Jesus’ testing in the wilderness occurs immediately after His baptism. Just as God parted the waters of the Red Sea and spread His protecting spirit over Israel in safety, so now the heavens are parted and that Spirit descends on Jesus who is a new Israel – a new people. Jesus now has the power and authority of God’s Spirit resting (that is remaining) on Him.
The first Israel was not a people until God formed them as such in the wilderness experience. The wilderness experience included deliverance from slavery, the giving of law and covenant, the frequent infidelity of the people and God’s forgiving them when they repented and God’s choosing them as a beloved son who would inherit multiple blessings in obedience and reverence to the Lord.
Mark forcefully tells us “the Spirit drove Him out into the wilderness.” Jesus is tested just as the Israel of old was tested. A test in the Bible means God challenges His covenant son to growth in their relationship. A test is intended to discern what is deeply in the heart. In the Bible, God is never spoken of as “testing” anyone other than Israel. To be tested, therefore, is a most positive event – it is to purify, strengthen and challenge the covenant son to make progress and deepen the bonds of God Father and Israel Son.
To say Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days is to say this is a time of formation. Moses was on Mt. Sinai 40 days receiving the law. The people of Israel were in the wilderness 40 years in order to make them capable of gratefully receiving the gift of the land.
Some people today deny the existence Satan, fallen angels, and hell. Unfortunately, they are all too real. To deny their existence is to ignore naively the tragic results of evil in our world. The reality of Satan and fallen angels and hell is to clear doctrine of the Scriptures and the Church’s tradition.
To say Jesus was “with the wild beasts” is to recall the Paradise theme of man and beast at peace; Hosea 2:18 uses this image to recall the meaning of the Messianic fulfillment. To say “angels ministered to Him” is to say that Jesus restores the breach between heaven and earth.
When Jesus preaches that “the kingdom of God is at hand” He is inaugurating the new age NOW as well as bringing it to completion in the future. Nearness of the kingdom means a time for repentance and a practicing belief in the good news of what God is beginning to do. Jesus is convening the new Israel by His word and action. This is the awareness of Lent – the kingdom of God can only be alive in one who hears Jesus’ word and perceives His deeds as the way to salvation.
- Fr. John Krenzke