“Jesus and the Wild Animals”: Second Adam, True Israel, Active/Passive Obedience

It has always been interesting to me that in the opening chapter of Mark’s gospel he mentions Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness but doesn’t record much detail about it and the details he does mention are kind of strange. Here is Marks account of Jesus’ temptation:

“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” (Mark 1:12-13).

Thats it? Nothing about his dialogue with the devil? Nothing about whether or not he passed the test? Why even mention it at all? Well, I think David Mathis over at the Desiring God blog is on to the significance of Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation (read his blog post “Jesus and the Wild Animals” and then return here). He sees it as highlighting Jesus as the second and final Adam and I think this is correct. There are definitely second Adam themes in Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and Mark’s reference to the wild animals (see also Psalm 8 and Heb. 2:5-9). And praise God, where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded!

But  there are more connections with the Old Testament that are worth mentioning in addition to Adam. Not only is Jesus the second and final Adam, he is also true Israel. You can especially see this in Matthew and Luke, but it’s even in Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation as my former professor Dr. S.M. Baugh pointed out to me while in seminary. In “Gospel and Acts” class he said this:

“Mark does not detail Jesus’ temptation at all as Matthew and Luke does. In Mark, we barely get any introduction. Jesus just appears on the scene, gets baptized and enters the wilderness. There is a strong connection to Isaiah 40 of the gospel going out, and the repeated reference to the wilderness in the temptation narrative points to the theme of a new exodus. The heavens are rent in the baptism of Jesus, a sign in Isaiah 66 of the new creation. . .While Luke notes that Jesus was being led the whole time by the Holy Spirit, Mark describes the Holy spirit as “driving” Jesus there. . .Mark is the only reference to wild animals in the wilderness temptations. The dominant theme of wild animals in the Old Covenant were concerning judgment in Lev 26:21-22 and Deut 28:26. It is interesting then that Jesus, upon his baptism is ejected into the wilderness, the place of curse. This has been compared with the ejection from the Garden of Eden. This anticipates his cross: he is baptized into his ministry in order to become a curse so that the blessing may come to his people. So then by taking the curse; as in Isaiah, the wolf will lie down with the lamb, the leopard with the young goat, the lion and the fattened calf (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). This is why Mark mentions the fact of the temptation, but doesn’t detail the encounter.” (We could also add that wild animals are mentioned as part of God’s judgment in Isaiah 13:21-22 and 34:14).

So Jesus is our second and final Adam AND he is true Israel. These of course are connected themes as Israel was like a second Adam in the promised land pointing to the need for Christ to come and obey. And just as Adam failed they certainly failed being fallen in Adam and corrupt by nature (Rom. 3:23; 5:12-21).

All of this also has the theme of sonship running through it. Adam was the “son of God,” and Israel was God’s “firstborn son,” neither of which were pleasing to God due to their disobedience (Luke 3:38; Ex. 4:22). But when Jesus steps on the scene, God says at his baptism and transfiguration “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The amazing thing is that, although our conscience accuses us that we have grievously sinned against God, through faith in Christ God says to wretched sinners like you and me, “you are my beloved son/daughter, with you I am well pleased” (Gal. 4:4-7; 1 Jn. 3:1-2). Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 3:21-4:25). And in Him we are God’s beloved children who are called to obey him, not to earn anything, but simply out of gratitude by the Spirit’s enabling power (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 2:8-10; Phil. 2:12-13).

One final thing to mention, from a systematic theology perspective, is that while Matthew and Luke seem to highlight the active obedience of Christ (his fulfilling the law perfectly. . .i.e. he passed the test!), Mark’s account seems to highlight his passive obedience (his suffering the curse of the law on our behalf). Jesus’ passive obedience is in Matthew and Luke as well, but Mark’s account especially highlights his suffering the curse of the law in our place. Amazing stuff in two little verses!

Obeying God When It Hurts

Genesis 17 is an important chapter of the Bible. God further strengthens Abraham’s faith by bringing greater clarity to his promises in the Abrahamic Covenant and by giving him a sign and seal of the covenant, namely circumcision. If you want to learn more about circumcision and what it meant you can listen to this.

For now I would like to highlight something from my sermon from yesterday that often get’s overlooked in Genesis 17 (cf. Gen. 17:18-27), namely:

ABRAHAM’S REMARKABLE OBEDIENCE

Abraham’s obedience is remarkable here for at least three reasons:

First, because he obeyed when things didn’t go his way. God just told him a plan that was different than what he had expected and hoped for. And instead of being angry at God and kicking and screaming at God’s sovereignty he submitted to God.

How hard is that for us? When things don’t go your way and you are frustrated with God’s will what is your response? Give God the silent treatment (i.e. stop praying), skip church, start sinning. We all so easily succumb to sin when things go wrong, don’t we?

But Abraham obeys God by circumcising his WHOLE household. He has the attitude of Job here, who after suffering the loss of his health, his house and his family said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15)Or in the words of Horatio Spafford who lost his own house and wife and children, “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul. . .It is well with my soul.”

Secondly, this is remarkable obedience because it was painful. No doubt it was painful to be circumcised at 100 years old during a time before anesthetics! And could you imagine the reaction he got from the men in his household? “Get that sharp object away from me!!!. . .what are you crazy?!?!”

But beloved, sometimes obedience to God is painful. It might mean persecution at work. It might mean paying your taxes even when things are financially difficult. It might mean patiently persevering with your husband or wife’s sins and not giving up on your marriage. It might mean denying yourself sexual pleasure until God is pleased to give you a spouse.Acts 14:22 says, “through MANY tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” BUT REMEMBER, whatever suffering we face in this life, it won’t be worth comparing to the glory that awaits us!

Thirdly, this is remarkable obedience because it’s immediate. We read in v. 26 and following, “That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.” Abraham obeyed God, THAT VERY DAY! According to Genesis 14:14 he had at least 318 men born in his household!

Here’s the point: Delayed obedience is disobedience. Parents, you know the frustration of telling your toddler to come inside for dinner and after the tenth warning they finally come. Or you know the frustration of telling a teenager to clean their room and you come back a few hours later and it’s still a mess and they say, “Chill out, I’m getting to it.” It’s frustrating! And I’m thankful my parents put up with my delayed obedience!

But in many ways we all are like toddlers and teenagers. We often treat our sins this way, where we know that something is sinful and yet we resolve to “improve our behavior later.” Or we only want to obey God when it’s convenient for us. That’s Satan’s lie, “enjoy this today, you can always obey tomorrow when it’s more convenient. . .just have a little pleasure now. . .you can improve your behavior tomorrow.” Beloved, delayed obedience is NOT obedience. Whatever obedience you are delaying, put your sin to death and obey God today!  Why? Simply put, in the words of Paul: “You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19) Respond to God’s grace with thankfulness!

THE MOST REMARKABLE OBEDIENCE OF ALL

Beloved, you have been given the greatest gift that anyone could ever receive in Jesus.

He is the to whom the promises made to Abraham ultimately pointed. He is the one who was born in a miraculous way of a virgin woman. He is Abraham’s offspring in whom all the nations are blessed. And he is the one who supremely displays remarkable obedience. As obedient as Abraham was, he was still a sinner who needed God’s grace. But Christ is the one who obeys PERFECTLY in a remarkable way for us.

His obedience was immediate. It was always his delight to do the Father’s will, even when it was inconvenient for him (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:29).

His obedience was painful. No one suffered like our Lord (Isaiah 53). The pain of circumcision that Abraham and his household experienced ultimately foreshadowed the pain of Christ’s circumcision on the cross, where he was cut off from the land of the living and forsaken by God the Father (Isa. 53:8; Matt. 27:46; Col. 2:11-12).

And no doubt He obeyed, even though things didn’t always go his way, in one sense. No doubt the Son was one with the Father in the eternal plan of salvation and sovereignly ordains all things. But no doubt like us, in his humanity, he experienced the same fears and frustrations that we all experience when things don’t go our way. He was despised and rejected, he was acquainted with grief. He was mocked and beaten and spit upon and died on a cross. And when he thought about the cross in the garden of Gethsemane, in the mystery of the incarnation, he was sorrowful and afraid of God’s sovereign plan, and yet, he prayed, “not my will but your’s be done” (Luke 22:39-44) And he trusted himself to his Father’s sovereign and good plan and suffered the wrath of God in our place (Matt. 27:45-50).

And because of his obedience, even unto death on a cross, God the Father highly exalted him and seated him at his right hand and gave him the name that is above every name. . .that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:6-11).

Beloved, Jesus went through all of that remarkably painful, inconvenient obedience for a sinner such as you and me.And so, why should we respond with remarkable obedience in our life? Because of what Christ has remarkably done for us. We don’t deserve God’s mercy and love, but he has graciously poured out his love upon us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

And as much as you have sinned, God forgives you completely of all of your sins and declares you righteous in his sight through faith (Rom. 8:1; Col. 2:13-14; 1 Jn. 1:9; Eph. 1:7, 2:8-9; 2 Cor. 5:21). And he has given you the Spirit of Christ so that you are not left to your own strength to obey (Ezek. 36:25-27; Gal. 3:13-14; Phil. 2:12-13; Gal. 5:16). And so, beloved, let us give thanks to God for his grace to us in Christ.And relying on the Spirit’s power let us love him with all of our heart, mind soul and strength, even when it’s hard. And where we fail, let us continually seek refuge in the “blood and righteousness” of Christ alone and look forward to his return where we will be “saved to sin no more.” Amen!