St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Understand the Point of Jesus’ Life

Sermon on Mark 1:12-15
Text: At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.  After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”
     A number of months ago, I purchased a magazine that was put out by US News and World Report.  The entire issue was devoted to Jesus.  It highlighted his birth, life and death.  It talked about some of the people that were a part of his life.  The magazine had authors from all across the spectrum talking about Jesus.  There was much to agree with.  There was, however, far more to disagree with.  It seems that every couple of years you will find various magazines that will do a similar thing, in that, if it is not an entire magazine, there is an extended article about Jesus.  The fact that there continues to be magazines published like this one shows us that people are still interested in whom Jesus was.  Was he merely a good man, a kind healer, an insightful prophet or a wonderful example, and nothing more?  In the four verses for this morning, we have a wonderful opportunity to do what so few seem to be able to do.  We will use these verses to UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF JESUS’ LIFE.  We will see that 1. He Defeated Satan For Us and 2. He Preached Salvation To Us.
     Just prior to our text, Jesus had been baptized by John in the Jordan River.  This event marked his formal entrance into his public ministry.  Now, Jesus entered the desert for a battle.  The battle was not against a flesh and blood opponent.  Rather, it was to be a one-on-one battle with the devil.  Note that Jesus did not recklessly expose himself to danger.  Rather, according to his Father’s good purpose, Jesus went out to the desert to be tempted.  The fact that it says that “he was with the wild animals,” reminds us that Jesus was cut off from all human contact and support.
      Mark’s account does not give us all of the details of this battle, such as we find in the accounts written by Matthew and Luke.  There we note that Jesus was continually tempted for forty days.  It was not a one and done type of a deal.  The devil sought to get Jesus to sin in a variety of ways.  We have three of them mentioned in Matthew and Luke.  Since Jesus had fasted those forty days, the devil tried to get Jesus to doubt his Father’s care and turn stones into bread.  Since Jesus trusted that his Father would help him, the devil tempted Jesus to jump from the highest point of the temple, thereby testing his Father.  Because the devil knew that Jesus had come to the world to redeem the world, the devil tempted Jesus by saying that he would give him the world, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him.  There is no doubt that these temptations were fierce and attacking Jesus from every angle imaginable.  Satan was fighting like a cornered animal.  The reason for the intensity of his temptations was the fact that, if he could get Jesus to sin, even one time, he would have been the victor for all time.
     We know that Jesus withstood the assaults of the devil, for at the end of verse 13, it says, “angels attended him.”  The angels brought the nourishment and the companionship that Jesus has foregone for the past forty days.  They were a reminder of the Father’s love for Jesus and his concern for the mission that Jesus was undertaking.
     This was not the last time that the devil would tempt Jesus.  Luke reminds us of this as he writes this epilogue to the forty days of temptation, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Lk 4:13)  Satan would continue to tempt Jesus in subtler ways.  Satan came through the crowds that followed Jesus as they variously tried to crown him as their king, which was not the reason Jesus had come to the earth, or they tried to kill Jesus by stoning him or throwing him from a cliff.  This was not the way the Christ was to die.  Satan attacked through close friends, like Peter, when he tried to dissuade Jesus from following a path that would lead to a cross.  Satan tempted Jesus here at the beginning of his ministry and at the end of his ministry through Pilate’s sneers and the taunts of the Jewish hierarchy.  It was a tireless assault on Jesus, all in the hope of getting him to trip up, if only one time.
     How thankful we are to read in the book of Hebrews that he was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”  Never once did Jesus fall victim to the devil’s temptation.  What makes us so thankful is that he was perfect for us.  The devil also attacks us on many fronts.  He attacks us when things are going well and gets us to start thinking that maybe we do not really need God.  ‘Look at all I have accomplished!’  He attacks us when things are not going so well.  He tries to get us to doubt God’s love for us.  ‘If God really loved you, would you be going through this right now?’  He assaults us through our friends and family, as we are tempted to join in with things that are wrong.  He tempts us to be quiet about our faith, because we are afraid of what others might think about us or say to us.
     The difference between us and Jesus is that, all too often, we have not withstood the devil’s temptations.  We have been overtaken by our sinful nature and done what God says we must not do.  Because of all of the times that we have fallen, we deserve to spend our eternity apart from God.  We should go to hell because of our sins.  How thankful we are that Jesus was victorious in the desert in that one-on-one battle with the devil.  He was doing this for us.  Then, in the fiercest battle, Jesus won the victory of the devil on the cross.  There, once and for all, Jesus beat the devil.  Jesus was sacrificed on the cross to pay for our sins.  He suffered and died.  To the naked eye, it may have appeared as though the devil had won, as Jesus breathed his last on the cross.  However, we know that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, and through that won the victory for time and eternity.  Moreover, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15, “Thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  When you and I are brought to faith, we share in the victory that Jesus won over the devil.  Jesus, as our champion, went out and defeated the devil for us.  Rejoice in this victory that is yours through Jesus Christ!
     The second half of our text took place about a year later.  John the Baptist was put into prison, and later executed by King Herod.  Mark tells us that Jesus went into the northern part of Palestine and began to proclaim the “good news of God.”  His message was this.  First of all, Jesus said, “The time has come.  The kingdom of God is near.”  The time had come.  All of those centuries of waiting for the Messiah to come had come to an end.  Here was the fulfillment of those prophecies standing right in front of them.  The kingdom of God was near them.  It was not an earthly kingdom, which some had been looking for.  Rather, it was God’s gracious rule of love in the hearts and lives of his children.
     Jesus then told the people how this kingdom would be established.  “Repent and believe the good news!”  First of all, we note the word “Repent.”  To repent means to look into the mirror of God’s law.  Do not just take a passing glance.  Take a long, hard look into that mirror.  How do you measure up?  How many times, just over the past 24 hours have you done, said, or thought something that was not what God commands us to do?  How have you treated your spouse, your children, your parents, your neighbor?  Repenting means that we take an honest assessment of our lives.  It means to feel the sadness and sorrow which flow from a broken heart.  It means knowing that we have dared to offend our holy God.  Jesus would have us repent of our sins.  This is the first part of his message.  It is not one we like to hear, but it is one that we need to hear.  We need to know that there is no way we can ever save ourselves.  This message must be first preached, before we can fully appreciate the second part of Jesus’ message.
     The second part is “Believe the good news!”  The good news that Jesus is talking about is the message that he has done everything for us.  For all of the times that we have fallen in the face of Satan’s attacks, Jesus stood firm.  That is why we rejoice in the words I referenced earlier, that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”  In the face of every single temptation that you and I have succumbed to, Jesus stood firm.  He was perfect where we were not.  He was perfect because we are not.  This is the first part of the good news that Jesus announces to you and me.  He says, ‘I lived a perfect life for you.’
     The second part of the good news that Jesus tells us is that he has paid for all of our sins.  This is the central message of the season of Lent.  Lent gives us a unique opportunity to be reminded of just how much Jesus loves us.  Jesus loved you and me so much that he was willing to be punished in our place.  He wanted you and me to spend our eternity with him in heaven, so he was willing to do whatever it took so that this could take place.  Because Jesus has paid for all of our sins, we are perfect in God’s sight.  Because we are perfect in God’s sight, heaven’s gates stand wide open for us.  The faith that makes this our own comes to us through the working of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sends through the Means of Grace, namely the gospel message in his Word and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
     Jesus allows us a wonderful opportunity.  He is no longer with us physically proclaiming this message.  So, he allows us the opportunity to spread this message to others.  We do so when we support our ministry here on the local level.  We do so when we support the various avenues of Christian education, such as Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School.  We do so when we give to our Mission offering, which is used to train future pastors and teachers and to go to places in our country and around the world with the message of Jesus Christ.  We share this message with our children, when we teach them from little on whom their Savior is.  We share this message with those around us.  It may come in the form of encouraging a fellow believer, who is having a difficulty in their lives.  It may come as we reach out to someone who is straying from their faith.  It may come as we tell someone who has not yet been brought to faith in Jesus.  Jesus continues in his mission on earth to share the message of salvation, as he works through us.
     Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?”  The answers were varied, but none had it right.  Then, Jesus asked them, “But what about you?  Who do you say I am?”  By God’s grace, they were able to answer that question.  You and I live in a world that has so many different ideas about whom Jesus is and why he came to the earth.  We thank God that he has revealed whom Jesus is.  We also thank him that he has shown us clearly why he came to the earth.  Jesus came to defeat Satan for us and he came to preach salvation to us.  Jesus came to be our Savior.  Amen.