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Why Did Jesus Need to Be “Driven” by the Spirit into the Desert?


In the Catechism of the Catholic Church 538, it states that Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the desert after his baptism by John. Why does it say Jesus was driven by the Spirit? That sounds like he was resisting.


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. 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 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 more, while Mark, writing to Romans, stresses Jesus’ active side more.

The word “drove” does not mean that Jesus was resisting the Spirit. Instead, Mark is trying to show how powerfully God was operating in Jesus’ ministry. He stresses how Jesus was brought into the desert by Spirit. The idea is not of one Person driving and one Person resisting, but of one Person driving and the other cooperating.

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