Matthew 3 & 4
If ever anyone looked like a prophet – surely John the Baptist did. I love the idea that a prophet is like a ‘wild man’ or woman – outside the system. They have to be in order to speak into it. But within this story of Jesus’ baptism by John, I’ve often wondered why Jesus needs to be baptized – if He is the perfect son of God. Even John thinks it’s a bit odd. But I think this is one of those times in the gospels where we see Jesus doing something which decisively demonstrates that He is willing to be God’s chosen one. By being baptized, Jesus is saying, ‘I’m in this with you.’ Amazing thought.
THEN, He hears God affirmation to Him and perhaps to John too. “This is my son…” An awesome experience but one which is immediately followed by the Holy Spirit leading Jesus into the desert in order to be tested by satan.
How often does this happen in our lives too? A testing time of trial and doubt follows swiftly on the heels of a time of blessing and affirmation. In some senses it is a direct attack from the enemy – causing you to question and doubt the reality of the God encounter you’ve just had. But within this, I wonder if a test and trial is needed. It makes me think of heat-setting materials – such as ink or paint or even baking. The application of heat and perhaps pressure causes a substance to harden, solidify, make secure and firm up. It fixes in state something which otherwise could be wiped away or diluted. Perhaps testing and trials straight after an encounter with God is allowed by God because it is what ultimately firms up our experience and commitment. Paul speaks later about our work being tested by fire in 1 Cor. 3 : 13. Perhaps this is similar for Jesus here. Could this be Holy Spirit confirming within Jesus that he is sure of his commitment and the affirmation God has given Him?
The temptations focus on doubting what God says, about going public and challenging God’s plan and finally asking who is the boss? Each time Jesus replies with scripture. Now at times I have thought it must have been easier for Jesus. After all, He is God and therefore He wrote the book. But I actually think that for 30 years Jesus has been reading, learning and living the word of God so that it is within his actual spiritual DNA. So when trial, doubt, and temptation struck – HE KNEW THE TRUTH. Now these scriptures that Jesus quotes are not some magic spell countering the words of the enemy or some magical mantra to combat satan. They are scriptures that Jesus in a way, tells himself. It is a refocusing when the enemy and our sinful nature try to lead our thoughts and ways away from God and truth – even when, as in the second temptation, God’s word is misused and warped. Our challenge is to know the truth – so that when times of trial, testing, doubt and question come – and they will – we can cling to what and who is TRUE and GOOD.
Have a think…
- Have you ever had a ‘crash’ straight after a time of blessing and encounter with God? What effect did it have on you?
- What can you do to firm up the reality of these encounters with God so that they are strong to the trials that follow?
- Do you ever think that regularly soaking in God’s word is not just about what you can get for ‘today’ but actually securing you for when trouble comes? What difference would it make to think of it in these terms?
- Why is it important to know that these temptations about identity, purpose and power, were real and challenging for Jesus?