Jesus and the Wild Animals

The Gospels record the significant events in the life and ministry of Jesus, yet the fact that there are four Gospels instead of one provides for us an interesting and multifaceted look into the details of an amazing life lived, a courageous and sacrificial death, and a miraculous conquering of death through bodily resurrection. As one reads the Gospel narratives one finds both broad thematic brush strokes as well as detailed and intricate inside looks into the life and ministry of Jesus. While some aspects of the Gospels give us an aerial view, we are also treated to an intimate and detailed description of who Jesus was and what he went through during his brief ministry on earth.

In this article I want to zoom in a bit into a narrative that everyone who reads the scriptures are familiar with and perhaps make an observation that has not normally crossed one’s mind when reading. The brief narrative that I would like to take a closer look at is the “temptation of Jesus in the wilderness” after his baptism by John the Baptist. The Gospel of Mark does not provide many of the details of this event as the other Gospel narratives but what it does tells us is indeed very interesting. Let us take a look at the brief passage found in Mark 1:12-13:

“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 angels were ministering to him”.

What catches the readers attention is not so much that Jesus was in the wilderness and was being tempted (since many readers are very familiar with that aspect of the story). Nor is it the reference to the angels ministering to Jesus even though this brief statement gives clear indication that Jesus did not go through this test without some divinely appointed aid. Rather what seems to be an insignificant detail is that Mark records that Jesus was in the wilderness, and he was with the “wild animals”. Why did Mark include this seemingly insignificant detail? Perhaps to highlight the danger of the experience. Jesus had to not only fight off spiritual attacks from Satan, but he also had to survive the elements and the dangerous realities of the wilderness which included wild animals. I think these explanations are quite plausible and most likely the reason for the inclusion of the statement (although, this is merely my opinion).

What I find interesting is the seeming contrast between the First Adam and the Second Adam. Notice the difference in that the First Adam was placed in ideal conditions in the Garden of Eden. It was there that the First Adam exercised his God given dominion over the beasts of the field and the other animals that God had created. His environment was a tamed one, where the threat of animals did not seem to be an issue. However, even in this ideal context, Adam failed in his task leaving the job of restoration and overcoming of sin to the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. Unlike the First Adam, the Second Adam Jesus Christ is not placed in ideal conditions. Instead of a safe and tamed environment, Jesus enters into a fallen world where dangers and temptations abound. Indeed, unlike Adam, Jesus was placed among the “wild animals” having to rectify the failure of the First Adam. In less than ideal conditions, the Second Adam proves he is up to the task by doing what Adam could not do, even when the conditions were against him.

I am not saying that this is the reason that Mark included the phrase “And he was with the wild animals”, but I think there is a lesson in there somewhere. There is an example of Christ’s superiority over the First Adam, and all who came before him, in that Jesus succeeds where no one else could have succeeded. If one could speculate here, it is an interesting phrase that allows us to ponder both the reality of the dangers Jesus faced while being tempted in the wilderness and the superiority of the Second Adam in that he succeeds when placed in a context that is set against him in every way.

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