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If Jesus Had to Be “Driven” by the Spirit into the Desert, Does That Mean He Was Resisting?


The Catechism of the Catholic Church (538) says that Jesus was "driven" by the Spirit into the desert after his baptism by John. It sounds like he was resisting.


That is not the intent. The statement is an allusion to Mark’s Gospel, where the phrase is used (Mk 1:12). Matthew and Luke also mention Jesus’ sojourn in the desert, but without the dramatic phrasing. For example, Luke states: “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit . . . was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness.” This emphasizes the positive cooperation of Jesus with the Spirit.

Mark’s more dramatic phrasing is simply part of his style. Mark uses powerful action words to convey to his Roman audience that Jesus was a man of action. Action impressed Romans more than philosophical reflection, which impressed Greeks. Thus, Luke’s Gospel, written for a Greek, stresses Jesus’ reflective side, while Mark, writing to Romans, stresses Jesus’ active side.

The word “drove” does not mean that Jesus was resisting the Spirit. Instead, Mark is trying to show how powerfully the Spirit brought Jesus into the desert. The idea is not of one Person driving and one Person resisting, but both dynamically cooperating.

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