(The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus)
12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.
14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God's Good News. 15 "The time promised by God has come at last!" he announced. "The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!"
The First Disciples
16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, "Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee's sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.
The same Spirit that marked God's approval of Jesus now leads (literally forces or drives) him out to be tempted. Mark's wording indicates that the Devil's temptations did not end in the desert, and the remainder of his gospel shows this to be the case as demons, public opinion, and religious hypocrisy all work to thwart Jesus' mission. Once having made the decision to begin his public ministry, Jesus moves quickly. He preaches and teaches that God's kingdom is as close as the sound of his voice. He calls his first disciples to leave their booming family businesses - and in so doing to go against societal norms - in order to follow and learn from him.
Compelled (Mark 1:12)
Mark wrote that the Holy Spirit "drove" ("compelled" NLT, "impelled" NASB; Greek ekballo: "the use of external force in order to move an unwilling object"73) Jesus into the wilderness - expressing the same idea found repeatedly throughout Mark's gospel in reference to Jesus' casting or driving out demons.74 "The thought is that of strong moral compulsion by which the Spirit led Jesus to take the offensive against temptation and evil instead of avoiding them."75 Today a person may do something and then say that he had no choice, he had to do it. It is that type of inner compulsion that is in view here. Unlike us, however, Jesus was not guilty of acting rashly: "Jesus did not throw himself into this temptation of his own accord when, according to human judgment, at the beginning of his ministry he might have been wise to avoid such a decisive conflict. We often rashly put ourselves into temptation. Jesus was brought into his by his Father's Spirit. This means that his temptation had to occur, and occur at this very time. It was God's will to have his Son's ministry begin with this mighty battle against Satan in person and with the resultant victory."76
Tempted (Mark 1:13)
As brought out in Matthew's and Luke's more detailed accounts, Jesus' temptation parallels that of Adam and Eve in several important ways. Whereas Adam was tempted in a paradise and failed, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and was victorious.77 The Bible book of Genesis presents the temptation of Eve as encompassing the three main areas of our common humanity: the physical, the intellectual, and the emotional. Likewise these were the three avenues in which Satan approached Jesus.78 All of this is important because it demonstrates Jesus' victory over Satan - and it is "by his victory over the tempter [that] he may, for all who believe in him, undo the results of the first Adam's failure."79
Whether or not Jesus could have actually sinned has been a source of much debate. If he was incapable of actually sinning, could he truly be tempted to sin? One source likens Christ's imperviousness to sin to an army: just because an army cannot be defeated does not mean it cannot be attacked.80 But if Jesus never sinned, how can he fully identify with us sinners? Here we should keep a few points in mind:
It was not necessary for Jesus to actually experience sin in order for him to fully understand its detrimental effects on us. By way of illustration, consider the cancer patient who goes in for surgery. Neither having the disease nor undergoing surgery to remove it makes him an expert. On the other hand, the cancer surgeon who has never had the disease himself but who has performed hundreds (or even thousands) of operations to remove it from others would be an expert on the topic.81
Jesus' is the perfect example of humanity; the perfect man Jesus is what human beings were intended to be like - and what saved human beings one day will be like. Sin is a corruption of the good, the best, the perfect. The perfect man Jesus represents humanity at its highest and best. Which means rather than Jesus seeking to be more like us sinners, we sinners should seek to be more like Jesus.
The temptation to sin that Jesus faced was no less real than the death he likewise endured and overcame.82
Galilee (Mark 1:14)
Mark keys in on Jesus' ministry in Galilee, again tying together the work of John the Baptist and Jesus. As John was a herald for Jesus, so Jesus was a herald for/of "the gospel of God" - i.e., "the good news that God sends."83 (Commentators point out that Jesus' public ministry had actually begun a year or so prior.84) Jesus chose to concentrate his ministry in Galilee, "the Jewish province that was farthest removed from the capital and in many respects looked down upon by the proud inhabitants of the center."85 The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) "are chiefly taken up with our Lord's public ministry in this province. ... 'It is noteworthy that of his thirty-two beautiful parables, no less than nineteen were spoken in Galilee. And it is no less remarkable that of his entire thirty-three great miracles, twenty-five were wrought in this province. His first miracle was wrought at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, and his last, after his resurrection, on the shore of Galilee's sea. In Galilee our Lord delivered the Sermon on The Mount [and several other great discourses]' (Porter's Through Samaria)."86
The Kingdom ... Repent (Mark 1:15)
Jesus' proclamation regarding God's kingdom (= God's rule and reign) is in effect a declaration of "the supernatural character, origin, and purpose of our salvation."87 The only proper response was/is to repent and believe. Belief - or "faith" - is a major theme in Mark's gospel account, involving "knowledge, assent, and confidence."88 In conjunction with repentance, it is the only means of entrance into the kingdom (= "the presence and reign of God").89 Repentance is turning from, and belief is turning toward. While we can speak of them separately, in reality "both are always wrought in the same instant and are always found together."90 As John Calvin has noted, this is good news indeed for us, since it means "not only is our duty enjoined on us, but the grace and power of obedience are, at the same time, offered."91
Follow me (Mark 1:17)
We can surmise that this was not the first time Jesus and these men had met. Here Jesus was not calling them to salvation but, rather, to discipleship - including in their particular case "training for the apostolate."92 Whereas the initial call to salvation centers on the individual, "[t]his call is for the sake of others."93 The emphasis of the passage seems to be Jesus' authority, including the fact that his call takes precedent over important social customs (James and John literally abandoned their father in order to follow Jesus).94 However, and as Mark makes clear throughout his gospel, Jesus' first disciples were anything but the staunch defenders of the Christian faith they would become after Jesus' resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At first they were spiritually shallow, unsympathetic, proud, unforgiving, not very prayerful, and not overly courageous.95 While certainly not a very flattering portrait, it does mean there is hope for us!
Fish for people (Mark 1:17)
We should also note the meaning and implications of Jesus' call to "fish for people":
The kind of fishing envisioned was net - not line - fishing ... which involved a circular net that had heavy weights around its perimeter. The occupation of fisherman was labor-intensive. The imagery of using a lure and a line (and waiting for the fish to strike) is thus foreign to this text. Rather, the imagery of a fisherman involved much strain, long hours, and often little results. Jesus’ point may have been one or more of the following: the strenuousness of evangelism, the work ethic that it required, persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results), the infinite value of the new "catch" (viz., people), and perhaps an eschatological theme of snatching people from judgment ... If this last motif is in view, then catching people is the opposite of catching fish: The fish would be caught, killed, cooked, and eaten; people would be caught so as to remove them from eternal destruction and to give them new life.96
Ralph Waldo Emerson believed: "We gain the strength of the temptation we resist."
The 15th century priest Thomas Kempis advised: "Do not try to find a place free from temptations and troubles. Rather, seek a peace that endures even when you are beset by various temptations and tried by much adversity."97
And one Bible commentator has written: "One fact must not be forgotten: the wilderness, though dreadful ... was also the place where nothing was able to separate Jesus from communion with his heavenly Father."98
??? Read Matthew 4:1-11. What can Jesus' experience teach us about enduring hardship as part of preparing for the work to which God calls us?