Yesterday many Lutheran churches read Mark 1:14: Jesus tempted in the wilderness. Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. A seminary classmate of mine, Bishop Larry Wohlrabe, preached on this text at the installation of a new pastor and posted his sermon on line. Here is a section that I really appreciated from his sermon.
What does it mean to be tempted? Temptation is about something far, far worse than falling off your diet or reneging on your no-smoking pledge. Temptation is about doubting your God-given, God-claimed identity. Temptation for Jesus in the parched wilderness was about being distracted from his mission, side-tracked on his path to the Cross, for us and for our salvation.
So what we need to picture here is a battle royal out in the wilderness. Satan, whose name means “adversary,” assaults Jesus repeatedly over the course of a forty day period. Mark doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow account, but maybe that’s OK. Mark’s narrative leaves a lot to our imaginations, and perhaps that helps us identify with Jesus all the more.
Because we, too, have our own “good long times” in the wilderness of doubt and despair. You and I also are pressed to the max, pinned to the wall, by all the “wouldas, couldas, shouldas”—all the ways we doubt ourselves and despair of trusting that God is with us.
Bishop Wohlrabe continued by reminding the local pastor of her task as a preacher in her new congregation.
When they are in the wilderness, serve these folks the same life-giving Word of God that sustained our Lord Jesus in the desert. Proclaim to them the nearness of God’s Kingdom, God’s gentle and glorious rule over all things, in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Yes, Amen. The ministry of God’s Word continues to give life to thirsty, testy, tempted people. And God’s Word wins.
Lord Jesus, save us from the time of trial and sustain by your saving word.