26) We have not only been promised the Holy Spirit, the driving force behind Jesus’ own mission, but have also been assured that he will take us through our mission of proclaiming God’s word too.
We need only to allow ourselves to be driven by the right force — not ambition, fame, or pride — but the Holy Spirit.
May the Force be with you,