Jesus is marked out for ministry by his baptism. As Mark presents it, Jesus’ ministry will entail a struggle with the forces of evil opposed to God. This is symbolised by the trial in the wilderness (Mk 1: 12-13).
The Markan account of the temptations is very brief. Mark is content with stating the mere fact that Jesus was tempted by Satan. He presents Jesus’ struggle with Satan as a consequence of his submission to God’s will and plan at his baptism. Besides, the link with the baptismal experience is further established by the fact that it is the Spirit who descended upon him at baptism that leads him into the desert, the place popularly believed to be dwelling of evil spirits.
“Forty days” signifies a prolonged period. Symbolically, it means that temptation or confrontation with Satan is a characteristic feature of the ministry of Jesus. The determination of Jesus to be faithful to the mission of the Father results in the struggle with and conquest of the adversary of God. As Jesus’ confrontation with the forces opposed to God continues throughout his ministry, Mark does not mention here Jesus’ victory over Satan. The presence of wild beasts is meant to symbolise the evil which he is confronting, and that of the angels to express the power of God available to Jesus in his struggle against evil. Wild beasts and angels are mentioned in Psalm 91: 11-13 which is cited both by Matthew (Mt 4: 6) and Luke (Lk 4: 10-11) in their accounts of Jesus’ temptations. Jesus will overcome the power of the evil one by the power of God. Jesus’ exorcisms will clearly show this (Mk 3: 27).
In the temptations Jesus is further identified with sinful humanity which is exposed to the forces of evil. In the letter to Hebrews we read that Jesus is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4: 15).