The Desert of Temptation

Adapted from a devotion by Chad Bird

The Jordan River water slowly trickled off our Lord’s wet head. Behind Him the famous Jordan river snaked its way along; before Him the ancient serpent lay in wait. Still drenched with baptismal water, Jesus marched into the desert of temptation. Heaven and hell were about to exchange blows. And in the celestial realm, you could have heard a pin drop. You are tempted, tempted to view the fight as a spectator, to whoop and cheer for your big brother who’s about to blacken the eye of the bully from Hades. But you are not a fan in the stands. No, you are in Christ. In Jesus, all of you go toe-to-toe with the heavyweight champion of hell. When this one man enters the ring with the tempter, all of you step in with Him. Just as in Adam all humanity fell through temptation into sin and death, so in Christ all humanity will rise through obedience into righteousness and life. You are not in the audience; you are in the desert, for you are in Christ.

When Jesus was baptized, His Father’s voice fell from heaven, proclaiming, “You are my beloved Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased,” (Mark 1:11). But there in the wilderness it did not seem so, did it? After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. “You are my beloved Son,” the Father had said. Well, if you love Him so much, why are you allowing Him to suffer hunger? “. . . with whom I am well pleased,” the Father had affirmed. Pray tell, if you are so pleased with Him, why have you not given Him so much as a scrap of food to alleviate the wrenching emptiness of His stomach?

What you could not do, Christ has done for you.

Such are the doubts devised by the devil. Satan, too, had heard the Father’s sermon at the baptism of this man. He watched Him fast, he saw Him hunger, so he devised a plan of attack. “The tempter came to Him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread,’” (Matt. 4:3). Do you hear what is suggested? The devil is saying, “If what that voice from the clouds said is true, then why has He abandoned you to die of starvation? Why is He depriving you of the basic necessities of life?” So, you see, Satan, hungry for victory, has swung his fist at the empty belly of our Lord.

But no more had that swing begun before it was blocked—not by human strength, not by will power, not by argumentation—but by what? Solely by the Word of God. Jesus answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,’” (Matt. 4:4). And the word that had proceeded from the mouth of God was this: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Do you see? The temptation was not simply to turn rocks into food; Satan lured Jesus to turn from the trustworthy words of His Father to the fickle feelings of the human heart. But instead of turning stones into bread, Christ stuffed the stone of His Father’s Word into the devil’s open, tempting mouth.

That same satanic mouth has dropped such doubting thoughts into your suffering heart, hasn’t it? At your baptism, too, the Father said, “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” But it doesn’t always seem so, does it? When the bills pile up, have you wondered what use is the Father’s rich grace if you haven’t money to pay what you owe? If you are so loved by Him, why did He allow you to be injured, to become ill, to be widowed or divorced, to spend hour upon hour in pain or misery or heartache or loneliness? If God is good, why is my life so bad? So goes the temptation to despair.

But as it was with Jesus, so it is with you. Satan is luring you to turn from the trustworthy words of your Father to the fickle feelings of your human heart. Do not trust yourself; trust your Father. If He sent His own beloved Son to the cross, do not pretend that He will spare you crosses, sufferings, and pains. But know and believe that behind these masks of suffering is the smiling face of your beloved Father. The Lord disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). In love He is bringing you, cross by cross, suffering by suffering, into conformity with His beloved Son, and finally, to the glory of the resurrection.

Do you see what our Lord has done in His conquest of Satan with all his temptations? He has utterly reversed the fall of the first man. But that is not all. He has not only reversed Adam’s fall; but He has also brought forward a new humanity, with Himself being a new Adam who bears in His own body the source of all true and lasting life. What you could not do, Christ has done for you. The tempter whom you could never defeat on your own, Christ has defeated. The new genesis, which you could never create, Jesus has created for you.

In the plush Garden of Eden, the first Adam was defeated by the ancient serpent. But in the wasteland of the Judean wilderness, Jesus fought off the temptations of the evil one. Every fiery arrow shot from Satan’s bow was doused in the water of the Word. Heaven and hell stood toe-to-toe and hell was left lying in the dust, that you, O man of dust, might stand toe-to-toe with God and be embraced by Him as a beloved child.

His victory over the devil is your victory as well

The Lord Jesus fought and won this battle for you. His victory over the devil is your victory as well, for all that Christ accomplished has been reckoned to you as your very own. When you fall prey to the temptations of Satan, flee to the One by whom Satan has already been defeated. Those who are in Christ Jesus cannot be harmed by the enticements of evil. As in Adam you died in sin, so also in the obedient Christ you live. Repent and return to Him. Leave the old Adam with his death and come to the new Adam with all His life. He will receive and embrace you as His very own. He who was tempted for you is never tempted to turn you away. His baptism is your baptism, His conquering of sin is your conquering of sin, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension are all yours. What belongs to the head belongs to the body, and you are the body of Christ, living members of that man who is also God, the One in whom you have the life of the Father.

“Lead us not into temptation,” our Father, but lead us into the One who conquered the tempter for us: Jesus Christ, our Lord

Joy in the journey,

Pastor Jeff Shearier

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