One of the primary characteristics of the Gospel of Mark is its brief nature. Mark wastes no words in his gospel, so whenever there seems to be additional detail, we should take notice. Most of the time however, Mark gives us the bare minimum to describe the event, and many of these events are further expounded in the other Gospels.
An example of Mark’s brevity can be found in his account of the temptation of Jesus. Whereas Matthew describes the dialogue between Jesus and Satan, Mark simply tells us that it happened. So what do these two verses have to tell us about who Jesus is? What is it that Mark wants us to know about Jesus from this passage?
First, it is significant that it is the Spirit who drives Jesus into the wilderness. Even from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, it is God who is in control, not others. God is orchestrating the events of Jesus’ life, just as he orchestrates the events of our lives.
Second, notice the connection between Israel in the wilderness and Jesus in the wilderness. Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness; Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. While Matthew makes explicit this connection, Mark is making it quite clear that Jesus is the true Israel. What does that mean? In the Old Testament, Israel is described as God’s son (read Exod. 4:22-23; Hos. 11:1). Israel failed miserably in its calling as God’s child. Yet Jesus comes and shows that he is the true Son of God–he remains faithful where Israel failed. Who is this? This is Jesus, the true Son of God.
Third, Jesus is clearly in God’s protection. In Scripture, the wilderness was seen as a cursed place (cf. the animals in Isa. 43:20, and how God provides life-giving water in the midst of the wilderness, or ‘desert’). On what would be considered Satan’s ‘home turf,’ Jesus is protected by angels. Even when there are dangerous wild animals, Jesus is safe because he is in the will of God.
Mark makes it clear who this Jesus is–the true Israel, God’s son, who is guided by God’s Spirit and is in his protection.