After Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), He is “thrown out” (ekballo) by the Spirit into the wilderness for a cosmic battle with Satan himself (Mark 1:12). Since God has said that this Son is well-pleasing in His sight (Mark 1:11), why is it important for Him to be tempted?
Jesus is validating the claim that He is perfect. He is the spotless Lamb of God. He must do what Israel could not do.
Jesus’ victory over temptation showed His ability to restore us to a perfect paradise.
Follow this biblical thread with me.
Out of the Garden and Back Again
When God created Adam, He made him a gardener (Gen. 2:15). Placed in the perfect utopia called the Garden of Eden, Adam lived in sinless paradise. The food was luscious. The setting was serene. The animals lived in peace with Adam and with one another as God would bring every large and small animal before Adam to receive its name (Gen. 2:19). Adam’s job was to care for the Garden among the peaceful animals as He enjoyed the presence of God.
Then came a wild animal.
Satan came in the form of the crafty serpent (Gen. 3:1). He lured Adam and Eve away with the fruit from the restricted menu. Their consequence? They were evicted from Paradise. They were no longer the caretakers of Eden. An angel would take their place as the Garden’s guardian. They were evicted from the Garden into land that was not as lush. As God sends Adam out from “the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken,” (Gen. 3:23), the gardener now must learn how to live away from the presence of God in the wilderness.
As sin continues on earth, God establishes a people. He rescues them from slavery. They aren’t given commandments until after they had experienced deliverance. He made them His people and then expected them to live as His people. Instead of obedience to the commands, they rebelled. As a result of their constant disobedience, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years (Num. 32:13).
After their wandering, they are finally established in the Promised Land. But even in this place that flows with milk and honey (Num. 14:8), their sin causes them to miss out on God’s best.
The prophets comfort by saying that the sinful chaos in which they live will not always be their reality. They even speak of a time when Creation will return to its original peaceful state.
How does it speak of this peace? That wild animals will be tame and docile again.
Not only will they be peaceful with one another, but even the smallest of children would be able to play in the presence of a serpent (Is. 11:6-9). Playing in the viper’s den. The serpent’s lair. We will experience life outside of the wilderness and among the animals at peace – this day is coming.
Then comes Jesus.
After His baptism, He goes to the wilderness. To the place of exile. To the place of eviction. To the serpent’s lair. And He does in forty days what Israel could not do in forty years. If the Israelites wouldn’t have wandered in the wilderness due to their sin, they could have made the trip from Egypt to Canaan in weeks by foot. Who knows – maybe forty days? Yet their sin causes them to linger in the wilderness.
Jesus defeats Satan in the wilderness. He also seems to be opposed by…wild animals (Mark 1:13). The breakdown of Creation in the wilderness is staggering. The imagery is vivid.
- Adam – plenty of food; Jesus – no food
- Adam – not alone; Jesus – alone
- Adam – surrounded by peaceful animals; Jesus – surrounded by wild animals
- Adam – peaceful paradise; Jesus – dangerous wilderness
And yet, among all those obstacles, Jesus defeats Satan on his own turn with our souls on the line.
After Jesus’ success against Satan’s temptation, He embarks on a 3-year ministry expedition that turns that world upside down. Morally perfect, He calls the morally imperfect to a different way of living through the gospel.
After He goes to the cross to pay for our sins, He rises victoriously from the grave on the third day. When one of His followers, Mary Magdalene, comes to take care of His supposed dead body on Sunday morning, the grave is empty. After she hears the message from the angels that He is risen, she is still in disbelief.
Then Jesus comes.
And out of all the forms He could have taken that Easter Sunday morning, she mistakes Him to be someone. Something.
Out of all the ways He could have portrayed Himself to her, out of all the ways He could have allowed Himself to be seen, the first image when she sees the risen Savior is that He looks like a gardener (John 20:15).
Do you see what is taking place here?
Jesus has just made a way for us to come back to the Garden. We can reenter paradise. We can finally come home.
[This content is further explained in the sermon, “Make Your Father Proud.”]
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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