Interlude – Baptism, Temptation, and Mission
(I taught this as the concluding lesson of VBS 2008 at HHCoC in Frankfort last night. I will continue with Living the Mission in the next few days)
This VBS has been about Monsters of the HEART, HEAD, and HANDS! The classes have examined heroes of Scripture to see how they’ve let either God or Satan control their lives. We’ve looked at Joseph, Saul, David, and Jesus. Tonight, I want to draw things to a close by looking at Jesus again. Specifically, I want to show you two points that the Bible makes about his temptation by Satan, and draw a conclusion from those points that will tie together our lessons from this week.
The baptism account and the temptation account are tightly connected in three ways:
- Textual Proximity – they’re right next to each other in Matthew and Mark, and separated by a genealogy in Luke that connects them even more tightly.
- Linguistic Similarity – Comparable Language introduces each scene, especially in Matthew (see 3:13 and 4:1)
- Each episode poses the SAME CHALLENGE to Jesus!
Now, I know you’re saying, “How can Baptism and Temptation be linked? Baptism is a moment of victory and purity and salvation!” Take a look at Mark 10:38, and see how Jesus uses baptism as a metaphor for temptation and suffering. They can be linked, and the synoptic authors DO link them.
Let me connect the dots with another story. One time Jesus and the disciples were at Caesarea Philippi, and Jesus asks them who people thought he is. They give various answers, and then Jesus asks them, “But who do YOU think that I am?”
Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” Jesus commends him for this answer, and them proceeds to knock them all for a loop by telling them that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, and be crucified.
What does Peter do? He takes Jesus aside and rebukes him! The very one whom he named, “Son of the Living God” he now feels adequate to instruct! At this moment, Jesus turns away from Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Now, back up to the baptism of Jesus. Jesus comes to John to be baptized in the Jordan. Why won’t John baptize Jesus? Because no Son of God should HUMILIATE themselves with such a ritual! Baptism is for the weak, the sinful, the rebellious. It isn’t for God’s Anointed!
John, someone Jesus holds dear and looks up to, says, “Don’t be humble!”
Peter says, “Don’t be humble!”
The Adversary says, “Don’t be humble!”
Point 1: At other times, on other days, Jesus was surely tempted to lust and rage and self-pity and despondency (Heb 2:17, 4:15, 5:2). But TODAY, Jesus is not being tempted to some personal peccadillo (“Hey Jesus, let’s go get drunk! Let’s go to Sepphoris and party!”). Satan, like John before him and Peter after him, is tempting Jesus to a fleshly, selfish, CROSS-LESS Messianic vocation.
Jesus has just been publicly proclaimed SON of GOD. The heavens are torn open, and YHWH Himself says, “This is My Son, whom I love!” Satan knows this, and Satan (along with the Scripturally-informed audience) knows something else as well.
EVERY OTHER Son of God in the Scriptures has chosen the way of power and self-service over the way of sacrifice. Saul. David. Solomon. Rehoboam. Look at the story in 1 Kings 12! Rehoboah has the chance to undo his father’s cruelty! He can serve his people and lead them like God, but he chooses to say, “My pinky finger is thicker than my father Solomon’s thigh!” He chooses power, and initiates a horrific civil war among God’s people that is NEVER EVER reconciled.
Jesus has just been proclaimed Son of God, every other Son of God has failed at just this point, and each of Satan’s temptations is to a popular conception of Messiahship. Satan knows what happened at the baptism! He has no doubt that Jesus is who God said he is. Rather, he is challenging Jesus’ methods, his vocation. Satan is saying, “THESE are how sons of God act! Stop this foolish suffering and sacrifice!”
There are three stories in Scripture that point forward to this precise moment in human history:
- The story of Israel – Both are in the wilderness, for times of 40 (years/days), to be tested.
- The story of Moses – Moses has a DOUBLE 40 (shepherding before Exodus) AND he spends 40 days fasting on Sinai. He is a leader of God’s people whom the rabbis considered a king. And he too is tested in the wilderness.
- The story of Adam – Luke inserts the genealogy right here for this reason – to point to the ‘son-of-God’ likeness between Jesus and Adam. Luke 3:38 “Adam, the son of God.” Luke 4:1 opens the temptation narrative.
How did child-of-God Israel do in her testing? She failed so miserably that only two people who came out of Egypt went into the Promised Land.
How did child-of-God Moses do in his testing? Perhaps the closest friend of God from the Garden to Jesus, Moses steals the glory from God because the people made him angry! When Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, he is intentionally remembering the story of Moses summoning forth water for the people. Moses dies and is buried outside Canaan.
How did child-of-God Adam do in his testing?
In the purest sense, Jesus is fulfilling the story of the Hebrew Scriptures RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW in Matt 4/Mk 1/Luke 4. He is the New Israel, the Second Adam, the last king of Israel, in the historic place and point where Israel failed God’s test.
Point 2: The question the authors of the temptation accounts are asking is this: Will THIS Son of God story end like every other Son of God story? Will it end like the story of Adam, barred from Eden? Will it end like the story of Moses, looking from a distance at the promise of God? Will it end like the story of Israel, exiled and rejected and destroyed?
Because unless it ends differently, church, we are still in our sins and the world is doomed.
Turn to Galatians 3:26. “In Christ, we are all sons of God through faith.”
Every morning, when you wake up, grab onto your “child of God” identity with both hands! Grab it tight and don’t let anyone or anything wrest it away from you! Ask yourself this question:
“How will my child-of-God story end today? Like Israel? Like Adam? or like Jesus?” Let your child-of-God heart (the new covenant heart given to all Christians) renew your child-of-God head (Romans 12:1-2) so that your child-of-God hands will follow the Jesus way of humble self-sacrifice in all your wilderness and Gethsemane challenges. Amen.
in HIS love,
PS – Many thanks to Mark Moore, a truly wonderful Bible teacher from whom I learned much of the content of this lesson.