Last Sunday we spent some time looking at the baptism of Jesus. And of course, one of the big questions that comes out of that story is “Why did Jesus need to be baptized anyway?”
John the Baptist had been baptizing people as they confessed and repented of their sin. But as the sinless Son of God, Jesus had no sin to confess or repent of. He had lived his life in perfect obedience to God and so baptism would seem really unnecessary. John the baptist even said to Jesus….
“I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.”
And that’s the key right there… Jesus had to carry out all that God required.
Namely, that Jesus identify with sinful man – taking our sin upon himself as if it were his own. This was a key part of God’s plan to redeem mankind. This would be one of the first steps in Jesus’ journey to the cross where he would ultimately give his life as the payment for our sin.
And of course, as Jesus obediently submitted to the will of His Heavenly Father in baptism, both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit expressed their approval of what had just happened – in a very dramatic way. The Holy Spirit descended like a dove and settled on Jesus and God spoke from heaven saying “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
This was very clear affirmation for all those who witnessed this – that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and that He was doing exactly what his Heavenly Father wanted Him to do. This was almost like a commissioning of Jesus as be began to carry out His life’s mission.
However, there was one further step of preparation before Jesus could begin his public ministry. In the very next verse, right after God said “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” – we read this:
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.” Matthew 4:1
This may seem like an odd thing for God to do – right after He declares his approval and the joy He has in His Son, why would the Holy Spirit then lead Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil?
What’s that all about? Is this like a test – some kind of final exam for Jesus before He begins his ministry? Is this another necessary part of God’s plan to redeem mankind? Is there something else going on here? How does this all fit together?
Well, that’s exactly what we want to look at this morning.
Today we’re going to be looking at Matthew chapter 4 – verses 1 through 11. We already read verse 1, but let me read that again together with verse 2 now because these two verses kinda set the stage for the rest of the passage.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
First of all, you’ll notice that Jesus was led “by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. God intentionally brought Jesus into a place where he would be tested & tried by Satan Himself.
Now to be clear, God was not doing the tempting, but He did intentionally bring Jesus to a places where he would be subjected to temptation. The question is why? Well, the short answer is that we’re not specifically told. The Bible doesn’t explain God’s motives and reasonings in this instance.
However, I think we can deduce a few possibilities.
One reason could be that this was a necessary part of Jesus’ growth and development in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. You’ll remember that as a human, Jesus had to grow and learn – which is hard for us to wrap our heads around, I know. But Hebrews 5:8 reminds us:
8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:8
Now of course, that’s not to say that Jesus had been disobedient previously, but it seems that the depth of His trust and dependance on God grew as Jesus went through difficult things – which is just how our faith grows too!
I think that most of us would recognize that the most difficult times in life are usually the times that cause us to draw close to God and to trust in Him. When things are going good, we tend just to rely on our own strength. But when life gets hard, we realize how much we need to trust in God. And so these difficult times in our live are really a blessing because they teach us to stop relying on ourselves and instead to put our trust in God.
And so for Jesus, these forty days and forty nights fasting in the wilderness – spending time alone with God in prayer – would no doubt serve as a unique classroom for Jesus to learn even greater dependance on God. And I think we’ll see some of the results of that as keep going through this passage.
Another purpose for the Holy Spirit to lead Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil could be that this was yet another way in which Jesus would identify in every way with mankind. Two weeks ago we read Hebrews 4:15 which says….
15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15
In his humanity, Jesus experienced all the same testings as we do. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan did his best to draw Jesus into sin, just like he does with us. And so Jesus knows what it’s like for us to face the schemes and lies of the devil – because he faced them himself! And what’s more, He had victory over them. This verse in Hebrews tells us – and our passage today affirms – that Jesus did not sin.
And I think that one of the key applications of this passage for our lives is to see how Jesus did that. Jesus models for us how we can stand against and have victory over the temptations that Satan sends our way.
And so with that in mind, let’s take a look at the first of these temptations and see how Jesus deals with it.