After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. And there came a voice from heaven:
This is My beloved Son.
I take delight in Him!
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. (Matthew 3:16-17, Matthew 4:1)
I read these verses the other morning and what struck me is what happened immediately after the voice from heaven announced that he took delight in his beloved Son…then he was led into the wilderness to be tempted.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a typical reaction we would expect after someone has just been informed they are dearly loved and greatly appreciated. Part of me really thinks a normal (more desirable) reaction would have played out more like this…
This is my beloved Son. I take delight in Him! Then they went to Disneyland!
This is my beloved Son. I take delight in Him! Then they went to Starbucks and tried the new Toasted White Chocolate Mocha!
But that’s not how the story plays out. Immediately after being told how precious he is…Jesus is led into the wilderness for what I personally think was a close second to His hardest journey (the first being rejection, suffering, and death on the cross). Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. He was hungry and then the tempter did his best to break him. Can you imagine what that must have been like?
I was thinking about the timing of this wilderness season and how it happened right after Jesus was told how loved and appreciated He is. One of the reasons I think this took place when it did was because that whole journey of utter dependence gave Jesus a deeper clarity of His rescue mission here on earth.
Could it be that this 40 day fast was actually designed to make Jesus stronger rather than weaker?
Could it be that in His weakened physical state, He was actually stronger spiritually and in a better position to face not only the tempter but every struggle that was about to come His way?
Jesus had just spent 40 days relying solely on His Father to provide for him and “feed” Him spiritually. It must have become quite apparent to him through this dependence as to who would take care of Him when He had nothing. It must have become blatantly obvious to Him who was capable of sustaining Him in this weakened state. This time of utter dependence must have solidified in His soul who He was to bow down to, worship, and serve.
If nothing else, pain and suffering is capable of teaching us one thing: we have a Savior and His love and peace can carry us even if we are logging time in the bleakest of places. The last comment he makes to the devil says it all.
Go away, Satan! For it is written:
“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”
Then, I thought about some of our own wilderness and desert seasons. It’s at these times when we may scratch our head in confusion. But, Lord, You told us You delight in us. We are Your beloved. What are you up to, Lord? Why did You allow us to be here in this undesirable place?
There are times when life doesn’t play out like a vacation to Disneyland or a trip to Starbucks. Instead, sometimes, the Lord leads us, His beloved children, into the wilderness because the most incredible gesture of love from our Heavenly Father is a trip that teaches us complete dependence, deeper trust, and greater clarity of the mission.