Mark simply tells us that it was the Spirit who immediately drove Jesus even deeper into the desert after his baptism and commissioning. The echoes from the Exodus are loud and clear. Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan for forty days, just as Israel had wandered in the wilderness for forty-years. Moses had been up on Mount Sinai for 40 days (Exodus 24:18). Elijah was likewise in the wilderness for forty days and nights (1 Kings 19:8), and angels ministered to Jesus, just as they had done with Elijah. Like Israel, Jesus is the beloved Son of God and is now commissioned and equipped for his messianic ministry. And as soon as that ministry begins, Jesus must endure the same test that both Adam and Israel endured, yet failed.
Returning to the theme of a new creation, Jesus must do spiritual conflict with the devil–the implication is that a cosmic battle is being waged out in the desert.12 When Mark mentions that animals are present with our Lord, we have echoes from the account of Eden (Genesis 2-3), implying that Jesus is the second Adam (and Lord of creation) who will resist the kind of temptation which worked so well when Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden. And yet, Mark doesn’t say a word about Jesus’s victory over the devil–even though such a victory is certainly implied by the fact that once Jesus returns from this forty days in the wilderness he begins his public ministry in verses 14 and 15 by calling disciples and preaching about the kingdom of God.
Thus as the true Israel, Jesus is both affirmed and sustained in the wilderness.13 He is also obedient in the wilderness. But even before his ministry begins, Satan tried to stop him, and Jesus emerges victorious and begins to preach about the kingdom. He is the true Israel. He is obedient son and suffering servant. Jesus went out into the desert to do what had not yet been done–to render perfect obedience to God’s law and to fulfill all righteousness. And so even before Jesus begins to preach, we know that he is the Son of God, loved by the father, the true Israel, the humble servant and the victor over Satan. We know that in this man, a new creation is beginning to dawn.
If he were not all of these things we’d still be in our sins. But because he willingly indentified with his people when he himself had no sin, we stand forgiven. Because the Father himself pronounces a divine benediction upon Jesus, we must listen to what he says. We must believe what he teaches us. And we must do as he commands us. For he is the true Israel. He leads us in a new Exodus. He begins the new creation. And he alone baptizes in the Spirit. This then, is why our blessed Jesus went out into the desert.