Mark: S1 E3 - The Sympathizing Savior
Resource: Lead Pastor Justin Dosch
Topic: Jesus understands who WE are
For the last few weeks I’ve asked the question, “do we understand who Jesus really is?” But I want to flip the script on that this week and ask, “do we believe Jesus understands who WE are?” You see when it comes to our relationship with Jesus that question may be even more important because it actually sets the tone for how we understand Jesus. The truth is that whether you are a Christian or not we all understand there is a basic human desire to be understood and it is fundamental to healthy relationships. And the same is true with Jesus. If we knew just how deeply Jesus UNDERSTANDS US it would leave us completely in awe and change the dynamic of our relationship. And that’s what I want to talk about today as we continue in our journey through the book of Mark.
Last week when we left off in our study of Mark, Jesus had just been crowned as the rightful messiah and king of the world during his baptism ceremony. Fully endorsed by the trinity, Jesus is ready to start his earthly mission. But before He can get rolling he must pass a major test. This test is found in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) and is found in Mark 1:12-13;
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Mark begins by telling us, “at once the Spirit sent him out.” The Greek word for, “sent him out,” is the word “ekballo,” which means “compelled him.” In other words Jesus gave the Spirit complete control to lead him with a purpose into the wilderness. He didn’t stumble into the wilderness by accident. This was planned. Jesus gave the Spirit total control of His will and desires so that he might accomplish his purposes. What was that purpose? Mark tells us it was to, “be tempted by Satan.”
The Greek word for tempt is the word, “peirazo.” It’s a morally neutral term meaning “to test,” and it can be good or evil depending on who is doing the testing. So in this case Satan is tempting and God is allowing that temptation as a test. It is essential to understand that while the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness the Spirit was not the tempter.
James 1:13 tells us, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”
The real question is, why would the Spirit “compel” Jesus to go into the wilderness and be “tempted?”
First, to show his power over sin and evil. It is one thing to SAY Jesus came to conquer sin and evil, it’s another to PROVE that he can actually do it. This was Jesus’s first major proving ground. It was time for Him to do battle and start proving just how much power He really had.
His adversary? The one we call Satan. Satan has no doubt watched Jesus’s coronation and has been waiting in anticipation for this moment since the day he was kicked out of heaven. Since that day he has staked his claim as the “prince of this world” and made every effort to corrupt and destroy it. He knows exactly who Jesus is and he is not going to give up his kingdom without a fight.
The setting? The wilderness. The significance of this cannot be overstated. It is a place of isolation, away from any human contact, surrounded by only the wild animals and hungry beyond belief. He is majorly vulnerable and will need to overcome Satan while he is at his absolute weakest (Matthew and Luke tell us Jesus fasted for 40 days during his time in the wilderness).
The tactic of the enemy? An onslaught of temptation designed specifically to get Jesus to fail in his mission to save humanity. Again Matthew and Luke give us more detail. Jesus was faced with three temptations. First, to turn stones into bread. Second, he was taken to the highest mountain top in the world and promised to be given the world if he bowed to Satan. And finally he was tempted to throw himself off the temple and show the people below his authority since he could easily be rescued by a “legion of angels.” All three temptations tempted Jesus to be disobedient to his command to humbly suffer and serve the world. The fact of the matter is that all Jesus has known for eternity is honor and glory. Satan’s temptation is to convince Jesus to take what is rightfully his. “Don’t be humble. Don’t suffer for these people. You are the God of the universe. How can you lower yourself to this level of suffering and servanthood when you don’t have to?” It’s as if Satan is saying, “what a wasted life you’re living, take what is rightfully yours!”
But the success of Jesus’ mission depended on one critical thing; Jesus’ humiliation and humble servanthood, in his life on earth, but most of all in his death on the cross. And King Jesus would not be deterred. Unlike Adam, who succumbed to the temptation of Satan in the Garden. Mark wants us to see that Jesus is fully capable of withstanding temptation and evil. While Adam was tempted in the perfect conditions of the garden, with a full stomach and a perfect environment, Jesus was tempted at his lowest point, in a desertlike environment, starving to the point of near death, and yet he did not succumb. He took every punch the devil threw at him and was victorious! Matthew and Luke tell us explicitly that Jesus won. Mark, as fits his fast paced style, simply says this, “And angels attended him.” Like a prize fighter who has just won a grueling battle the angels put a robe around him and lifted his gloved hand in victory.
But there is a second reason, and it’s equally as important; to show that he is the sympathizing savior.
The truth is if the only reason Jesus came to earth was to save us from our sin, he could have simply come and sacrificed himself. There was no need for him to live a life of suffering and face the temptation that he did. But don’t miss this, He became a man so that he could experience the fullness of what it means to be human and truly sympathize with us in our struggle. When he went into the wilderness he experienced the fullness of what it means to be human; hunger, fatigue, loneliness, suffering and above all temptation. The same struggles that we face every single day. And make no mistake about it, he did it WILLINGLY so that he could understand EVERYTHING we go through. The truth is that no one understands what we go through better! And because of that no is more equipped to help us in our struggle! Hebrews 2:16-18 tells us this;
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
He became a man not simply to save us, but to better understand us so he could better help us. Jesus didn’t just suffer for suffering sake. He didn’t do it just so he could get a medal and a pat on the back. He did it so he could SAVE us and SYMPATHIZE with us. The amazing truth today is that in the midst of our greatest struggle and temptation we can say, “Jesus, you know what you went through when you were here? I’m going through it now!” And he HEARS us and says, “I know my child, I understand.” We all know how powerful it is to be able to talk to someone who has been through what we’ve been through. This is what makes our savior so incredible. He suffered so he could know us on the deepest level. Hebrews 4:5-6 puts it this way;
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Jesus bled, experienced hunger, got angry, wept in sadness, was physically tormented and was ridiculed by the ones he loved. He faced it ALL. He knows our deepest needs and struggles. As our great high priest who suffered and died for us he now sits at the right hand of the father INTERCEDING on our behalf to the father. As we suffer and struggle Jesus says, “I know he’s a sinner, but father I know how hard it is.” Because of that the writer of Hebrews says we can go into the throne room with CONFIDENCE. In ancient times common people couldn’t approach royalty without permission. But Jesus, the King of Kings, invites us to come boldly to the throne room to receive his lavish GRACE. Not only in the form of forgiveness, but in the form of HELP in fighting the good fight! This is our savior! There is no one like Him!
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking; how can Jesus really understand us if he never sinned? The same way a doctor understands a disease they’ve never had. A doctor has come face to face with disease so many times; diagnosing it, treating it and fighting it. They need not ever have had the disease to know it better than most people who have. In the same way Jesus has more experience with temptation than we ever will because he confronted it in all its fullness. He faced it over and over again and was never defeated.
Maybe you’re thinking, “well it would have been easier for Jesus to stand up to temptation because he’s God.” But the opposite is actually true. Think about it this way. When a person experiences pain, they reach a point where they go into shock or pass out. There’s a degree of physical pain that as human beings we will never experience because our minds and bodies just shut down. In the same way there’s a degree of spiritual temptation we’ll never experience because we give in before the temptation reaches its absolute worst. Jesus had no such limitation on his pain or temptation threshold. He experienced MAXIMUM temptation. He understands everything we go through and SO MUCH MORE.
So here’s what I want you to know and cling to today. Jesus isn’t just our savior, he is our sympathizing savior! What Jesus shows us in the wilderness is that even when he was at his absolute weakest and most vulnerable he withstood everything the devil threw at him and won. He did that for two reasons, for our SALVATION and so he could fully SYMPATHIZE with our struggle. Again, this is our savior, there is no one like Him!
Later in the garden of Gethsemane, just moments before Jesus would be betrayed and put on the cross, Satan would try one last attempt to get him to give into temptation. As Jesus prayed Satan said, “don’t save these people, they’re not worth it, they don’t deserve saving.” But just as he did in the wilderness Jesus stood strong and never wavered. He pressed on and accomplished his mission. He became a man, humbly suffered through life, and died the death we should have died so that we could truly live. Not just so we could be saved in eternity, but so we could enter into the throne room of His grace.
So here’s my challenge and encouragement today; ENTER IT! Enter the throne room daily. Enter it for his grace. Enter it because he understands what you go through! Enter it because he will help you fight against whatever temptation you may be facing. Enter it, because in His presence there is power, and you can face anything!
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