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Quote of the Week

February 23, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

William Lane’s commentary on Mark is one of the best.  I have been working my way through Mark and like what Lane says about Mark 1:13.

It is significant that Mark does not report the victory of Jesus over Satan, nor the end of the temptation.  It is the evangelist’s distinctive understanding that Jesus did not win the decisive victory during the forty days nor did he cease to be tempted.  Jesus is thrust into the wilderness in order to be confronted with Satan and temptation.  It is this confrontation which is itself important, since it is sustained throughout Jesus’ ministry.  This explains why Mark does not say anything about the content of the temptation: his whole Gospel constitutes the explanation of the manner in which Jesus was tempted. 

A detail recorded only by Mark is that Jesus was with the wild beasts in the wilderness.  Since Ch. 1:12-13 is usually understood as a report of Jesus’ triumph over Satan the reference to the wild beasts has been interpreted as an element in the paradise motif.  Jesus in the midst of the wild beasts signifies the victory of the New Adam over Satan and temptation so that paradise is restored in which man is at peace with the animals.  But as soon as it is recognized that the dominant motif of the prologue is the wilderness, Mark’s distinctive reference to the wild beasts becomes intelligible.  In the OT blessing is associated with inhabited and cultivated land; the wilderness is the place of curse.  In the wilderness there is neither seed nor fruit, water or growth.  Man cannot live there.  Only frightening and unwanted kinds of animals dwell there.  Significantly, when the wilderness is transformed into a paradise no ravenous beast will be in it (Isa. 35:9; Ezek 34:23-28).  Mark’s reference to the wild beasts in Ch. 1:13 serves to stress the character of the wilderness.  Jesus confronts the horror, the loneliness and the danger with which the wilderness is fraught when he meets the wild beasts.  Their affinity in this context is not with paradise, but the realm of Satan.

Jesus’ obedience to God is affirmed and sustained in the wilderness, the precise place where Israel’s rebellion had brought death and alienation, in order that the new Israel of God may be constituted. (Lane, The Gospel of Mark, 60-62)

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