Christ Ministered to by Angels From a Pictorial Bible, French (St. Omer), c. 1190-1200 The Hague, Koninlijk Bibliotheek MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 12v (detail)
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
& he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
& the angels ministered to him.”
All three Synoptic Gospels relate that Jesus spent a period of 40 days & nights in the desert immediately following His Baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist & the dramatic recognition given by Heaven to this event. The number 40 obviously has resonance with such Old Testament events as the 40 days & nights of the Great Flood (Genesis 7:9), the 40 days & nights that Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God (Exodus 24:18) & the 40 years in which the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32-34). Mark’s reference to the Temptation of Jesus is the shortest of the three. Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11) & Luke (Luke 4:1-13) both describe in detail the temptations tried by Satan, temptations to power & pride, which Jesus resisted. All three agree that at the end of these 40 days & nights, Jesus was tired & hungry.
Here the angels look like they are tidying Jesus following His confrontation with Satan. Both Mark & Matthew conclude their descriptions with a reference to ministering angels who attend Him at the end of the time. Unlike the temptations themselves, which are frequently depicted in art over the ages, the ministering angels are not seen that often. They appear in a few medieval manuscripts like this one, but usually in the background of a scene of the temptations.