“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”
~ Leo Tolstoy
The opening to Matthew 4 offers us both of these plot lines: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus heads on a journey into the wilderness whereupon he meets up with the devil. As readers we are hooked. What is this wilderness? What will Jesus face? With what does the devil tempt? Amidst the excitement, it would be easy to miss the important leading word Then. This transitional adverb ties us to the previous chapter and the baptism of Jesus. Do you remember how that finished? As Jesus rose from the water the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon him, and God the Father spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Talk about a dramatic opening to a life’s mission! With that in mind, chapter 4’s opening may catch us a little off-guard. Is this what we would expect for our newly anointed hero? Why would someone so chosen and favoured of God suffer such abasement as wilderness, and the temptations of the devil?
Something to See:
The temptation of Jesus is a good reminder that as Christians we not promised a life of comfort and worriless ease. We will have seasons in the wilderness; and, by nature of the world we live within and the flesh we inhabit, face temptation. One critical point to note is that Jesus was led, “by the Spirit into the wilderness.” This journey of Jesus, in spite of his surroundings and company, was ordained by God. This does not mean God initiates the tempting itself, for God tempts no one (James 1:13) and the text clearly says that the devil does the tempting of Jesus. But God may, for his purposes, lead us to temptation in order to test and/or prove character. In all, remember Paul’s encouragement, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)”