Some 30 years passed between chapters 2 and 3 of Matthew, during which Jesus lived in Nazareth and worked as a carpenter. But the time came for him to begin his public ministry which would culminate at the cross. Was he still qualified to be King? Had anything taken place that would disqualify him? In chapters 2 and 3, Matthew assembled the testimonies of five witnesses to the person of Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God and the Servant of the Lord, and ultimately, the King.
For over 400 years, the nation had not heard the voice of a prophet. Then John appeared and a great revival took place. John’s preaching centered on repentance and the Kingdom of Heaven. Of course, Jesus was not baptized because he was a repentant sinner. No, even John tried to stop Jesus. But the Lord Jesus knew it was his Father’s will. His baptism would identify him with the people whom he came to save. Moreover, his baptism pictured his future baptism on the cross when all the ‘waves and billows’ of God’s judgment would go over him. John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and also as the Lamb of God.
At Jesus’ baptism, the Father’s voice could be heard to proclaim, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ (3:17). The Father’s statement approved all that Jesus had done up to that point. His ‘hidden years in Nazareth’ were years of pleasing the Father. Certainly, the Father’s commendation was a great encouragement to the Son as he started his ministry.
From the high and holy experience of blessing at the Jordan, Jesus was led into the wilderness for testing. The introduction (vv.1-2) tells us a couple of very significant things.
First, that He was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This is the same Spirit that just descended on Jesus at His baptism, and now he leads Jesus places. This initial place does not look good at first, but by the time we have come to the end of the story we learn that it was good that Jesus had been there. “Jesus was tempted so that every creature in heaven, on earth, or under the earth might know that Jesus Christ is the Conqueror. He exposed Satan and his tactics, and he defeated Satan. Because of his victory, we can have victory over the tempter.” Thus, the baptism and temptation at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry are a little like his cross and resurrection at the end.
Just as the first Adam met Satan, yet failed in his mission; so, the Last Adam met the enemy (1 Cor. 15:45), yet he prevailed. Contrasting the conditions of the wilderness to that of the garden, James Montgomery Boice writes:
“Adam and Eve were in paradise; Jesus was in the vast, desolate wilderness of Judah. Adam and Eve were physically content and satisfied. They were free to eat from any of the trees of the garden, save the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; Jesus was hungry, having fasted for forty days and forty nights. Adam and Eve were together. They had each other for company and mutual support; Jesus was alone. Yet Adam and Eve rapidly succumbed to Satan’s wiles, carrying the entire human race into sin, misery, and destruction, and both physical and spiritual death, while Jesus stood firm as the Savior who was to bring life and salvation to the race.”
What Adam didn’t do, Jesus did. What Israel failed to accomplish; Jesus accomplished. Adam lost the battle and plunged humanity into sin and death. But Jesus won the battle and went on to defeat Satan in more battles, culminating in his final victory on the cross.
Our Lord’s experience of temptation prepared him to be our sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 2:16-18; 4:15-16). It is important to note that Jesus faced the enemy as man, not as the Son of God. His first word was, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone….’ We must not think that Jesus used his divine powers to overcome the enemy, because that is just what the enemy wanted him to do! Jesus used the spiritual resources that are available to us today, the power of the Holy Spirit of God, and the power of the written Word of God. As Luther would pen in his immortal hymn, A Mighty Fortress, ‘one little word shall fell him.’
I urge you to join us this Lord’s Day as we look at Matthew 4:1-11 and learn how Christ has conquered the evil one, and how that victory can be appropriated in our lives. Would you invite someone to come along with you? Would you take a moment and pray for our service this Sunday? Would you pray for someone? I look forward to worshiping with you this week.