This chapter marks the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry. And Jesus begins his public ministry by withdrawing into the desert (a place of silence and solitude with God) to pray with God the Father before he begins his three-year mission. And for some reason in the Father’s plan for the Son, Jesus encounters Satan in the desert where he is tempted three times. If you read the temptations (vv. 3-10) closely you will notice a common theme: Satan is attempting to undermine Jesus’s identity. The Evil One’s tactic: distort the Identity and you can disrupt the Mission. Fortunately, Jesus is Jesus and he is not easily taken in by the temptations.
Jesus then begins his public ministry (vv. 12-17) and calls his first Disciples, who he would later name Apostles. A quick definition here: Disciple means ‘a follower’, or ‘a student’. Whereas Apostle means ‘a messenger’. The idea here is that the 12 Apostles, before they were messengers for Jesus, were students of Jesus (we will see this transition as we move through the Gospel).
Finally, we see the two essential elements of Jesus’s ministry. His is a ministry of preaching and healing (vv. 23ff). This is huge: the essential mission of Jesus was passed onto his Apostles, who then passed it on, and on, and on. In other words, the Mission of the Catholic Church is to Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Heal those who are wounded (as we move through the Gospels we will see the different ways in which Jesus heals). It is with this in mind that Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Healing is an essential dimension of the apostolic mission and of Christianity. When understood at a sufficiently deep level, this expresses the entire content of redemption” (Jesus of Nazareth, 176).
Point for Prayer
What do I do when temptation to sin arises in my heart, or in my mind? Do I turn to the Lord immediately and invite Him into that temptation and ask Him to be present there? When are the times and where are the places that the Evil One distorts my identity as the Beloved Son and Daughter of the Father? How can I avoid those times and places?