The summer before I started third grade, we moved into the house that I would grow up in. It was in the downtown area of a small town. We could walk or ride our bikes anywhere we wanted to go. For an eight year old, this was heaven. There was a baseball field just around the corner and up the street. This is where my earliest memory of playing that great game that can teach you so much about life took place.
My older brother, David, and I were on the same team. I’m not sure how that happened because we were three grades apart and I’m not sure that it ever happened again. This particular day we were in a close game and our team was at bat. There were a couple of people on base and David was at the plate. I remember he hit the ball a long way—past the outfielders and all the way to the church building that stood behind centerfield. He ended up with a triple and everyone was cheering. I remember thinking David had done some great, heroic deed and I was just proud to be his brother. He had delivered us from defeat!
Things were a lot simpler in those days but there were some things that were true then that are true now. Life is like a contest. There are forces/powers that oppose us. We need someone to deliver us. That’s what our brother in the flesh, Jesus, did for us. It culminated in the cross and the resurrection, but all you have to do is read Matthew’s record of Jesus’ birth to see that the battle was on from the moment He was born (Matthew 2:1-18).
We don’t know much about His childhood, teenage years, or early adulthood. The four accounts of His life start in detail when He is thirty (Luke 3:23). There are two events that mark the beginning of His ministry. These are His baptism and temptation in the wilderness. At His baptism, He is publicly proclaimed to be the Son of God. In the desert, we start to find out what this means.
Both Matthew and Luke (4:1ff in both), make it clear that Jesus was led by the Spirit and tempted by the devil. This might seem like a strange combination, but it isn’t. Although some speak and act as if they are so spiritual as to be beyond temptation, that wasn’t the case with Jesus. Beware of anyone who acts more holy than Him. They might mean well, but they are either not being led by the Spirit, are being deceived, or a combination of the two. What happened in the wilderness wasn’t the first temptation for Christ and it certainly wasn’t the last. What was it then?
Perhaps Luke’s words are most helpful when he implies that Satan had chosen an “opportune” time (4:13). From a human viewpoint (and that’s a significant dimension of the temptations because Jesus was fully human), this isn’t difficult to see. Christ had just been baptized, affirmed by His Father’s words, and anointed for a ministry that had been planned before the foundation of the world. He wouldn’t be human if He wasn’t brimming over in pleasure about these things and as such, more vulnerable to an attack by the enemy.
The contest is close. Satan is shrewd in his strategy, strong in His weaponry, and enticing in his manner. Moreover, he’s never failed in luring people out of their innocence. But this time it’s different because the One standing before Him is different. He is God’s idea of a man and He lives like it. Where all of us have caved, He stands firmly, mightily, and gloriously. He stands for what we should be and could be. He stands as our older brother to deliver His people from defeat.
” . . . Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin,” (Hebrews 4:14b-15).