Lived in Your Shoes
Today’s reading from Mark covers a lot in just a few verses. Matthew records the baptism and temptation of Jesus in 16 verses, Luke in 14 verses, and Mark covers in just 5 verses. And while Mark gives us just the facts, if you will, still there are details about Jesus’s ministry that are found only in Mark.
Now in general, these days we hear the account of Jesus’s baptism on the First Sunday after the Epiphany and we hear about His temptation on the First Sunday in Lent. That means the church has put several weeks between the reading of these two accounts and we don’t always realize or see the connection that exist between them.
Mark’s compact style of writing doesn’t really allow for that. And so this morning/evening we heard about both and realize that one moment the Holy Spirit was descending on Jesus and the very next moment that same Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert to confront the devil. This was before He did any teaching or miracles or had called any disciples.
We read, The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. The Greek could also be translated as, The Spirit immediately threw him out into the wilderness. Mark gives us the impression that Jesus was still wet from His baptism as He confronted satan. It’s like the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus and He goes, as only God can go, and begins the work of earning our salvation, beginning if you will where Adam and Eve failed.
The point is this was an intentional confrontation with satan. The involvement of the Holy Spirit shows that Jesus time in the desert wasn’t some random encounter between enemies. This battle was God’s intent for the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry.
Now Mark doesn’t record many details about the actual temptations. He does tell us that it lasted forty days and that Jesus was with the wild animals. And that phrase reminded me of an Old Testament sacrifice that was also driven out into the wilderness. That is the sacrificing of the scapegoat. And as you may recall, the scapegoat was the central figure in the ceremony for the Day of Atonement.
In Leviticus 16 we read about the Day of Atonement: Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.
The idea was that the goat, an “innocent” animal, did not volunteer for the role of scape goat but was given that role by others. That goat did not suffer or bear the burden of its own sins but it bore the sins of the people of Israel. Aaron, the high priest, according to God’s command confessed the sins of the nation over the goat. And in doing so he transferred the sins of the people onto the goat. After that a special shepherd led the scapegoat out into the desert in the midst of wild animals. And so the goat with all the sins of Israel went out into the wilderness never to be seen again. And the sins of the people went with it.
Of course, once the special shepherd set the scapegoat free, no one really knew what happened to that goat. The most likely outcome is that wild animals ate it. It’s also possible that a shepherd from another country who knew nothing about the traditions of Israel might find it and take it home to his own flocks. No one really knew. The point is: although the symbolism of the scapegoat was that the sins of Israel were gone never to be seen or heard from again, no one really knew for sure what happened to the goat.
And so a scapegoat had to be sent out into the desert year after year. It’s greater role however was that of a shadow pointing to the One who is the fulfillment of all God’s promises. As we read in Hebrews 10: For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is the scapegoat was a shadow pointing to the reality that is found in Jesus the incarnate Son of God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is as John the Baptist declared the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But even though He carried the sin of the world, He personally was without sin. He endured and resisted every temptation satan put in His path. Again we read in Hebrews: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Jesus endured and overcame the temptations of satan. He not only endured the three temptations in the wilderness, but for three years as He made His way to the cross, He was as we read … tempted in every way, just as we are, yet He did not sin.
You see, just as by Adam and Eve’s one sin Eden was lost, if satan could have gotten Jesus to sin just once, His death on the cross would have meant no more than the death of the two thieves next to Him. But Jesus didn’t sin, not in thought, word, or deed. And so with carrying our sin He went to the cross and the grave where He left it when He rose on Easter morning.
And with Jesus, we don’t have to worry that our sin might somehow come back to find us because on the cross Jesus the sinless one drank the cup of God’s wrath for us. Taking our punishment in His flesh and paying for our sin with His blood Jesus overcame death destroying the power of the old evil foe. In Christ our sin cannot threaten us; in Christ satan has no power over us.
The Holy Spirit made His presence known when Jesus came up out of the water from His baptism. That same Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert to begin His battle with satan that would end on the cross in victory for you and me and all who are born of sin, just as God promised.
It’s important for us to know that as our substitute Jesus did endure all the hardships we endure. He doesn’t just know where we leave our shoes but He has lived in our shoes, He has experienced life as you know it. He was tempted just as you and I are tempted. He experienced our pain, our sorrow, our frustrations …. He experienced it all yet for you and me. He never once sinned in thought, word, or deed.
As we read in 2 Corinthians 5: For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. You see, just as the High Priest placed the sin of Israel on the scapegoat, God the Father put the sin of the world on Jesus so that now by grace through the faith created and sustained by the Means of Grace credits Christ righteousness to you. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.
In His Name, Amen.