Sermon Where the Wild Things Are
Good morning. I bet some of you are thinking, “didn’t we just hear this story?” And the answer is yes, sort of.
A few weeks ago, we heard verses 4-11. That is, we heard John the Baptist announcing the coming of Jesus, then we have the scene of Jesus’ baptism, which concludes with God telling Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
This morning, the story begins with Jesus’ baptism, then we hear the story of Jesus’ time in the wilderness, including his temptation by Satan. This story also appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but their versions are much longer. In either version, Jesus has a dialogue with Satan. It’s a familiar story.
First Satan tells Jesus to turn some stones into loaves of bread. Then Jesus quotes some scripture and Satan backs off.
Next, Satan offers Jesus power over all the kingdoms of the Earth. Again, Jesus quotes some scripture and Satan backs off.
Finally, Satan takes Jesus to the top of the temple in Jerusalem and dares Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle. One last time, Jesus quotes some scripture, and one last time, Satan backs off.
But we don’t get any of that in Mark’s version of the story; Mark’s version is maddeningly short. It’s so much more fun and entertaining when Jesus has all the snappy answers! It’s so satisfying when we see Satan testing Jesus, and Jesus winning the day. I think it’s safe to say that Jesus passes the test in Mark’s version of the story, too.
By leaving all those details out of the story, Mark focuses our attention on what Jesus does in verses 14 and 15:
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Jesus proclaims the good news of God. That’s it! That’s Jesus’ response to his baptism, his time in the wilderness, and his test by Satan.
While this isn’t as dramatic as the versions in Matthew and Luke, maybe it doesn’t need to be. Maybe we need to be reminded of the constant call for repentance. This is no small thing.
The Greek word that we translate as repent is metanoia. We say that it means to turn around or turn away, and it does. But it has a deeper meaning than that. Repentance is first a radical changing or shifting of the mind or the heart. Metanoia is the inward change that precedes the outward change in behavior. It is a profound change. Even Jesus undergoes profound changes.
We believe that Jesus was the only human without sin. So, in that regard, he has no reason to repent. In our reading today, we see that moment of profound change. Mark doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus’ life before this moment. We can assume that the human Jesus was a faithful Jew. We can assume that he loved his family, kept all the commandments, and so forth. But Jesus’ public ministry did not begin until he had been baptized.