@johnvinod | March 11, 2021
Please begin by reading Matthew 4: 1-11. The temptation of Jesus Christ is quite a complex subject. It can be looked at from different perspectives. Today, I want us to look at it from the perspective of what the temptations might have meant to Jesus in the wilderness; even though they did not end there. Instead, they continued throughout his ministry and ended only on the cross.
However, in the wilderness, Jesus was intensely tested in who he believed that he was and the ministry he would do with this understanding. Let us recall that the tempter’s first words to Jesus were, “If you are the Son of God…” ; and he used them twice (Matthew 4: 3 & 6). Satan did what he was best at, i.e., sowing seeds of doubt. I believe Jesus indeed “share[d] in flesh and blood” and “he himself likewise partook of the same things” as we humans do when “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect” and “he himself has suffered when tempted” (Hebrews 2: 14-18 ESV). Therefore, in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted to doubt his own identity.
That is why all three Gospels, when narrating Jesus’ temptation in the desert, show it in the context of his baptism. Until his baptism, Jesus had not done anything spectacular. Nevertheless, at his baptism, Jesus was declared the Son of God with whom his Father was well pleased (Matthew 3: 17). When Jesus heard these powerful words in the presence of the prophet John and the other Jews, he knew without a doubt that he was not only the promised Messiah but also the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. The visible anointing of the Holy Spirit provided a further affirmation of this reality. Jesus was now fully conscious; he was the Son of God and the anointing of the Spirit imbued him with divine powers to do his ministry.
So, when Satan came, although Jesus was indeed physically exhausted; the actual temptation was that Jesus found himself in the crucible of his inner perception of who he was. This is where he identified with us completely as the baptized and the anointed Son of God. He was tempted to question his call, the validity of his baptism, his self consciousness as the Son of God, and his anointing. He was tempted to doubt the words of his Father, which he heard when he emerged from the Jordan river. “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mark 1: 12). After forty days and forty nights being alone in the desert, the first words that he hears is the voice of the devil, “If you are the Son of God!” As we believe that Jesus had fully become like us, then, Jesus might have thought: Are the things that I have believed and heard really true?
Friends, Jesus was in the same desert where you may feel lost today! He knows what it means to hear the voice of God speaking to you as you read the scriptures and listen to the uplifting messages and then as you walk out, you hear about the incurable cancer of your loved ones! You receive a phone call informing you that a senior in your family has succumbed to Covid-19! You hear that your spouse just lost their job! You learn that your savings and investments have been washed away during the pandemic. Your friend has met with an accident, and so on and so forth…
It is in such times that the devil will whisper in your ears, are you really a child of God? Are you really forgiven? What you just read and heard in your worship, were that really God speaking to you? Are you really who God says you are?
From my own struggles, I believe that Jesus completely understands your inner battles and your self doubts. And the most exceptional news that you would ever hear is this: Jesus Christ had overcome his temptation! He came out triumphantly and never showed any sign of letting go of his implicit trust in the affirmations of his heavenly Father. When your mind questions the very basis of your faith, your calling, and your experiences, hold on to and never let go of your faith in your Creator. Trust his boundless love and grace for you. Stay anchored in your relationship with your Creator and you shall come out victoriously from whatever you may be going through right now. Amen!