Led into Suffering

Jesus’ Spirit and water baptism kicks off His entire ministry. The focus has been on John’s ministry up until this point and now the Spirit has appointed and anointed Jesus to begin His. And while such an anointing sounds like lollipops and gumdrops to the average Charismatic, we should note that the Holy Spirit kicks Jesus’ ministry off with suffering. 

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. (Mk 1:12-13)

Still want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Still want to live like Jesus? Then you have to be willing to endure suffering—even if it’s the Holy Spirit who leads you into it. James R. Edwards frames this passage beautifully:

The haste and immediacy of the temptation on the heels of the baptism create a sense of imminence and fervency in the reader. There is no time to linger in the glory of the baptism. Without a moment to catch his breath, as it were, Jesus is thrust into the fray to pursue the ministry to which he is ordained and for which he is endowed. The apocryphal Gospel of Philip (74.29–31) has Jesus emerging from the baptism laughing in contempt at the world, as though his ministry were a melodrama. Not so in Mark, where dead earnestness pervades the temptation narrative. The same Spirit that descended on Jesus at the baptism has an appointment for him in the wilderness. The language is forceful and unambiguous. The Spirit “drives” Jesus or “thrusts him out”…. to confront Satan…. The Spirit that empowers the Son for ministry now tests him to determine whether he will use his divine Sonship for his own advantage or submit himself in obedience to God.

Engaging in supernatural ministry often means engaging in suffering and spiritual warfare. It is a training ground of sorts to ready us for ministry. We prefer the Spirit’s work to be big, flashy and full of blessing, but often His way can be full of humility and hardship. The Holy Spirit does not always work in the ways we expect or even want. After all, the Spirit-endowed prophets before Jesus were persecuted (Mt 5:11-12) and even killed (Mt 23:37) just as He and John the Baptist were.

When Jesus returns from the wilderness in Mark, He immediately jumps into ministry, casting out demons, healing the sick, performing signs and wonders, defying science, and preaching with exousia—the Greek word for authority which “typically designates supernatural authority in literature immediately prior to the Christian tradition.” The Bible wants us to know that Jesus is doing these supernatural works in the power of the Spirit; for Luke communicates it straight to us, noting that Jesus left the wilderness and “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (Lk 4:14).

God has put on human skin and been empowered by the Spirit to a level that no other person in history has ever been. God has baptized God with God and His power leaps off the page right at us. Nothing can restrain Him—not even death itself. In fact, it’s partially that incredible power that gets Him hung on a cross. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead many Jews began to believe in Jesus (Jn 11:45) and when that news reached the Pharisees, “from that day on they made plans to put him to death” (Jn 11:53).

The religious authorities knew Jesus had power from somewhere and the scribes had earlier reached the conclusion that He was “‘possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of demons he casts out the demons’” (Mk 3:22). Part of Jesus’ response to this accusation was that, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mk 3:29). In saying this Jesus shows us that His power does not simply derive from the fact that He is God-in-flesh, rather He is the Son of God who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit by the Father.

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