After his baptism, Jesus was taken out into the wilderness for forty days where he fasted and was tempted by Satan. Mark’s account says very little about this event, but it is significant and one from which we can learn much.
First we must understand that Jesus was tempted in the same ways that all the rest of mankind are tempted. In the other accounts we see that he was tempted with the misuse of the power of the Spirit, fanaticism and with the riches and glory of this world. (Matthew 4:1-11) Satan tempts all of mankind in these same and other ways. Jesus too was tempted at other times with other temptations for the writer of Hebrews says, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus was tempted in all the ways that we are tempted and because he has gone through those things he is able to intercede for us before God and sympathise with us for he suffered the same things but did not succumb to sin.
Temptations will and must come. We too will experience our own times of being in the wilderness. We will feel as if we are all alone and separated from the Lord Jesus as Christ was alone in the wilderness. Satan will throw all manner of temptations at us and Jesus said, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!” (Luke 17:1)
But we also take comfort in the words that show us, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) We see here that the temptations will come as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, but the promise of the Lord is that he will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to stand against the temptation. Sometimes we doubt this to be the case. Sometimes we may say to the Lord that it is too hard, but He knows us better than we do and he has promised we will not be stretched beyond our limits.
We must go through temptations for the purpose of testing and maturing in the word. But with the temptations will be provided the way of escape to endure and go through the temptation. Look at Jesus’ example when he was tempted in the wilderness in the Matthew 4:1-11 example. His method of enduring and escaping was through using his knowledge of the scripture to combat the temptations of Satan. Satan twisted scripture to throw up temptations to the Lord, but in each case Jesus refuted this tempter and put him in his place by the correct application of the words of God.
We too must gain a solid understanding of the words of God in the scriptures, for it is by this method we too can overcome temptation and grow in the Lord. The scripture gives us comfort in the times of temptation for it promises the same outcomes as Jesus experienced in the wilderness. We see that after Jesus had suffered the temptations, angels came and ministered to him to restore, establish and strengthen him. The same promise is to us when we suffer temptation from the devil. “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.” (1 Peter 5:9-10)
But what if we fail? Still we can take comfort in the scriptures for we can know that, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) Jesus is faithful and he knows we are going through tough times. We will fall down as Peter fell and denied the Lord three times on the eve of the Lord’s death. But as he instructed Peter to repent and turn again to strengthen the brethren, so too we need to repent and return to the Lord if we fall down.
When we do fall, and it will happen, we must take the advice and comfort offered by James. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.” (James 4:7-8) Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. And as you and God become closer, there is no room for the devil and he will flee from the presence of God. Although we may fail and fall from time to time though, we must also take the rest of James’ advice, which is to repent and purify our hearts. Our call to be with God is not so we can continue to fall and fail, we must learn from our errors and be strengthened so that when the temptations arise again we can resist them using the words and power of God as Jesus showed in his wilderness experience.