Upon His Father and Holy Spirit attended baptism, Jesus is led (or “driven”- Mark 1:12) into the wilderness for temptation. Already, we have questions, don’t we? Does God tempt us? Why would Jesus be sovereignly led to a place of weakness and temptation? Alfred Edersheim explains the grand moral purpose: the absolute submission of Christ to the will of God. “His circumstances [in the wilderness] were God appointed…and Jesus absolutely submitted to the Will of God by continuing in His present circumstances.” Christ’s temptation was a Father-sanctioned test of obedience, and a Satan-inspired attempt to pervert Christ’s perfect obedience as Messiah. So, not only is there a moral purpose, there is a Messianic one. The Tempter tried to deter Christ from His mission (to give His innocent life as ransom for sinners, Mark 10:45), and Christ triumphs.
Here, we can identify the Messianic credentials Christ proves as the Sinless Savior. The one and only man to walk this earth, and abstain from all sin, is Jesus Messiah. That is validating, but there is more. We can also identify with Jesus the man. Satan needed our Savior to, in his self-imposed weakness after 40 days of fasting, only succumb to one temptation. Christ is tempted with hunger, trust, and responsibility, and He passes each test. We hear Christ’s trust in the Word- “It is written,” His responses begin. The Tempter attacks both natures, first the physical hungry man, and second, the Deity, Christ. While the complete man, Jesus, could be tempted, the complete God in Christ could not, and did not sin.
What does this mean for us? It means we can esteem both the Man, Jesus Christ, who is familiar with our weakness and sufferings, sorrows and grief (Isaiah 53:3), and the God Jesus Christ, who is triumphant over all sin, and worthy as the sinless Lamb who was slain for our sins! Writer Michael J. Wilkins notes that Christ in these moments demonstrates He is both the supreme example of the Spirit led life and the Overcomer of temptation. We receive a brief foretaste of a new day, when Christ’s kingdom exists in a sinless state, and we will always be victorious.
What do we think of when we see a temptation showdown in Scripture? I think of Adam and Eve, unable to defeat the scheming Tempter in Genesis 3. First Adam fails, but last Adam (1 Corinthians 5:22, 45) triumphs. I think of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years. The nation Israel, chosen to be a people of blessing for all nations, holy and treasured, fails, but Jesus triumphs. All before Jesus have been unable to break the curse of sin, unable to overcome the dark shadow of the inevitable. But, Jesus, in complete frailty, triumphs in the wilderness over sin and the Devil. And we, watching this victory, are inspired. We want this in our lives. And the gospel says that we can have it. The gospel says that nothing could stop Jesus. His forty days in the wilderness is proof that Messiah at His weakest will not fail in His mission to serve as sinless Savior. We want unstoppability. We want complete and total victory. We do not want to live in broken weakness, in bondage to the curse of sin. We want what Jesus has. And it can be ours.
By God’s indwelling Spirit, we are offered Christ’s power to defeat sin. Temptation does not mean inevitable defeat. It means we still have battles to fight, and opportunities to honor God with our bodies. It means we can learn and grow in the power of the Spirit as we face temptation God’s way. Here is a Biblical step by step path to face temptation: 1) Resist the Devil- You and I are created for God’s glory, and the Devil wants to defeat our glory-making. 2) Resist in the power of God’s Spirit. 3) Resist under the guidance of God’s Word- Scripture teaches us the proper, God-glorifying, ways to use our bodies. There is great pleasure to be found in pleasing God (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3). 4) Do God’s will- God’s Word tells us what God wants. In God’s Spirit, we can desire what God wants. So delight in God, and do His will!
Prayer- “Father in Heaven, I face temptation every day. Give me the same submission that Jesus displayed at His temptation, that I would have Your power to defeat temptation and choose to glorify you in my body, mind, and soul. Let my Spirit-empowered responses to temptation be worship to You, Father. In Jesus Name, Amen.”