And Was With The Wild Beasts
Sunday, April 16th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA
9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 12 And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. 13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
Father Your Word says that You oppose the proud, but give grace to the humble, and so we ask for a Spirit of true humility, of true understanding and insight and counsel, as we consider Holy Scripture, for we ask for all of this in Jesus name, Amen.
Last Sunday we saw that in these opening verses of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is presented to us as the fulfillment and transformation of the entire Old Testament (The Law, The Psalms, The Prophets, all of these find their fulfillment in Him).
In these opening verses Mark weaves together Old Testament quotations, references, words, hints, images, that are meant to open our eyes to who Jesus really is. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? Mark wants us to say by the end of the book, “Truly He is the Son of God.”
So far, we have seen that Mark portrays Jesus as a new Joshua, He is the one who divides the Jordan River, who tears heaven open, and brings His people into the promised land of Paradise.
We have seen also that Jesus is Himself that Paradise, that new holy land. He is the place where God dwells, as it says in Col. 2:9, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Jesus is the new temple, the new tabernacle, the new place of rest for those who are weary and heavy laden. In Jesus the people of God find eternal sabbath.
We have also seen that Jesus is portrayed as a new Elisha, a mighty prophet who comes with a double portion of the Spirit. Who will work signs and wonders and even raise the dead.
So when the Spirit descends as a dove upon Christ at his baptism, we are all meant to conclude that the prophecies of Isaiah are starting to come true. Especially Isaiah 61, which Jesus himself will later read in the synagogue before the Jews, which says:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;
Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;
He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus reads these words, sits down and says, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
And in Mark’s Gospel, as we will see next week, the very first thing that comes out of Jesus’ mouth are these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
So that’s what we’ve covered so far, and this morning I want to look more closely at the meaning of Christ’s baptism, and then look at verses 12-13 where He is tempted in the wilderness.
What is the significance of Jesus’ baptism?
As we saw last week, Christ’s baptism is His anointing for ministry. Jesus is being ordained as a priest, as a prophet, and as King.
And this is what the gospel is: It is the joyful announcements that God is King, that the kingdom of God has come, and the year of Jubilee is upon us.
The Year of Jubilee was supposed to take place every 50 years under the Mosaic Law, and that was when debts were cancelled, slaves were released, and the land reverted to its original owners.
But this year of Jubilee had not happened for hundreds of years. It had been long delayed and interrupted because of exile and foreign occupation. First they were ruled by Babylon, then it was Persia, then it was Greece, and now in the time of Jesus it is Rome. And because of the unique political situation they were in, it was a debated question whether the exile was really over.
Sure they had a temple, but King Herod was not really a Jew (he was an Edomite), and he was certainly no son of David. And although there were some laws and customs they could observe, they couldn’t enforce the laws in the Torah, that’s why they needed Rome to crucify Jesus.
And so for the Spirit to descend upon Jesus at his baptism, and for the Father to declare that “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” is to announce to the world that this man Jesus of Nazareth is King, and with Him comes the kingdom, and with the kingdom comes justice, and with justice Jubilee, and with Jubilee a return to possession of the land, the end of exile.
This was the hope and longing of God’s people.
In the Hebrew calendar, the year of Jubilee started when the king was coronated. There was an Ecclesiastical/Priestly year that began in the Spring with Passover, and a Civil/Kingly Year that began in the fall. And this Kingly new year was marked by the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement.
So Leviticus 25 says, “Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. 10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”
And so with the coronation of Christ at his baptism, we should hear the sound of trumpets blasting, of a great festival and new beginnings, a solemn celebration that past sins have been atoned for and the acceptable year of the Lord has come. The baptism of Christ inaugurates the Jubilee. And as Jesus will say later, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36)
Now at Christ’s baptism there are no literal trumpets blasting or the sound of great festivity, but there is a sound more beautiful, more lovely than that. And that is a single sentence from God the Father, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,”
In this single sentence, the Father brings together at least three different Old Testament references, and together they help us see the significance of this moment.
So let me read these three references and see if you can hear in them the Father’s voice, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The first is Psalm 2, where God says, “Yet have I set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; This day have I begotten thee.” (Ps. 2:6-7).
The second is Isaiah 42:1, which says, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”
And third, is Genesis 22:2, where God says ominously to Abraham, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering.”
So in this declaration of the Father’s love and delight in Jesus, is a revelation of His identity and destiny. Who is Jesus?
He is the Davidic King of Psalm 2, who sits in the heavens and laughs. As Jesus will say in John 3:13, “no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”
Jesus is a man walking around on earth, while at the same time by His divine nature, He is the Son of man which is in heaven. “Thou art my Son.”
He is the Royal Servant of Isaiah, who will bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.You can read the four servant songs in Isaiah 42, 49, 50, 52-53, and there you will see a detailed portrait of Jesus, written 700 years before his arrival.
The Father says, “thou art my son, in whom my soul delighteth.”
He is an obedient son, the true Isaac, the true seed of Abraham, the ram caught in a thicket upon Mount Moriah, who with thorns upon his head, will be sacrificed for sin.
To be a one and only beloved son of Abraham, means a sacrifice is coming. This is what the Father’s voice foretells.
So what is Jesus baptism?
It is an ordination service. It is anointing for holy war. It is consecration for sacrifice.And as we see in the next two verses of our text, when the Spirit falls upon the beloved, He drives us into battle. So let us look at verses 12 and 13 together.
12 And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. 13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
So Jesus was already in the wilderness, he had gone out to John to be baptized in Jordan, and immediately after He is baptized, the Spirit drives Him even further into the wilderness.
As we said in the first sermon, the wilderness can come to us in many forms.
There is the wilderness where many people gather and are made into a new society, a tabernacle, like we see in Exodus. This is the wilderness of John’s baptism.
And then there is the wilderness of solitude, which is what the Spirit drives Jesus into. He is away from the multitudes, He is Moses on the mountain top while the people are down below, and he is in that wilderness for 40 days.
The number 40 is often used in Scripture to describe a time of testing. Moses was upon Sinai for 40 days, Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years, Elijah traveled through the wilderness for 40 days and nights, and now Jesus following this pattern, goes into the wilderness for 40 days to provoke Satan to battle.
Now unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not give us any dialog between Jesus and Satan. All he says is that “he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan…” but then he gives us this little detail that neither Matthew nor Luke record, which is, “and he was with the wild beasts.”
Of all the things that Mark could have said about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, this being with the wild beasts is what he wants us to know. Why is this?
Well the first thing we should ask ourselves when we come to these kind of details is to ask, What is the significance of this thing in other places in the Bible? When and where do wild beasts show up?
The first place wild beasts appear is in the creation account. In Genesis 2, Adam names all the animals, among which would have been wild animals like lions, bears, wolves, t-rex’s, dragons, etc. And so in the Garden of Eden, is a man with wild beasts, and he is unharmed by them. He has dominion over them.
Later we see in Numbers 21, that Israel is attacked by fiery serpents in the wilderness.They were complaining about the miracle bread from heaven, and so God sends burning seraphim to harass them. The people tested God, and so God disciplines them with flaming serpents.
In Leviticus 26, God threatens Israel saying, “If ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. 22 I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate.”
So in Scripture, wild beasts are a sign of the wilderness, they are a constant reminder that we are not in Eden anymore. Now wild beasts are dangerous, they can kill us, and we must reclaim dominion over them.
So that is part of the background Mark wants to evoke by this mention of the wild beasts. But I think the more obvious connection he wants us to make is with King David.
So King David was anointed in 1 Samuel 16:13, and it say, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.”
So here you have a baptism, an anointing, and the Spirit is poured out, and what is the very next thing that happens to Him?David is brought before King Saul to fight evil spirits. He would play the harp before the king and it says the evil spirits would depart from him. So David after his anointing is given this power of exorcism. Spiritual healing is in his hands.
And then in the next chapter, 1 Samuel 17 is David slaying Goliath. And do you remember what David says to Saul, to justify his ability to win against the giant?
“Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God…moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:36-37).
So who is Jesus, in the wilderness with the wild beasts?
He is the Son of David, the exorcist, who after his anointing will fight Satan and his demons, and tread upon the lion and the cobra, He will conquer all of these enemies and cut of Goliath’s head.
Who is Jesus with the wild beasts?
He is the last Adam, who comes to reclaim and exercise dominion over his creation. Who comes to turn the wilderness into a garden city, who tames the wild beasts so that it can be habitable again.
One of the prophesies of the Messiah is that in His reign, He would domesticate the wild animals, and in Scripture animals signify foreign nations. When God shows Daniel in a vision the powers of the four kingdoms, they are described as various wild beasts.
And so Jesus comes to fulfill the promise of Isaiah 11, which says:
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
2 And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and might,
The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord…
6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed;
Their young ones shall lie down together:
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
Why was Jesus with the wild beasts? Because He is the rod from the stem of Jesse. He is the shepherd-king who comes to bring peace and justice to the nations. To make lion and lamb lay down together.
Is that the Jesus you know and love and worship? Because that’s the only Jesus there is. And he has come and of the increase of his government there shall be no end. He will reign until he has put all his enemies beneath his feet, including our nation (with its eagle and stars and stripes).
So that’s our text, Jesus in the wilderness with the wild beasts. And I want to conclude with one practical application for us from these opening 13 verses.
You might have noticed that Mark’s gospel is fast-paced, which is why these sermons have been so dense with Old Testament references. Mark covers in 13 verses, what Matthew and Luke take four chapters to cover. So if it feels like drinking from at fire-hose, it’s because we are.
So I want to slow down for a moment close with a single exhortation for all of us, and that:
Learn to love the wilderness.
When God wants to change you, He has to kill you first. That’s what baptism is, it’s union with Christ’s death. And after God kills you in baptism, the next thing he does is separate you from your old life.
Israel was baptized in the Red Sea, they got out of Egypt, but then God had to spend 40 years getting Egypt out of them. And where does He purge us of our old life and habits? In the wilderness.
The wilderness is the place of testing, and if you follow Jesus, and receive the same Spirit that Jesus received, the Spirit will drive you into the wilderness, so learn to love it.
By the wilderness could mean any kind of trial.
It might be depression, it might be sickness, it might be unwanted singleness, it might be nine-months of hard pregnancy, the loss of a job, the loss of loved ones, or anything in between.
The wilderness is the place that feels uncomfortable. And when in God’s providence, the Spirit drives us there, we must not grumble, we must not resist the Spirit. But rather, embrace and love the test that God has given us, because it is in the wilderness, he rids us of ourselves to make us strong in Him.
As Paul says in 2 Cor. 1:9, “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.”
So learn to love the wilderness, love the places where God rids you of self-reliance. And if you go there, that is where you will find Moses, and Elijah, and John and Joshua and David, and the Lord Jesus Himself.
Count it all joy when you are driven into the wilderness.