And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. Mark 1:10-12
The same Spirit of God that descended on Jesus at His baptism proceeded to lead Him out into the desert to be tempted. That can be emotionally confusing to me as I seek to find a comfort zone in God’s character. One incredibly tender moment during His baptism ushers in stark moments when the humanity of Jesus is stretched to new limits. Why was that necessary?
Many bible teachers weigh in on the answer. One belief is that Jesus needed to be tempted in every way that we are tempted so that we know that we can run to Him as our High Priest. That was certainly accomplished in the wilderness. But there is another possibility. By being led into the wilderness to be tempted, and by prevailing with righteous choices, He fulfilled what the Israelites had not been able to do during their 40-year wanderings. They had been led from Egypt to the Red Sea, then to the wilderness, in order to test their new faith. The pressures revealed the immaturity of their faith.
Ah, but testing would reveal the perfection of Jesus’ faith. He repeated Israel’s journey to complete what they had failed. One indication that this might be true is the passage Jesus quoted when Satan first tempted Him to turn the stones into bread. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” The context of Deuteronomy 8 is Israel’s wilderness experience.
Jesus came to redeem what was broken. The nation of Israel failed miserably while on their journey to the Promised Land. Jesus redeemed it by going into the same wilderness and doing it right. As His child, I am called to share in the redemption of what is broken. The Spirit of God leads me into situations where I can redeem the sinful patterns of my family. I am often led into places that mirror my own past experiences so that I can do it right the 2nd time around. I find that the stakes are high when I feel the most fragile. I can enter a wilderness with the best of intentions and with great resolve to succeed. But the nature of my wilderness will test my limits. Passion to succeed never brings success. This is a spiritual endeavor, not a human one. For me to pass the tests that the wilderness brings, I will have to humble myself and acknowledge my utter helplessness without the Holy Spirit’s help. Prevailing with righteous choices will only happen as the Spirit of God, resident in me, rises up to empower what is impossible with human effort.
Jesus redeemed Israel’s sin. What sin, whose journey, might He want to redeem through me today?
It’s exciting. It’s impossible without You. I am Your servant. Amen