The Demons You Face When You Are Alone

Jijo Kandamkulathy, CMF

Claretian Publications, Macau


Mk 1:12-15

The gospel today gives a short narrative of the temptations of Christ from Mark. It is often a question if Jesus was tested or tempted. Testing is a method to check the resilience and quality of a product or a person to take the stress of the next level. In this case, it is the Spirit that leads Jesus to the desert. God cannot incite anyone to do evil, therefore we have good reasons to believe that it was a test for Jesus to find his own strength before he launches into his challenging ministry that would end in his crucifixion.

The desert unequivocally evokes the memories of the forty years of trials and failures of Israel in the Sinai desert. Where Israel failed, Jesus overcomes. Forty years are also a reference to the lifetime of a generation. It gives a clue that Jesus went through these tests for a lifetime.

The desert is a metaphor for a situation where you are absolutely alone. The true color of a person is revealed when one is alone. When there is no audience to clap, the costumes will be dropped off, all performances will vanish, and one becomes one’s real self. That is when the truth of a person is revealed. That is when one faces one’s own demons, one’s own frailties, that is where shady negotiations could be done with one’s values without anyone knowing. Jesus often chose deserts even in the middle of his actions. He was alone in prayer when people sought after him. He left all companies when people wanted to make him king. There were times that he was deserted when he actually looked for consolation. At Gethsemane, he wanted some consolation from the disciples, but they were not with him in spirit. Some deserts were chosen by him, and other deserts chose him.

The temptation story in the Bible has no audience, no witnesses. Jesus was alone in the desert. The story was known to the apostles only from Jesus. Jesus knew his mettle was tested there, his values were tested. He definitely wanted the disciples to learn a lesson from his experience. That is why he chose to share this story with them.

What Mark omitted to mention is as important as what he chose to mention in the narrative. Why did he not narrate the victory of Jesus in the temptation. That is answered when we look at the next sentence with reference to the beasts and angels. They continued to be with him until his ultimate victory over evil in his death and resurrection. The symbolisms of using the term animals and beasts are typically different in connotations. “Animals” refer to the species and “beasts” refer to an evil nature of animals. So the reference is more to the evil that he had to live with during his lifetime. There were angels too representing the consolations that he received in the course of his life.

This also is an indicator to every baptized person or disciple that when you choose a lifestyle with the values of the gospel, you get tested, you get challenged. You get your consolations too. Those who float in the flow will never feel challenged or tested because there are no values to be tested with!

His true tests would come much later. At Gethsemane, he had the temptation to get out of the Father’s plans. If he had failed in his previous tests when he was alone, this moment would have been a fiasco. He would have failed and run away with the disciples who chose to run away.

His last temptation was to take revenge! Jesus could have made a claim on the cross to the soldiers and his persecutors, “I will teach you all a lesson when in three days I rise again.” Most stories of our days end in such successful vengeances! He prevailed over anger and vengeance in that last temptation too. He is the ultimate winner!