Our Type of Person
Do you believe in personality types? Type A aggressive, active; type B laid back, passive? I don't think it's that clear-cut. Apparently the people who came up with these types agree. Now they have not just types A and B but types C, D, and AB, BA, A+, B- and so on. Be that as it may, we're more familiar with psychological concepts than theological ones. This short telling of the temptation of Jesus has crucial truths about our salvation. I think they'll be clearer to you if they come to you in psychological language rather than theological. Once you see Jesus is our type of Person, you'll see He's your type of Savior and what it means to be saved by Him.
Jesus is our type of person. He's type B. He's passive in this text. Jesus is acted upon. He's not merely "sent" out into the desert by the Spirit. Jesus is literally "cast out" by the Spirit. This word is used for exorcising demons and casting Adam and Eve out of Paradise. This isn't a gentle word but a gruff one. Maybe "cast out" isn't gruff enough. "Drove out" is better.
The text says, "At once the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert." At once when? Immediately after John baptized Jesus, immediately after the Father declared, "This is My beloved Son," immediately after the Spirit landed on Jesus in the form of a dove, this same Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. Our Baptism day is one of light and life. Jesus' day started with His Father's smiling face and a gentle, dove-like bestowal of the Spirit, but it ends with Him being driven from the Father by the Spirit into the desert.
Not only is Jesus driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus is tempted literally under Satan. Tempted is a passive verb showing that none of the temptation came from within Him. All the tempting came from outside of Jesus from Satan. But don't think that made it easier for Jesus. It says that for 40 days Satan was tempting Jesus. He could've said on day 1, "Be gone Satan," and Satan would've gone. But Jesus didn't. Day after day for 40 of Jesus allowed Satan to come with temptations. Jesus felt the burn, the yearn, the irresistibleness of Satan's tempting.
Jesus is a type B person. He endured all this passively. He didn't seek to get out from under any of it. He didn't deserve to be driven out on His Baptism day, we do. He didn't deserve to be put under Satan; we do. We don't deserve the Spirit's assurance; Jesus did. We don't deserve Satan under our feet; Jesus did. We don't deserve animals for pets; Jesus did. All that Jesus suffered, all that Jesus endured, all that Jesus passively accepted should happen to us.
Jesus is our type of person. He's type B, passive, and He's type A, active. It wasn't enough that Jesus passively suffered what our sins deserve. That's only part of fulfilling the Law. Not only did its punishments have to be satisfied passively, but the Law's requirements had to be satisfied actively. It wouldn't do if Jesus was just a passive person; He had to be an active one as well.
Jesus is a type A person. He overcomes every temptation Satan throws at Him. Matthew and Luke tell you how Jesus does it; Mark shows you that He did. The angels only attended Jesus at the end of the temptations, after He had overcome Satan. Now we think the big temptations Jesus actively overcame for us were those that have to do with the 2nd Table Commandments: sexual, monetary, personal temptations. To be sure, Jesus, says Hebrews, was tempted in all that ways that we are and overcame them all. But from Matthew and Luke, we know His big temptations had to do with the First 3 Commandments. Satan tempted Him to worry that He wasn't a true Son of God. Satan tempted Him to trust the lie that he controlled everything. Satan tempted Him to believe He needed food in His mouth more than God's Word in His ears.
You and I have given into every one of these temptations. We believe that we must not be God's daughter or son because we suffer; we believe that Satan controls everything; we believe physical things are more important than spiritual. And so we end up despairing of God's love, God's power, and God's means of grace being at work in our life. But not Jesus. See Him actively parry every thrust of Satan's sword and not give into despair, and see what this empowers Him to do.
You could see the close connection between Jesus' victory over Satan and the rest of the text if it wasn't divided into 2 paragraphs. It shouldn't be. In the rest, of Mark's Gospel, when he moves on to tell of a separate event in Jesus' life, Mark always begins with an "and." There's no "and" because Jesus' going out to proclaim the "good news" is connected to His defeat of Satan's temptations.
It says, "Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God." This word for "good news" is more than what Ann Murray desires in song, "Sure could use a little good news today." This is good news of a victory. Jesus goes forth from passively suffering humiliation and temptation and actively defeating Satan to proclaim the good news that Satan has lost; he wasn't able to stop the kingdom of God from coming. It's here now in Jesus.
Jesus proclaims this in the face of 2 contrary facts. Jesus proclaims victory even though Herod had finally overcome John the Baptist and threw him in jail. And Jesus proclaims the presence of a kingdom no one can see. Jesus comes out of the desert of temptation and nothing has gotten better or looks different. In fact things look and are worse, John's in prison. Yet, Jesus preaches the good news of a victory and of a kingdom for sinners.
Jesus is our type of person. He was type B to suffer passively the casting out by God and the tempting under Satan we deserve. He was type A to keep actively the Laws of God. He never despaired of God's grace. He always believed in God's mercy. He always loved God and expected only good things from Him even when He was left starving in a desert. And He went out believing and proclaiming in a victory and a kingdom for sinners even though there didn't appear to be either.
Jesus is our type of person, and He's your type of Savior. When Satan comes bill collecting, looking for that pound of flesh you owe to the Law for your sins of the flesh, see Jesus sweating and starving in the desert giving up pounds of flesh to satisfy the Law. When Satan demands you suffer guilt and shame because you've given into his tempting yet again, see Jesus enduring that temptation, sweating not just bullets but blood while feeling all your guilt and shame for you. Don't rob Jesus of His glory to suffer your guilt and shame by wallowing in it yourself!
Jesus suffered passively the judgments the Law rightly brings on sinners, and Jesus actively kept the Law. The Law requires us always to fear, love and trust in God above all things. We fear cancer more than God; we love ourselves or others more than God; we trust in money, medicine, or might more than God. So we despair at ever being victorious over Satan's temptations and entering the kingdom of God. Jesus, however, announces our victory and gives us the kingdom. Victory and the kingdom are ours not because we ever fear, love or trust God as we should, but because Jesus always did.
The fact that we're victorious and have God's kingdom, changes us. You can't be in church every week, you can't be confessing your sins and hearing the Gospel, without this little voice saying, "I must become different than I am." And no, it can't be a matter of doing what Jesus does. Perfect Adam and Eve failed at that and so will imperfect you. Becoming different is not a matter of doing what Jesus does, but it's a matter of what Jesus does. Jesus was the perfect type B and type A person to make us different people.
In the ways we're passive, Jesus makes us active. He calls us away from passively allowing sin to sleep at our door as Cain did until it mastered him. He calls us away from passively accepting our sinfulness as "just the way I am." He calls us away from thinking that our sins are passive little pets that we can keep around without harm to body or soul. We are type B, passive people over against our sin, Jesus calls us, enables us, and empowers us to be type A people. He calls us and makes us active in repenting. Each Sunday He doesn't call us to defend or excuse our sins but to plead actively for His mercy as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Each Sunday He moves us actively to beg Him "Create in me a clean heart." Each Sunday He moves us actively to ask Him "strengthen" us in faith toward Him and love toward each other or "rule our hearts and minds by thy Holy Spirit."
Yes, the Lord Jesus redeemed us from passively accepting our sins, but don't think He redeemed us to save ourselves actively. No, in this regard Jesus calls us to be more passive. Open your eyes, ears, and mouth and passively receive your completed salvation as a free gift from Jesus. Gaze upon the cross and let your eyes drink in what Jesus did there. He finished what we could never even start, the payment for our sins. Open your eyes, see the Baptismal font and know that those waters join you to that cross. Open your ears, hear Jesus speaking from that cross forgiving your sins through my mouth. Open your mouth, receive the Body and Blood that Jesus gave and shed on that cross for the remission of your sins.
If you have been actively pursing your salvation, stop it. Jesus isn't running away from you. He's coming to you in Water, Words, Bread and Wine proclaiming the Good News that you have won over sin, death and the devil and the kingdom of God is all yours right here, right now. By all means, be a person who is ever active in repenting, but be ever passive in being saved. This comes about not by focusing on your person, but on the Person of Jesus Christ. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The First Sunday in Lent (20060305); Mark 1:12-15