Compelled to Battle Against the Evil One (Mark 1:12-13)

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Compelled to Battle Against the Evil One

Mark 1:12-13, The Temptation of Christ


One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, “I’m not going.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said.  “Number one, they don’t like me, and number two, I don’t like them.”

His mother replied, “I’ll give you two good reasons why you should go to church.  Number one, you’re 49 years old, and number two, you’re the pastor!”

And I will add a third to that—number three, you’re a loser to be living with your mother at 49.

Sometimes battles are being fought, and you’re not even aware a battle is going on.  Sometimes you don’t tell people what you really think, like the young couple who invited their elderly pastor for Sunday dinner.  While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the minister asked their son what they were having to eat?  “Goat,” the little boy replied.

“Goat?” replied the startled pastor, “are you sure about that?”

“Yep,” said the youngster. “I heard Dad say to Mom, ‘Today is just as good as any to have the old goat for dinner.’”

Battles go on every day, in marriages, with parents, with children, with your friends at school, at work, and at church.  I can remember the pressure of trying to get through a day of school without a conflict with certain crusty students.  When working at a warehouse, there were certain things you could not say to one of the guys on the floor–otherwise there’d be a blow up, pouting and difficulty.  And in the church there are misunderstandings, people who misread you, assume certain things, and all of it results in conflict.

The root of all that conflict is that we are sinners to the core of our being.  James 4:1 says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source, your pleasures that wage war in your members?”  All our conflict in this life has is caused by our sinful nature.  It is not because we lie, cheat, gossip, get angry or steal on occasion–it’s because we are liars, cheaters, gossips, murderers and thieves at heart . . . by nature . . . by our very character we are sinful.

James 1:14 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”  And the Bible says, as a result we are in trouble with the God who made us.  He is perfect, holy, righteous and cannot tolerate sin, which is the opposite of His character.  In fact, God hates sin–He must judge sin and He will condemn everyone who has sinned.  You are in trouble friend, and you need to be rescued.  The wages of sin is death–you must die now and die eternally because of your rebellion to God, shown by living your own way and missing the mark of God’s original design for you–and all conflict.

But because you are a sinner yourself, you can’t pay the price.  Someone without sin needs to pay the price of death for sin.  A sinless human needs to die in our place to satisfy God’s justice.  And that person was God the Son, Jesus Christ, who would pay the wages of sin–death on our behalf.  The perfect sinless one would die on a cross for the sins of His own, as God poured out all of His wrath for your sin upon His own Son.  Then Jesus would rise from the dead to provide salvation.  And if we put our faith dependently in Christ fully and alone, and we turn directionally from our sin in repentance to follow Christ fully and alone, we can be rescued, washed and made new internally.

But how do we know Jesus is sinless?  How do we know He could pay the wages sin demanded and provide an acceptable sacrifice for sin, once and for all?  Answer–when God sent Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, He won the battle against the devil, against sin and was proven to be sinless.  Christ was tempt-able with sin, but unable to sin.

Matthew, Luke and Mark describe this battle, and since we are studying Mark verse by verse, open your Bibles to Mark 1:12 to 13 and follow along with the outline found in your bulletin.  Mark provides the most descriptive (and brief) introduction to our Lord’s temptation found in any of the gospels.  Read from your outline verses 12 to 13 from the NASB, “and immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.”

Notice how these two verses break down through some basic observation.  Look at the beginning of each of the four lines of this passage.  Mark breaks down the action of this event into four groups with the use of four Greek words translated “and”.  Even though the NASB and ESV leave the “and” off the beginning of verse 12, it is present in the Greek, and this is Mark’s way of signifying that there are four truths he wants to highlight in this event.

Each of the verbs in these two verses is indicated by a box, and notice in each major thought there is a different noun, a different person or group being highlighted–the Spirit, then Satan, then wild beasts, and finally the angels.  Mark intends for us to see this passage as four major truths, and because verse 12 is dramatically connected to what has gone on before in context, my outline today has five major points and a conclusion, totaling 6—all of it to prove Christ is sinless.  Though Christ was tempt-able, Christ could not sin, making Him the only one who could pay the price of death for your sins and mine.

#1  Christ’s unique setting for this battle  Mark 1:1 to 11

Again notice how Mark begins verse 12—[and] immediately.  The “and” is in the Greek text connecting it to the previous action, and the Greek word “immediately” is Mark’s favorite word to describe the commitment and action of Christ to serve.  When you see an “‘immediately”, you need to ask, “Immediately after what?”  And when you do, you wind up in verses 9 to 11 where Jesus was being baptized.  And with this dramatic step of being immersed by John, not for repentance of sin but out of obedience to identify with us, we will now see Jesus move from the shadows into the spotlight.

From verses 12 to 30 Jesus has been relatively unknown, but now He will show us what God is like.  Jesus now begins His public ministry, and in doing so He shows us His credentials that He is sinless.  Jesus can, as perfect man, take our place.  And Jesus can, as perfect God, satisfy the Father’s holiness.

As Jesus is baptized and the sky opens up, the Father says, “There He is, this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  The Spirit of God descends and empowers Christ in a unique way.  So all three members of the Trinity express their love and empowerment as Jesus begins His public ministry.  Now verse 12, and . . . after the baptism service was over, immediately after the Father had preached a small sermon, immediately after we’ve seen the presence of the Holy Spirit, immediately after Jesus Christ had come out of the water, immediately the Spirit of God drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, to establish His credentials–to be proven.

And every one of you here knows what this is like.  Whenever you make a commitment, it will be tested.  You get fired up at camp, but come home and you will be tested.  God speaks to you in the Word on Sunday, but it will be Monday through Saturday when those commitments will be tested.

Christ’s baptism was like a huddle, but now He moves to run the play on the field against His opposition.  Just like football players don’t remain in huddles but get tested on the field of play, Christians too can’t remain in a huddle but must have their faith tested on the field of this world.  So as Jesus moves into His public ministry in the field of this world, He is moved by the Spirit of God to be tested.

#2  Christ was compelled to go solo by the Spirit  verse 12

Look at verse 12 again, “[And] immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.”  After Jesus celebrated the presence of the Trinity in a unique way, He went to spiritual war.

The power of our gathering today is not what happens in this building.  There is no competition in this facility.  Everybody in this building is going to agree with everybody else.  The proof of whether what happens today in this facility matters is what happens when we leave this place and go to the wilderness.  Jesus is led into the wilderness, into Satan’s territory, a barren wilderness where nothing grows.

Again we think jungle, or miles of trees with no people, but the wilderness in Israel was typically the region around the Dead Sea extending all the way up to Jerusalem.  It looks like what remains after an atomic bomb blast.  The wilderness is a vast, undulating expanse of barren, chalky soil covered with pebbles, broken stones, rocks, and an occasional bush.  Why does God lead Jesus into the wilderness?

A long time ago, Satan slithered into a perfect environment–the Garden of Eden–tempted Adam and Eve and got us kicked out into a wilderness of thorns.  Now Jesus is going into a wilderness of thorns to begin the process of reversing the curse and bringing us back to the garden of God.  When the first Adam was tempted in the Garden, he failed.  So Christ, the last Adam, must now be tempted in order that by his victory over the tempter He may, for all who believe in Him, undo the results of the first Adam’s failure.

And why does Jesus go to be tempted?  Look at verse 12–it says the Spirit impelled Him.  God directed Jesus to go to be tested in the wilderness.  Matthew’s account of the temptation of Christ affirms the same truth in Matthew 4:1, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  The verb “led” is passive—“the spirit led Christ.”  It was God’s idea for Jesus to meet Satan.

Why?  To show His credentials–to show who is the true conqueror, to show who is really in control, and to demonstrate who is holy, righteous, sinless and pure.  There is only one way to know how strong you are personally or as a church.  The only way you know how strong you really are is when someone is trying to stop you.  Anybody can be spiritual today because no one is going to try to stop you here.

Picture Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the world champion Green Bay Packers, sitting on the sideline crying.  So Coach McCarthy asks his quarterback, “What’s wrong, Aaron?”  And Aaron says, “Every time I go out there to run a play, every time I try to pass, every time I hand the ball off somebody tries to stop me, coach.  It’s just not fair.  They should be helping me.  Why do they make it so hard?”  His coach is going to whack him, because that’s how the game is played.  There are eleven other men out there who are paid to stop you–and the thing that makes you a pro is that you can overcome their attempt to sack you, tackle you, and stop the play.

The thing that makes you, your family, and this church fruitful Christians is to be able, in the midst of hell, in the midst of opposition, in the midst of others trying to stop God’s work for you, to make yardage and score points for the kingdom.  If Satan is wearing you out on your job–good.  Show them Christ, share the Gospel, and advance the kingdom.  When those at school don’t care, or make fun of you–demonstrate so much joy and peace that God wins.  If your enemies are wearing you out in your personal life, that’s okay.  Show everyone that greater is He that is in you than he that’s in the world.  When you’re really struggling under some private issue, bring glory to God by showing the world what Christ is like.

The Gospel will always be opposed.  Christ-like character will always be opposed.  Those who want to make progress for God’s purposes will always be opposed, and it is the opposition which will grow you, and make you a stronger Christian.  You all understand the principle of lifting weights–it is the opposition of the weight that builds muscle.  Buff believers are those who are willing to go to war against opposition–their flesh, the world, and the devil.

Verse 12 says the Spirit impelled Christ to go in order to be tested, tempted–in order to be opposed.  The Greek word “impelled” or “drove” is a very strong term–it literally means to throw, or cast out, or to force out.  Mark uses the same Greek word later in his gospel to describe the expulsion of demons.  Also Matthew uses the same word to describe Jesus driving the merchants out of the Temple.  Here it does not mean Jesus was forced into the wilderness against His will, but it does indicate Jesus went with a strong sense of the Spirit’s compulsion upon Him.

The God man is about to prove He is sinless, and He’s about to prove He is victorious over the devil himself.  Like 1 John 3:8b, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”  Jesus has just begun His mission to overthrow the devil.  All His coming miracles described in detail in Mark, and all His authority over demons demonstrated by His miracles, are all based upon this one victory in the wilderness.

Grammar moment–what is a historical present?  It is a verb choice which describes a moment in history, but describes it as if it were in the present time to give it emphasis and energy.  And Mark, the author of action, writing the gospel of go, uses the historical present all the time.  And the very first historical present in Mark is “impelled” or “drove”.  This vividly depicts the action as though it were taking place before our very eyes.

So the Holy Spirit empowers Christ in a unique way at His baptism, and immediately compels Christ to go out into the wilderness–that barren place all Jews associated with danger, gloom and the abode of demons.  Back in verse 10 heaven had opened up, so now in a sense, verse 12, hell has opened up before Him.  So how long was Christ there, and what did He do?

#3  Christ continually struggled against Satan for a long lonely time  Verse 13a

Verse 13, “And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan.”  Jesus was continually in the wilderness for a month and ten days.  For five-and-a-half weeks–that is a long time to be alone.  Some of you like being alone, but most of you don’t want to be alone for forty days.  And very few of you want to go a day without food, let alone five-and-a-half weeks.  The entire time, the other gospels tell us, Jesus is fasting–and by the end of the time Jesus is starving.

Matthew 4:2, “And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.”  That word “hungry” here after forty days of being without food indicates now Christ is in the process of starvation.  Fasting is giving up a craving of the flesh because there’s a greater need of the Spirit.  It’s taking the time you would use to satisfy the flesh, and using that time to re-energize the Spirit.

So Jesus is as low as you can go on the “halts” scale.  When are you most tempt-able?  When are you most vulnerable?  When you are “halts”–hungry, angry, lonely, tired and stressed.  Though not all true of Christ, Jesus was definitely hungry, lonely, tired and stressed in this situation.  And when He is in the most tempt-able situation, the weakest moment as fully human and fully God, the enemy hits Him with the final three big temptations described for us in detail in Matthew and Luke.

But Mark wants us to know something important that is awful.  As Mark describes the temptation, he lets us know that it was much worse than the final three big temptations described in the other gospels.  No, Mark lets us know that Jesus was tested and tried and pressed and battled the entire time, the entire forty days.  The test Jesus experienced was not a final sprint at the end of forty days of quiet and prayer. No, this was a grueling, cruel, and demanding forty days of attack.  This was a long and lonely battle.

How do we know?  Because Mark tells us in verse 13, “And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan.”  Being tempted is a present tense participle indicating that Jesus was repeatedly subjected to temptation during the entire period of five-and-a-half weeks–forty long days.  Luke’s account of the temptation agrees with this inference, whereas Matthew speaks of only the three big temptations at the end of the period.

Those three temptations came when Jesus was exhausted and at His weakest.  Those three temptations–the three big guns–were the climax in Satan’s assaults against our Lord.  The Greek word “tempted” means tried and tested. The Greek word may be used to denote any kind of testing and trying of someone.  Generally, as it is used here, the word tempted has the sinister connotation of a solicitation to do evil.  Satan definitely sought to bring Jesus to sin–he wanted Jesus to trip, he wanted Jesus to slip, he wanted Jesus to just try it, give up, give in, or go for it.  Who would know?  No people were watching, no one cared, what was the big deal?  It made all the difference–for all eternity.

This wilderness test had to be passed or there’d be no salvation, and all of us would justly perish in hell forever.  And this test was not pass/fail, but Jesus had to get a perfect score–100%, no errors, no sin at any time.  Because Jesus withstood forty days of attack, because He was willing to fight and win, for five-and-a-half-weeks against constant attack, you and I can be saved.  Since God can only accept a perfect sacrifice and Jesus Christ was that sinless sacrifice–the perfect Lamb of God.

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is 100% man and 100% God, without confusion–God in a body. It was this union that allowed Him to experience more pressure from temptation than you or I will ever experience, yet not be capable of sinning once.  Take a wire that is bendable, flexible and moveable, and weld it to a solid cube of steel, 100 feet tall, 100 feet wide and 100 feet thick.  You can press hard against that wire soldered on that cube, and that wire will feel all the pressure to bend, but it will not bend because it’s soldered to that steel cube.  The wire is Jesus’s human nature, soldered to the steel cube of His divine nature.  It can feel the pressure against it, but it will not move.  On its own, the wire would bend–but soldered to the cube, it cannot bend.  And Christ felt the full weight of temptation in every area, but He could not sin.  As Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

If you’re a pirate firing your cannon against the town’s fort, and the outer wall breaks, then one of the inner walls breaks, then another, but the center tower wall never breaks down–which of those walls felt the greatest assault against it?  The center tower wall–you and I are the outer walls when it comes to temptation.  When we are attacked by our enemy, we eventually crumble.  But Jesus felt the full force of attack against Him, long after we fell, but was still standing against the attacks of temptation.

Temptation to sin is not sin, and Christ felt the full force of temptation in every area, yet without sin.  That is why Hebrews says our high priest can sympathize with our weaknesses–He knows the battle better than we do.  And verse 13 tells us Jesus is for a month and ten days, with no food, no companionship, most likely little rest, in a dangerous place, continually being attacked by Satan himself.

I love it when Christians say, “Satan was attacking me,” as if they were important enough for the chief of wickedness, the greatest of all fallen angels, the leader of all the demons, to personally give them any attention at all.  Most likely it was an internal attack of their own flesh, or some worldly allurement. But if it was a genuine attack, it would be a private in the demon army–a plebe, an underclassman.  But not Christ–the Bible tells us here that Christ was attacked by the chief enemy himself, Satan.

Verse 13, “And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan.”  Satan is the one described in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.  Isaiah 14:12 to 15, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! . . . 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly . . . 14 I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.”  And Ezekiel 28, verses 13 to 15, “You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, . . . 14 With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; . . . 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you.”

This is the same being who convinced a third of the angels to sin with him, creating his demon army and talked about in Revelation 12:3 to 4, “a great red dragon, . . . 4 his tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.”  Satan himself is the agent of the attack against Christ in the wilderness.  He is a real being, fallen, evil, the father of all lies with the corrupt nature of a first degree mass murderer.  The name Satan is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “adversary”–he is the one who opposes God, His people and His work.

Try to serve Christ, share the Gospel, use your gifts while being filled with the Spirit in this life and you will be opposed.  Anything done for the glory of God and in the power of the Spirit will experience spiritual opposition from the enemy’s army.  Satan, the head of the kingdom of evil is constantly engaged in warfare against the kingdom of God.  And here, the commander of evil is personally attacking Christ in order to get him to sin for forty long lonely days.  And Christ, who feels it all, who is tempt-able, does not sin.

#4  Christ was continually in serious danger of wild beasts  Verse 13b

Look at the middle of 13b, “and He was with the wild beasts.”  Mark is the only gospel writer who mentions this, partly due to the fact that at the time Mark was writing his gospel, Christians were being thrown to wild animals in the Coliseum.  As a result, some Christians were tempted to fear and others to doubt God.  But here they are encouraged by the fact that Christ faced wild beasts too.

I read a commentator who talked about how nice the beasties were to Christ–they were “companions to Him in the wilderness . . . they came to pay homage to their creator.”  What a bunch of tripe—it’s bunk.  This is a dramatic, forlorn, difficult and harsh region with a weary and desperately hungry Jesus Christ being attacked by the master of all wickedness, evil and subtlety.  And added to that danger, Christ was continually surrounded by wild beasts.  The verb tells us that Christ was constantly in danger of being attacked by boars, jackals, wolves, foxes, leopards, hyenas and lions for the entire five-and-a-half weeks.

Lions are mentioned in two-thirds of Old Testament books, and were all present at that time in that wilderness region.  Christ could hear them at night when they hunted, and Mark mentions them here because of the serious danger they posed.  Don’t miss the comparison–a long time ago, Satan slithered into a perfect environment filled with pleasant animals, the Garden of Eden, tempted Adam and Eve and got us kicked out into a wilderness of thorns.  Now, Jesus Christ is going into a wilderness of thorns, filled with perilous animals, to begin the process of reversing the curse to bring us back to the ultimate garden of God.  Happily, Mark ends on a sweet note.

#5  Christ was continually served by angels  Verse 13c

And the angels were ministering to Him.”  The wild animals were dangerous, but God the Father ultimately maintained His protecting care to Christ through His holy angels.  Both Matthew and Mark mention the holy angels (those who didn’t sin) were continually ministering to Christ.  Matthew describes the angels coming to serve mainly after the final testing.  Mark seems to indicate the angels may have been a help throughout the forty days of continual attacks.  Yet neither gospel specifically tells us what the angels did.

The word “ministering” describes service freely given for the benefit of another.  The Bible tells us holy angels, along with a few other duties, are those who provide physical protection, give physical provision, and give encouragement–so we can assume they performed those duties to their Lord and our Lord after winning this battle.

Mark doesn’t make any statement about Christ’s victory, but His victory is assumed in verse 13 by the ministry of the angels–the Matthew and Luke accounts make it very clear, Christ won.  He went to battle for five-and-a-half weeks, and won it for you.  He is, and will be, the sinless Lamb who is slain for your sins.

#6  The solution

First  There is nothing in your life Jesus can’t handle

With God, nothing is impossible.  Your self-defeating thoughts, your destructive habits, the problems you’ve raised the white flag over, the dead-end job, the crumbling marriage, the uncontrolled temper, and that secret lust can be overcome and won in Jesus Christ.

Jesus does not often snap His fingers and free you from your problem—there are not a lot of instant fixes.  He will use His truth, His love, with prayer and help from others in the church in a season of time (T+L+P+C+T) to deliver you from the issues in your life that are tearing you down.  If Jesus can overcome this enemy, Christ in you can too.

Learn the truth of God’s Word–the Bible is your sword.  With each temptation, Jesus quoted the exact passage to address the issue.  Right now, do you know any verses that address your issue?  If you don’t, you are not ready for war, but defeat.  Get in touch with His love, in intimate devotion.  Gain power through prayer–talk to Him.  Get help from the community of the Church–talk to your bro’s and let a season of time pass, and watch Him free you from whatever is defeating you (T+L+P+C+T).

Second  Use the correct weapon in spiritual battle

Different kinds of sin require different kinds of responses.  When a battleship is under attack from aircraft, firing its depth charges is not a good strategy.  Or when the submarine is about to attack a ship, firing rockets into the air is not going to help.  Christian, when you are under attack with lust, the Bible says your first response is not to pray, have a devotion, seek counsel–your first response to lust in all its forms is—flee!  Second Timothy 2:22, “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  First Corinthians 6:18, “Flee immorality.”

When you are about to compromise in lust, run in terror–talk about it later.  Turn the computer off, run away and flee.  When battling with love for the world, it seems that your affection and intimate devotion to the Father needs time.  You either love the Lord or you love the world—not both.  When battling temptation from the devil, Jesus shows us the best response is to take your stand upon the Scripture.  Memorize verses, look up those that address your struggle and keep them with you on a card throughout the day–fight!

Third  Our Lord always wins

He is the Lord of Lords, and King of all Kings.  Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.  Jesus just beat the greatest evil in the universe–how dare we not trust Him with our trouble, our battles, our sorrow.  All He has to do is think to end any trial, any trouble, any issue in your life.  Rejoice–He is in control.  Only those in Christ, but all those in Christ are on the winning team.  Why?  Because Christ has the right credentials, and was compelled to battle the evil one, and won.  Only those in Christ are on the winning side–are you?


About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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