THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN JESUS AND SATAN IN THE DESERT
(A biblical refection on THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR B], 18 February 2018)
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:12-15
First Reading: Genesis 9:8-15; Psalms: Psalm 25:4-9; Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22
The Scripture Text
The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:12-15 RSV)
Today’s Gospel reading is short but full of rich symbolism. A look at the meaning behind the symbolism helps us better understand the message of the story.
The reading begins with the Holy Spirit sending Jesus out into the desert, where Satan tempts Him for forty days. While Jesus is in the desert with the wild beasts, angels wait on Him.
In the Bible, the number forty is symbolic of transition of change. In Noah’s day, the rains came down upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. After the Jews escaped from slavery in Egypt, they wandered through the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Therefore, the author uses the forty days Jesus spends in the desert to alert us to a change that is about to occur in Jesus’ life, a change in which He gives up the security of the carpentry business to become a traveling preacher.
Mark, the author of the Gospel, tells us this transition in Jesus’ life is more than just a change of professions because it also involves a battle between Jesus and His troop (angels are symbolic of God’s army) and the devil (Satan) and his army (wild beasts symbolic of evil spirits). Jesus and His forces are about to mount an attack on the devil’s own territory (the desert is the dwelling place of evil spirits) in a winner-take-all main event in which the prize is control over the world.
The most vivid image of the struggle between Jesus and the devil appears in the miracles Jesus performed. Not knowing about germs and viruses, the people of Jesus’ day believed demons or evil spirits caused sickness. Therefore, each time Jesus healed someone, He defeated not just the sickness but also the devil that caused it. Each miracle, then was another victory for Jesus in His war against the devil.
According to Scripture, the struggle between Jesus and the devil is going on even today and will continue until Jesus ultimately defeats Satan and takes control of the world. When that day comes, the world will be completely in the hands of God and there won’t be any more pain or suffering or death. God will then restore the earth to what it was like before man and woman sinned.
Jesus’ resurrection proved He is more powerful than the devil. Let us now examine our conscience and identify one sinful habit in our own life. Let us pray also this week that Jesus will help each and every one of us overcome this weakness.
Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 134-135.)
Short Prayer: All praise to You, Jesus, for Your victory over the devil! Teach me to recognize my enemy’s strategies and to overcome through faith and trust in You. Amen.
Jakarta, 17 February 2018
A Christian Pilgrim