‘Baptism into temptation’

Mark 1:12
And immediately the Spirit threw Him out into the desert.

            Welcome to Lent, the traditional time of temptation in our church year. When we look at ourselves, our way of living, and try harder to live as Christ’s Baptised people, in that New life He has given. When we focus on treasuring the things of God and not the things of this world. To hear the Word of God and other Christians’ reflections on it, in song, speech or written; and hear less of the unending worries of the world. Yet, as you try to live here in the life Jesus has given you, the devil attacks. I mean, if our King suffered demonic temptation, don’t think you won’t.

            After Baptism the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, and if you think that sounds harsh, in the Greek it says the Spirit threw Him out. After that wonderful declaration from our Heavenly Father, of who Jesus is, ‘my beloved Son in whom I am pleased.’ (Mark 1:11) The Spirit throws Him away from the people, the cities, into the desert and the demons. By Himself, alone with the stones, with dust and His own thoughts; and if you’ve ever been alone like that you know how bad it can be. Fear, regret, and sometimes those dreadful thoughts from the devil. There’s a reason ancient people thought demons lived in deserts. So why, after Baptism, does God send His Son out into the desert, forty days of temptation and suffering?

            Why after your baptism, after you became a Christian, adopted and drawn into the Body of Christ; why do you now suffer? When you try hard, when you focus on living the Christian life, the life of Christ; why is it so hard? Why do we feel attacked? Why those stray thoughts of doubt or sin? Why, O Lord, do we suffer? How long O Lord, until you hear us and have mercy? (Psalm 13) We have these hard questions, yet God has not given an answer; instead as the letter to the Hebrews declares and as we hear today, God is with us in it (Hebrews 2:12-18). Jesus suffers temptation with you. In Baptism your old life died, and you were given a new life, the life of Christ. This life where, after Baptism we are promised suffering, persecution and temptation (Matthew 10:16-23; John 15:20; 2 Timothy 1:8, 3:12; 1 Peter 5:8). Yet you are not alone, the Holy Spirit is leading you, Jesus is suffering alongside you, and the Father loves you and is pleased with you. As the psalmist prays, Good and upright is the Lord, therefore He instructs the sinners in the way, He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble His ways (Psalm 25:8-9).

            So now we have that call, to live the life you have been given, the way of God, relying on Him, listening to Him, treasuring the things of Heaven not the things of this world that is passing away. To treasure, Love, Joy, Hope, Life, these Holy and wonderful gifts God has given (Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 2:8; 1 John 4:8). And to remember your Baptism, death and resurrection in Christ; to remember our union in the life of the New Creation with our Lord and all our siblings in the faith across this world, who suffer with us. As Luther and the Catechism put it, to die daily to sin and rise daily with Christ. This is what Lent is about. Baptism, our dying to sin and rising with Christ, is not just something in the past; it is our daily life as Christians. St Peter tells us that the flood points to what baptism is; those forty days when evil was drowned and destroyed, and God’s people were saved (1 Peter 3:20-21). Now some of you might like boats, but surrounded for forty days by animals and floating on a sea with bloated corpses certainly sounds like suffering to me. Forty days to cleanse the Earth, forty days to prepare for the New world, forty days for evil to die; we could even say as Peter did, forty days of Baptism. Baptism is the death of sin and the beginning of our union with Christ.

            And so we have, Baptism before our temptation, suffering during our Baptismal life, and what is at the end of these forty days of Lent? That traditional day of Baptism, even the truth of what Baptism is; union with Christ’s life, His death to sin, and His Resurrection to New Glorified Everlasting Life (Romans 6; Mark 9:2-3; Matthew 28:3; Philippians 3:21). I was Baptised, I am Baptised, and I will see my Baptism finally and fully revealed at the end of time; just as we say, “I was saved, am saved, and will be saved, in Christ”. You are Baptised, remember what that means; dead to sin, alive to Christ; having the Holy Spirit leading you through suffering and temptation; but most importantly, as we look past these Lenten days of preparation to what comes after, Baptism is God’s promise of complete and everlasting union with Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

            So live, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds against temptation in Christ Jesus and unite you to Him. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.