Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark doesn’t bother to tell us about any of Jesus’ particular temptations. All Mark says is, “he was tempted.” Other Gospels give some examples, but Mark is making a different point. After all, our Church has come to believe that in Jesus the God who birthed him knew every temptation you or I might know, from the inside, so to speak. So the list might as well be endless.
Mark is telling us that, just like you and me, Jesus knew keenly what it was like to be pulled away from loving God, pulled away from loving the people around him, even pulled away from loving himself. He knew what it was like to feel a constant, insistent tug away from the common life that God was living in and around him. He felt that tug all the time. God felt it with him and in him.
The only difference from you and me, our tradition has come to believe, is that he never quite let go of the love that wouldn’t let go of him, no matter how much he got tugged in other directions. People called him sinless (Hebrews 4:15), but that can be misleading. (After all, elsewhere Jesus himself blurred the distinction between temptation and sin, e.g., Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28)
It’s not that he never broke any rules—he was always breaking rules, even Biblical rules. It’s not that he was a nice little boy who always obeyed his parents—every time they even hinted at telling him what to do, he told them to back off. It’s not that he never had to be taught anything about the reach of God’s love—just ask the Canaanite woman who practically tricked him into healing her daughter. It’s not that he never had any second thoughts—just watch him praying that last night in the garden, screaming his God-forsakenness on the cross.
It’s just that, through all of that apparent misbehavior, short-sightedness, indecision, and agony, he never quite let go of the love that wouldn’t let go of him. That’s the only difference. And it doesn’t separate him from the rest of us. It only brings him closer.
And now we can look at our own temptations in a new way. They don’t take us away from God. They bring us closer. They’re something that we and God have in common, because in and with Jesus, in and with us, his risen Body, God is living a fully human life. And that constant tug away from Love only happens because we’re still connected.
Who would ever have thought of that?