March 11, 2016
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
From the water to the wilderness, in the span of a day. This is the nature of the Spirit led life. Feasting one day and fasting the next.
But isn’t the Spirit-filled life one of prosperity and goodness? Why would the Spirit lead anyone into the wilderness? Why would the Holy Spirit take anyone into a place of desolation? Worse, why would the Holy Spirit lead people into a place of testing? Still worse than that, why would the Holy Spirit lead a person to a place of testing where they would be tempted by Satan?
These are all hard questions. First, let’s tackle it this way. Matthew reveals Jesus as the new Moses; indeed, one far greater than Moses. As Moses escaped the infanticide of Pharaoh, Jesus escaped the infanticide of Herod. As Moses was prepared by his wilderness years after leaving Egypt as a young man, now Jesus would be prepared by this symbolic season in the wild. As God parted the Sea for the Israelites to pass through, God parted the waters of baptism, pouring out the Spirit beyond measure on Jesus. As Moses led the Israelites through forty years of testing and disobedience to God’s Word in the wilderness, now Jesus walked out forty days of testing and obedience to God’s Word in the wilderness, passing the test on their behalf. This will continue to unfold in uncanny ways as the story progresses.
Not only is Jesus the new Moses, he is the new Israel, fulfilling all their failures and making a way out of the wilderness for any who would follow him. I think the great temptation for us, his followers, is to think we must also pass the test of obedience to God’s Word in order to escape the wilderness of our lives. It’s not true. There is great news for us at this point. Jesus passed the test by his obedience on our behalf. So what does this mean? Can we just put our soul on cruise control and not worry about sin and the schemes of Satan? No! We walk through the wilderness of this world in the name of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit as overcomers. The Holy Spirit leads us into the wilderness where Jesus himself can disciple us in what it means to live life as a real human being, in his way, according to his mind and by his power—which is love. It is only in the wilderness, when we are tested that we learn how Spirit empowered obedience works. It is only in the wilderness, when we are face to face with Satan and darkness and temptation that we learn the truth of the third stanza in the mighty fortress of Martin Luther’s most enduring hymn:
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
(v.3 A Mighty Fortress is Our God)
Anybody want to take a guess at that “little word?” ;0)
1. Have you ever considered the uncanny correspondence between the story of Jesus in the New Testament and the story of Israel in the Old Testament? What do you think of this?
2. How do you see the difference between trying harder to be obedient to God’s Word and walking in the overcoming obedience of Jesus through the power of the Spirit.
3. What does it mean to you that Jesus is our obedience? What would it mean for you to trade in your failed obedience for his fulfilled obedience? How would that change the way we contend with sin, darkness and Satan?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.