John the Baptist Prepares the Way
As Jesus grew in mind, body, and wisdom, John the Baptist, whose birth was also foretold by the angel Gabriel, prepared for his ministry. John "grew, and waxed strong in the spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel" (Luke 1:80). John not only grew physically, but he grew spiritually. He lived in the wilderness, apparently away from the distractions found among men, and there received the word of God. John did not receive the priest's normal education. At the end of this preparation, probably by age thirty, "the word of God came unto John . . . . And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Luke 3:2-4). Jesus said that for those who would receive it, John the Baptist was Elijah whom the prophet Malachi had spoken of (Malachi 3:1; 4:5, 6; cf. Matthew 11:13-15; Luke 1:17). John spoke as the prophet Isaiah had prophesied: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matthew 3:3). Many people responded to John's message, confessed their sins, and were baptized (v. 6).
Many leaders of the Jewish religious sects, the Pharisees and Sadducees, came for baptism too. This surprised John since he knew their high opinions of themselves and their arrogant view that everything was all right with them since they could say, "We have Abraham [as] our father" (Matthew 3:9). John confronted them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (v. 7). He warned them not just to come for baptism but to repent as others had. This repentance was to be more than words: they had to bear "fruits meet for repentance. . . . every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matthew 3:8, 10; cf. Isaiah 40:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23).
John's ministry was not an end in itself. He knew he was preparing the way for One to follow: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matthew 3:11).
John Baptizes Jesus
While John was baptizing and preaching his message, Jesus left Galilee and went to him to be baptized. "John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" (Matthew 3:14). John felt unworthy; he needed Jesus. Jesus answered him, "Suffer [let] it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (v. 15). John wanted to fulfill all the God-given instructions for the Jewish people, thus Jesus was baptized. Immediately "the heavens were opened unto him, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him [Jesus]: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (v. 16; cf. John 1:29-34). Jesus' receiving the Holy Spirit and the Voice from heaven in the presence of the multitudes were a testimony that Jesus' ministry was beginning. Soon after this "John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). John clearly saw Christ's work as the Savior, the One who would take away the sins of the world. John recognized that his "forerunner" commission would soon be fulfilled and that he would fade away as Jesus' ministry increased. John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (3:30). John recognized that Jesus "cometh from above [and] is above all. . . . he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God. . . . The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (vv. 31, 34-36).
After Jesus' baptism, the full extent of His ministry became evident. He was soon confronted with important decisions about His life. "Immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness" (Mark 1:12), where He spent forty days alone in prayer, meditation, and fasting. During this time He faced temptations from the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1-13).
After fasting forty days, Jesus became hungry. The tempter came to Him and started with the same approach used against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1), questioning the Word of God. Satan said, "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread" (Matthew 4:3). Jesus knew He was the Son of God and did not distrust His Father; therefore He refused to obey Satan's demand for proof of His Sonship. Jesus trusted in and appealed to His Father's Word to defend Himself from Satan's first temptation, saying, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (v. 4).
The words Jesus spoke are part of Moses' address to Israel concerning the importance of keeping God commandments. Moses said, "All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live" (Deuteronomy 8:1). He told them they should remember their forty years in the wilderness and how it "humbled thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no" (v. 2). God had taught them that man cannot live "by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" (v. 3). Thus Satan's challenge to Jesus was on the wrong issue. Jesus could have turned the stones into bread, but it was more important to follow the word of His Father. Jesus would not distrust or tempt God by ignoring any part of it. Jesus rejected Satan's appeal in this first temptation and passed His first challenge to solve man's most important spiritual need (cf. Luke 4:1-4; Deuteronomy 8:3).
The devil, knowing that Jesus accepted the Word as truth, next used the Word incorrectly to tempt Him. He took Jesus to "the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone" (Matthew 4:5-6; cf. Psalm 91:11-12). Once more the devil demanded proof that Jesus was the Son of God, and Jesus again did not yield to Satan's request. Satan knew Jesus was the Son of God. For Jesus to follow any of Satan's requests would have been wrong, including his request for additional proof of Jesus' deity. To defeat Satan's demand, Jesus appealed to Scripture again: "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Satan misused the Scripture he quoted because he sought to stress one Scripture and disregard others that would clarify its meaning (Matthew 4:7; cf. Luke 4:5-12).
Next the devil showed Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:8). The devil challenged Jesus to seek an earthly kingdom by worshiping him rather than God. But Jesus replied from Scripture, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (v. 10; cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; I Chronicles 21:1). After Jesus withstood these temptations, the devil left Him, but only until a better opportunity came to further tempt Him (Luke 4:13; cf. Matthew 4:11).
The temptations of Jesus serve to let man know that temptation in itself is not sin, and that man has a Savior who was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He was like "his brethren [man], that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [help] them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:17, 18). By withstanding temptations, Jesus ultimately would began a series of events that defeat the power of sin and bring redemption to man.
Jesus is described as "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29), "a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:19; cf. Hebrews 9:14), and one who "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (I Peter 2:22). The word lamb connotes sacrifice to the Hebrew mind. This "lamb without blemish" was the Sacrifice to be offered for man's sin.
Throughout His life Jesus faced temptations from the devil, who wanted to prevent the Lamb from becoming the sacrifice for the world's sins. Jesus, however, did not yield to Satan but remained absolutely sinless by completely obeying God's will. Later He challenged His enemies, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (John 8:46). They could not point to any sin in His life. God had Jesus come into the world as a perfect man, "who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Corinthians 5:21). Since He was sinless, Jesus was qualified to be the Mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5).
The above is from Redemption Realized through Christ by Leland M. Haines (pp. 42-46), © copyright 1996 by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Find about this book here
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