“Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23). John baptized Him, and the Holy Spirit anointed Him for ministry (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18). Luke then adds, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). The Gospel of Matthew puts it this way; “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matt. 4:1-2).
We immediately associate these texts with two Old Testament circumstances. First, Israel was in the wilderness for forty years. God himself states the reason for this wilderness experience. “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2).
The wilderness experience was for testing to expose and reveal the content of the people’s hearts. God already knew the content of their hearts. He wanted the people to see and learn the real content of their hearts.
Second, the word translated “tempted” can also be translated as “tested.” From God’s perspective, He tested Jesus to expose the content of His heart. From the devil’s perspective, he tempted Jesus to sin as he tempted and succeeded with Adam in the Garden.
These two similarities remind us that Jesus is the “last Adam,” or “the second [representative] man” (1 Cor. 15:45, 47). He enters the world as the promised seed (Gen. 3:15). He fulfills His covenant responsibilities to His Father, where Adam failed. Jesus Christ also represents His people, both Jew and Gentile. Thus He displays His love for His Father and sustains these tests and temptations on behalf of His people. It is within this framework that Scripture calls us to understand why the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
When the confrontation is engaged, “The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”‘” (Matt. 4:3-4). The devil provokes the Savior. “Son of God, indeed! Prove your status here and now. Adam failed long ago in this test and displayed for all generations his true heart. Use your divine power to gratify your fleshly desires and hunger.”
Jesus’ response is direct and straightforward. He quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3. In doing so, Jesus shows that He realizes that His confrontation with the devil is a test of His heart (Deut. 8:2). Will He keep His Father’s commandments or not? Jesus also knows that Deuteronomy is the second iteration of God’s covenant; it is the second law. The heart of the law is love. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4-5).
In essence, Jesus says to the devil, “No devil, I will not turn rocks into fresh-baked loaves to satisfy myself at your command. Because I love my Father, I will carry out His will. I will live by His word. I will keep covenant with Him. [Part Two, Next Week.]