“Driven By Love”

Text:  Mark 1:9-15

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

As I was reading the Gospel lesson for this morning and contemplating on what I was to write, I couldn’t get past a phrase that I had really never noticed before. I must have read this particular Scripture 100 times but only this week did I notice completely the directness of verse 12, it says, “The Spirit immediately drove Him (Jesus) into the wilderness.” Of course many of us know what happened in that wilderness. Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days.

The Spirit drove him into the wilderness. It was obviously important to the Father that this episode in Jesus’ life take place. The Spirit of God, sent to be our helper, has driven Jesus into a world of temptation. It really makes you think doesn’t it? It was God the Father’s plan that His Son was to be tempted and He sent His Spirit to make sure it happened. What’s the reason? Was there a chance that Jesus would resist? Why was it important for Jesus to pass the test? Why even test Him at all?

Mark leaves out many of the finer details of this episode in Jesus’ life but these few words in verse 12 are written with greater urgency. In Luke and Matthew it says that Jesus was “led” by the Spirit, still the same plan but without the heightened emphasis. Why does Mark add the dramatics?

To be tempted is to have someone or something convince you to do something or to try something. In this case, God is sending His Son and the Devil himself will be waiting for Him. Is God wondering if Jesus will do all that is required of Him? Is He wondering if maybe the humanness in Him might overcome the Godliness? Is He not sure that the glory found in Him was enough to overcome the world and all its enticements?

What we need to do is look at this part of Scripture in the context of Jesus’ life. He has just been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan and will soon start His earthly ministry. But before He begins this next phase of His life, He must face temptation in its highest form, from the devil himself.

First we read of the joyous occasion of His Baptism. We hear God speak from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” and then immediately He starts the process in the wilderness. This is a major change in the emotion of the story. Jesus is immediately driven by the Holy Spirit from the incredible blessing of Baptism to face the incredible tension of temptation. Mark doesn’t give us the whole story of Christ’s temptation but it’s enough to know that He faced it, just like we do every day. But the question remains, why was Jesus tempted and why was it so very important that He was? Why, as the Son of God, did He have to do this?

As we begin the Lenten season, Jesus is already making His way to the cross. His whole ministry was to culminate on this one self-less act. In His Baptism, Jesus sentences Himself to death. These next three years will be spent with the final sacrifice always on His mind.

So Jesus is driven into the wilderness to begin the process. The Devil will offer Him many things to tempt Him to take a different course. He literally promises Him the world if He will make the choice to live and not to die so tragically on the cross. Satan tries to steer Him away from this course of undeserved suffering and death.

But in the end we see Jesus emerging from this test the victor, with a renewed faith and a greater sense of who He was and what He was sent to do. It is during this temptation that Jesus begins to set His face toward Calvary.

Jesus knew the importance of His Father’s plan for Him. He knew that we would be lost unless He was to see this plan all the way through. In this wilderness experience, Jesus is strengthened and His Godly character is witnessed.

So does this mean that God leads us to temptation in order that we might be strengthened in our faith? Does he put us on temptations path to see if we will pass the test? Does He sometimes leave us in temptation so that we are forced to find our own way out?

First we must understand that Jesus is different from us. For Him to resist temptation is markedly dissimilar. He is the only one ever born without sin so sinful temptations don’t bring with them the same urges that they do for us who were born into sin. I believe this is why He had to be driven into the wilderness, because He was not as easily motivated by the charms of worldly sin. Unlike us, His first choice is always to avoid temptation so He had to be coaxed with authority into it, so that He might experience the same things we experience so willingly.

God does not tempt us but does He sometimes allow the sinfulness of the world to tempt us? To this I say yes. Maybe it’s because I find myself so easily tempted and I want to think I might learn something from it or that my faith will be somehow strengthened in the struggle. I believe that in life we are forced to make choices and that the choices to follow our natural urges into sin are always countered by our urges to follow God’s command.

In Mark 12:28 -31, Jesus is asked a question, It says, And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

This is the choice we are faced with. Are we to follow temptation away from God or are we to follow our Lord with all our heart and with all our soul, and with all our mind and with all our strength. We are not tempted by God to break these commandments but by the devil, so who is going to be the victor in our lives?

One of my favorite shows as a kid was a show called Hee Haw. Well, they had a great character there by the name of Doc Campbell.  Does anyone remember him? In one episode Doc Campbell is confronted by a patient who says he broke his arm in two places. The doc replies, “Well then, stay out of them places!”  He may have something there. We cannot regularly put ourselves in the face of temptation and not be affected. When faced with the problem of temptation, we need to take the good doctor’s advice and “stay out of them places.”

I don’t believe that God brings temptation into our lives but because of sin, temptations are a part of every life because our natural sin continually tries to convince us to be our own Gods. Temptations are part of our world and we must learn to avoid them and resist them.

There is a bumper sticker that reads, “Lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself.” Temptation is so common to us that we sometimes don’t realize were undergoing it. For many Christians temptations are little more than an annoyance because we often miscalculate the danger in them thinking, somehow, that their faith will see us through. Yet we all fail on a regular basis, despite our best efforts. We know deep down what is right and what is wrong. We even know that the right thing is best for us, yet we feel the same urges as every other person on earth, believer and non-believer alike. Too often, we are no better than the people of the world because we ignore God’s signals and we choose to follow our own paths because it’s easier that way. Then when we do succumb to temptation we blame someone else.

Philip Yancey, in his book “Reaching for the Invisible God” describes the way God gets blamed for things in this way.
“When Princess Diana died in an automobile accident, a minister was interviewed and was asked the question “How can God allow such a terrible tragedy?” And I loved his response.

He said, “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going ninety miles an hour in a narrow tunnel? Just How, exactly, was God involved.”

Many years ago, boxer, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, killed a Korean opponent with a hard right hand to the head. At the press conference after the Korean’s death, Mancini said, “Sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does.”
In a letter to Dr. James Dobson, a young woman asked this anguished question, “Four years ago, I was dating a man and became pregnant. I was devastated. I asked God, “Why have you allowed this to happen to me?”
Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother a couple years ago who pushed her two sons into a lake to drown and then blamed a fictional car-jacker for the deed, wrote in her confession: “I dropped to the lowest point when I allowed my children to go down that ramp into the water without me. I took off running and screaming, ‘Oh God! Oh God, no! What have I done? Why did you let this happen?”
Now the question remains, exactly what role did God play in a boxer beating his opponent to death, a teenage couple giving into temptation in the back seat of a car, or a mother drowning her children?
Is God responsible for these acts? To the contrary, they are examples of incredible human free will being exercised on a fallen planet.

And yet it’s in our nature as mortal, frail, fallen people to lash out at one who is not mortal, frail or fallen, that being God.” Or it’s like A woman who bought an extravagant dress, and the husband asked why did it have to be so extravagant, She said, “the devil made me buy it,” The husband asked, “Why didn’t you say get behind me Satan?,” The woman said, “I did and he said it looked as good in the back as it did in the front, so I bought it.”…  t’s easy to play the blame game. It’s much harder to resist temptation.

I believe that God the Father wanted to see His Son face the same things we face every day. Our temptations might not be so grandiose or our tempter so obvious, but temptations are always on our doorsteps and Jesus, if He is to deal with humanity, must experience what humanity experiences. He must be given the chance to show us that resistance can be done in the name and power of Christ, to show us how it is to be done and in who’s name it should be done. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to show us all, that God is stronger than the devil. He loved us enough to send His Son in the wilderness to be tempted so that we might come to understand that His Word can and will deliver us.

Temptations will continue to burden us, it’s what happens in a fallen world, but by God’s grace, He gives you all you need to resist them.

Does He allow it to happen sometimes, yes, if we are to live in a sinful world, we must learn to find victory only in Christ by resisting the devil and all his attempts to drag us off the narrow path.

That is why it’s so very important to be committed to Christ and to protect yourselves in His name by devoting yourself to Bible study, worship, servant-hood, prayers and meditation. By God’s grace we can learn to avoid temptation. We can learn to walk away from those things that separate us from God, we can learn to let God be God.

The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. Even at the very beginning of His ministry He paid the price for our sins. May God keep temptation from our doorsteps and may we all come to learn what He has done for us by His grace to overcome the sin of the world. From the beginning to the very end, Christ’s thoughts were with us. In His life we find example of how to live ours in the confidence that can only be found in Him.

Just like Jesus, we must also set our face on the cross, not because of what we must sacrifice, but because of what has already been sacrificed for us. Just like Christ, we must put all our faith in God so that when temptations do arrive, we have the weapons to destroy them. Just like Christ, we must find our strength in God’s word so that His Spirit might lead us onto the narrow path to heaven.

Don’t forget who you are and to whom you belong. As Children of God we can be assured of the victory won for us by Jesus Christ. Now let us go on with our lives in His confidence. Amen







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