But there is more here for us as readers of the prologue in the gospel of Mark. We have what seems to be another confirmation. Previously, there was a voice calling in the wilderness/desert, this time it is a voice from heaven. A voice linkage takes place on the level of hope and fulfillment. God is speaking from outside places that go beyond the norm of everyday life. Heaven and wilderness/ desert voices are confirmatory voices that readers need to hear about as we are moved further inside the narrative world, which in a startling and shocking way, begins to transform and change our own world.
God’s voiced proclamation assures readers that Jesus is the real thing – the beloved authentic Son promised from the times of the OT in whom God is now pleased. These OT images (focus Isaiah 42:1-4 and Psalm 2:7) give readers a striking portrayal of Jesus as the unique son of God who will carry forward God’s promise of a Messiah-servant-being who would bring the long awaited Kingdom of God. Instantly, after this voiced confirmation by God, the Spirit drives Jesus away from one wilderness and into another – to an outside place further away from daily life and everyday contexts, and the flow of crowds coming to John. The role of Jesus is portrayed as entirely passive in the narrator’s recounting. The active verbs in this scene refer to the Spirit and the angels. The narrator offers readers a privileged insight into the outside – to beyond the norms of human affairs in order to show the role of a personal and performative dimension of the Spirit in Jesus’ mission of facing conflict, and a power battle that is not entirely played out in daily life situations. Intriguingly, the vivid and striking verb ekballo—drive out—for the Spirit’s action is used some fifty times in this narrative, most often, as we shall see later, when Jesus drives out demons. This verb usually connotes motions of conservation or resistance, but the narrator chooses to leave any such overt suggestions out of the picture. What is portrayed more clearly is that the authentic unique Son of God faces this time of conflict through the initiative of the Spirit. Whatever testing experience Jesus goes through in this outside place, its overall impact is positive with respect to the unfolding mission of God in these new times. Jesus again receives confirmation as God’s authentic Son. The protagonist Satan, the adversary, tests Jesus in the outside wilderness place for a period, likely here reminiscent of the previous period of Israel’s testing in the outside places—wilderness prior to entering the Promised Land.
The narrator makes very little of this encounter and the testing connected to it. No sense of victory or defeat – winner or loser. The mention of wild animals may reinforce the picture of an outside place and Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness where God’s people are protected from vicious animals, much as Jesus may have now been through the aid of angels.
The focus here seems to be to heighten the drama as the baptized and baptizing Son of God – the coming One is thrust into heavy conflict in a hostile environment that threatens, yet cannot stop God’s unfolding mission to Israel and to the whole world through his Son.
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