21 March 2019

Welcome to Thursday’s podcast. Today we start a new Gospel, the gospel of Mark and so our reading is Mark 1: 1-15 but today I will focus on 12-13.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.


In 2002 I moved to London. In those days my monthly commute on the London Underground cost me £100. During my time in London I lived in various parts of the city. Before getting married in 2004, I decided to economise. I shared a flat with a married couple (to save cash) and started cycling. The problem was, my old Raleigh Amazon bike which I’d had since a teenager wasn’t the best commuter bike – it was heavy, the gears slipped and it needed a lot of money spending on it. Also it just wasn’t very cool. Once I had got interested in cycling, I began to take notice of bikes – cool bikes, fast bikes and expensive bikes. My old Raleigh Amazon that had been my faithful companion during my paper-rounds, teenage years and uni just no longer fitted the bill. So, bearing in my mind I was in a season of saving money, I bought (on finance) a beautiful commuter bike. The stunning black Shimano wheels looked fantastic. People loved it. Other commuters would admire it and I loved it – now I was a proper London commuter.

Until one day – I really sensed God asking me to get rid of it. I wrestled with that like a fish on the line. Why would God want me to get rid of it, I thought? So, I ignored Him – until one day a colleague randomly asked me if I was thinking of selling it. I knew it was God. I sold it and paid off the loan.

Today we begin a journey into Mark’s gospel. It contains the shortest account – a very brief overview of Jesus’ temptations in the desert.

The sequence of events surrounding Jesus’ desert experience have always puzzled me. The profound moment at the beginning of his public ministry – his baptism and affirmation by God the Father – which is the most incredible thing in and of itself – the challenge to all of us that we start from the place of acceptance, approval and grace – wow. We don’t earn it from what we achieve – we have it from the start in Jesus’ love – demonstrated through baptism.

This could well feel like the end of the road – like the response time at church on a Sunday – coming forward to be prayed for – experiencing God’s love.

But the sequence in this short clip from Mark – the Holy Spirit sends the publicly affirmed Jesus into the desert. Why?

The desert is a symbol of testing. Deserts are beautiful on Instagram but they can be lethal. You can die in a desert. Nothing grows – robbers and bandits would wait for lone travellers – it wasn’t comfortable. Jesus went without in the desert and he was tempted by Satan. All the temptations designed to undermine, challenge and oppose the very things that were sealed in his baptism – and promised for his future. In some sense those 40 days are a bit like a like a movie trailer – a snapshot of what his Jesus’ life will be about – defeating Satan and rescuing people. Jesus’ first mission is to resist Satan & overcome him – to do internal battle ready for the external battles.

This tells us something: the life of discipleship is a life of surrendering our will – our motivations over to him. Put another way, the move from being ego-centric to theo-centric. The human heart – the very centre point of our existence – needs careful nurturing. In the parable of the sower which is found in the first three gospels we are told that the heart is like soil – Jesus wants good soil – Jesus wants the harvest and so good soil is needed.

The season of Lent, which we are now into, is the reminder of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness running from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. We go without. We surrender things. We take time to reflect and ask God – how is my heart? What weeds are growing in my soil? Where am I comfortable – where are had habits emerging?

In our household we’ve given up social media and watching TV. The first one is easy – the second is tougher. We’re learning that we use TV as a switch off, a distraction – that isn’t the same as rest.

Looking back the reason I sensed God wanting me to give up my beautiful bike isn’t that God is against bikes or cyclists or living in London. He wants our hearts – our lives. I wanted a nice bike – I couldn’t afford one – so I bought it anyway. I’ve learned, slowly, that God provides for our needs. It never crossed my mind back then to think he may have a view about what I spend my money on. Was he cross? No; he’s so good, but he did want to teach me that if I want a bike I should probably ask Him – and learn to trust him a little more. I’m a slow learner and it’s taking a long time…

In Lent we are reminded once again that when things are given up – like bikes or Netflix – that Jesus is more important and he supplies all our needs – he is our everything and whatever gets in the way needs to be removed!

How is Lent going for you? What are you giving up? And in this season what are you taking up to draw closer to him?


Thank you Jesus that your love never fails and that you call us closer to you! Amen.

READING: Mark 1:1-15

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way’ –
‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.”’

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’