Saturday, March 04, 2006


'What are you giving up?' This is probably the most common question asked in recent days, as we moved into the season of Lent last Wednesday. I'm not sure what you make of Lent, cos I know that some of my readers won't agree with it at all.

For me, it's a chance to reflect on the time Jesus spent in the desert being tempted, at the start of his ministry. And it's also a preparation for the joy of Easter. But back to the temptation thing for a moment.

Matthew and Luke go into more detailed accounts of what happened, but for pure simplicity, Mark can't be beaten: 'The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.' (Mark 1:12-13).

This forms part of the passage I'm preaching on this Sunday in Magheralin, and yet it isn't what I'm preaching on. And yet, some things occured to me as I did my initial preparations.

1. Jesus was in the wilderness forty days. Is there some sort of link here to the wilderness experience of Israel on coming out of Egypt? Is Jesus the 'new Israel', the new people of God?

2. Being tempted by Satan. There's no doubt that Jesus was tempted. This is of comfort to us, because while he was tempted, he did not sin - there is no sin in being tempted! But even more so, as the book of Hebrews tells us, he has compassion on us, as he has been through the same experiences of temptation: 'Since then we have a great hgh priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.' (Hebrews 4:14-16).

3. And he was with the wild animals. The commentaries I had a look at suggest that this goes to demonstrate the care and protection of God for Jesus, as he wasn't harmed by the wild animals. One commentator drew a parallel between God shutting the mouths of the lions for Daniel, and for protecting Jesus in the wilderness. But there's another thought I've been having, and I'm not sure how true it is, but I'll put it out there anyway... If Jesus is described as the new Adam, or the second Adam (e.g. Romans 5), then is this the start of the new creation, reflecting the situation where Adam was with the animals in Eden? and does it ultimately point us towards what the new creation will be like, when 'the wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD.' (Isaiah 65:25).

4. And the angels were ministering to him. Jesus was strengthened and encouraged by the angels who served him. We tend not to think of angels so much, and yet, we're told at the start of Hebrews that 'Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?' (Hebrews 1:14). I'm not sure where I'm going with this angels point. Any ideas?

As I said earlier, these are brief sort of thoughts, but perhaps they will be of some help to you. And if all else fails, 'What are you giving up?'


  1. What is Lent? Give me the Scripture reference for it?

  2. David, David... so predictable! How did I know you would be straight in with such a question... As I said in my posting, it's the time of the year when we especially remember Jesus' time in the wilderness. In the early church, it was also the period of preparation for newcomers to the faith, prior to being baptised on Easter Day.

  3. It's a throw back to Rome ! I will have nothing to do with it !!! Away with your man made ideas !!