Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, hot on the heels of Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday). Feasting and celebration are followed by confession, fasting and abstinence.
The six weeks before Easter (Lent) are a time when many believers focus on the wilderness experience of Christ (Luke 4:1 - 13), alongside His journey to the cross, death and resurrection. With resurrection comes celebration: the Lenten fast is broken and believers can feast again. Sin is defeated, death overcome and hope triumphs over despair.
In common with recent years, we'll be following that journey from the perspective of one of the gospels. This year we'll be looking at how Mark recounts the last weeks of Jesus' life – we’ll begin our Sunday messages in Mark 8 where Jesus predicts His death. In this study we’ll be looking at the same passage as well as going back to the very start of Jesus’ ministry where he faces temptation in the loneliness of the desert.
Better shun the bait, than struggle in the snare. (John Dryden)
The essence of temptation is the invitation to live independently of God (Neil T Anderson)
Temptation may even be a blessing to a man when it reveals to him his weakness and drives him to the Saviour. Do not be surprised, then, dear child of God, if you are tempted at every step of your earthly journey, and almost beyond endurance; but you will not be tempted beyond what you are able to bear, and with every temptation there will be a way of escape. (F B Meyer)
Pause for thought
- Why are we tempted?
- How does temptation reflect those areas of our lives where we are strongest and/or weakest?
- What is the relationship between temptation and sin?
- How does God limit temptation? (see 1 Corinthians 10: 12 – 13). Why does this give us cause for hope?
Jesus’ public ministry begins with His baptism by John in the River Jordan. As he prays Heaven opens, the Spirit descends and the voice of God is heard. He is God’s Son and is now commissioned by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
It is that same Spirit which now leads Jesus away from the Jordan. Not, as we might expect, to the place where human need is the greatest but straight into the wilderness of the desert. Exposed there to extremes of heat and cold, hungry, thirsty and alone Jesus experiences the full power of temptation.
To think about
How hard can it be? (Luke 4 verses 1 to 13)
- Please read Luke 4 verses 1 to 13. Our modern world struggles with the concept of evil and its challenge to God’s created order. How would you explain the biblical understanding of evil and the work of the devil to a non believer?
- What do these verses tell us about temptation? What do the three areas of temptation have in common?
- How do Jesus’ responses to Satan (verses 4, 8, 12) help us to deal with the things we face?
- Taking James 4:7 as an example, what resources do we have in standing up to temptation?
- How can we encourage one another to resist when we really want to give in?
Three years on and Jesus’ ministry is nearing its end. He has taught, preached and healed throughout Judea. In the process He has angered the religious establishment but built a bridge between heaven and earth for the broken, the isolated, the sick and the marginalised. Now he is about to leave Caesarea Philippi for the last time, ahead lies the 120 mile trek through Galilee, around Samaria and on to Jerusalem.
To think about
What happens next? (Mark 8 verse 31 to Mark 9 verse 1)
- Please read Mark 8:31 – 9:1. What does Jesus tell his disciples about what will happen next? How does Jesus challenge the crowd?
- What might it mean for us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus?
- Jesus uses a picture of profit and loss (verses 35 – 37). How do Paul’s words in Philippians 3 verses 7 to 11, help us to understand the level of commitment involved in following Jesus?
- What values in church life reflect the nature and extent of this commitment?
- Where do we see the Kingdom of God (9:1) working through our service to God and in the ministry of GHBC?
- How can we encourage each other when we are really finding life hard? (Take time to pray and offer practical support for one another).