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The Word, The Truth

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Today’s gospel (Mk 1:12-15) narrates the event after Jesus’ baptism. He was led by the Spirit, the same Spirit present to Jesus in his baptism (1:10), into combat with the evil one, then followed by the beginning of his public ministry.

In the synoptic tradition, the Markan account of Jesus’ temptation (1:12f) is telegraphic in comparison to the elaborate dialogue found in Matthew (4:1-10) and Luke (4:1-13). The verb peirazō (πειράζω) means primarily “to tempt” or “put to the test”, (cf s1S#19 Tempt (1) 2/21/21; s1S#126 Tempt (2) 2/25/23). The usual translation of “tempted” has the contemporary overtones of inducement to sin. The rendering “tested” better evokes the wider theme of God’s testing of the people of Israel and of the suffering, just person, who though tested by God through suffering remains faithful rather than sinful and is called a child of God (Wis 2:12-20 and 5:1-23).

“erēmos” (ἔρημος), the place where Jesus was tested, is an adjectival form used primarily in the nominal sense of “desert”, “wilderness,” (v13). John the Baptist’s preaching took place in the “wilderness,” preparing for the coming of Christ. John 3:14 refers to Moses lifting up the serpent in the “desert”- the serpent that provided the catalyst for divine healing. The place, too, was commonly believed to be the habitation of demons.

For Jesus, beginning his public life ministry in the desert, including his baptism and testing, all serve to underscore the powerful symbolism of the desert in his life. The juxtaposition of Jesus’ baptism and his sojourn in the wilderness captures the dual aspect of the wilderness as the place of God’s revelation, (the fulfillment of his covenant-making with his people, his betrothal of sorts with men, cf first reading Gen 9:8-15) and as the place of testing. The mention of the ministering angels and protection from the desert beasts suggests the psalmist’s assurance of Yahweh’s assistance to his faithful one (Ps 91:11f).

Victorious against temptation, Jesus begins his ministry announcing the time of fulfillment, i.e. the end of the era of Israel and the time of eschatological realization; the proximity of the reign of God, i.e. the time of God’s total sovereignty over the whole of creation; and finally the need to repent, i.e. to experience a radical change of heart in light of this final moment (cf s1S#60 Repentance 12/5/21).

Mark’s brief account of Jesus’ temptation concludes with Christ’s proclamation of the new covenant’s arrival. The beginning of Lent is a good moment for us to consider how far God has reached out to us and be able to imitate Christ’s example in overcoming temptation and to have a truly ‘repentant heart and be able to (be)l(e)ive the Gospel’. Amen!

s1S#19 Tempt (1) 2/21/21

…“What could be considered the first occurrence in the Bible of the word related to ‘tempting’ is found in the famous story of Abraham being asked by the Lord to sacrifice his son Isaac, (Gen 22:1-19). The word used is nāsāh (נִסָּ֖ה) where the Lord is putting the patriarch’s faith to a severe test. Thus, in this context, the underlying sense of testing the quality or legitimacy of, or to ascertain the validity or integrity of, one’s faith in God. The people of Israel were similarly tested in the wilderness concerning their faith in him, (cf. Ex 15:25; Ps 95:8)….In (the) particular context (in which )the temptation takes place immediately after Jesus’ baptism, (it) is interpreted as his commissioning for the messianic mission, a ministry to be characterized by servanthood: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”, (Mk 10:45). Thus the temptation is not for Jesus to prove his divine sonship (for such sonship is never questioned in the NT), but rather the “testing” is implicitly presented as Jesus’ struggle over whether to obey God’s call to be a servant-messiah or to interpret messiahship in the traditional terms of power, strength, and conquest, the struggle detected through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, where it is made clear that the disciples never really understood Jesus’ commitment to a servant ministry…If Jesus himself is ‘tested (through what he suffered…in every way, yet without sin’, cf. Heb 2:18; 4:15) so are we; but He will help us, having been tested himself. And through it all, we can demonstrate our commitment to God and his ways, enhance our faith and our character strengthened (cf. Rom 5:3-5). Let us always remember that he promised to keep us from being ‘tempted or tested’ beyond our capacity to cope, (cf. 1 Cor 10:13)”…

s1S#126 Tempt (2) 2/25/23

…”During the time of Jesus, the Mediterranean world lives by a deeply rooted belief in the spirits who exist in great numbers and are said to be in constant capricious interference in the daily human life. At Jesus’ baptism, when the voice identified him as “my son in whom I am well pleased”, (Mt 3:13-17), it is as if all the spirits heard this and so as expected went out after Jesus to test him if it is indeed true and if true will try to make him do something displeasing…The story given by Mathew…presented Jesus engaging in a direct one-on-one dialogue with this evil spirit in a scripture-quoting contest- three times replying with a quote from the book of Deuteronomy (8:3, 6:16, 6:13), to resist the temptations. The devil quotes the Scripture as well (Ps 91:11-12) but did not succeed in tripping him up, leaving Jesus while the angels came to minister to him.

The story is considered to be based upon the pattern of Israel’s temptations in the desert during its Exodus from Egypt. Matthew arranged it differently from Luke to end with the high mountain as a scene of the final temptation. Mountains are important symbols in Matthew, as places of revelation, where the Father of the Son gives teaching to human beings. Clearly, the story of Jesus’ victory presents him as the faithful and obedient Son of God, just as he was revealed in the baptism story (3:13-17). The implied contrast of the obedient son, Jesus, with the disobedient son, Israel in the Exodus story, is deliberate…Jesus is the model of obedience to God. He emerges victorious from his combat. Until his arrest, trial, and death, no one, human or spirit succeeds in tripping him up or causing him to fall from his stated position and goals. This is the consequence of unflinching obedience to God. The devil will always be in constant interference in our daily human life. But it would be too lame to make “the devil made me do it!” our favorite excuse, for Jesus himself who was ‘tested through what he suffered…in every way, yet without sin’, (Heb 2:18; 4:15), so are we; but surely He will help us, having been tested himself. “Lord, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. Amen.”

s1S#60 Repentance 12/5/21

… ‘Metanoia’, (μετανοεῖτε)is used in LXX to translate Hebrew niham, “to be sorry,”. But the NT usage echoes the OT word ‘shûb’ (שׁ֣וּב), (cf 1Kgs 8:47, Is 59:20; Dn 9:13), literally means ‘turning back/away’, which connotes not just a change of one’s mind or outlook but an abrupt about-face in moral conduct. This radical redirection signifies a new walking with God, ongoing in nature, in separation from sin, a shift from a worldly path to an engagement with God”…

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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