Herald of the Kingdom

After his baptism, the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tested by the Devil as Israel was. However, he overcame and succeeded where Israel failed.

Following his baptism, the Spirit “drove Jesus into the wilderness… for forty days and nights.” Like Moses on Sinai, the Messiah of Israel was alone in the desert where he was tested by the Devil and molded by God. He was tempted like Israel, only he overcame every challenge and emerged victorious and “full of the Holy Spirit.” Only then did he proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, starting in the villages of Galilee.

Wilderness - Photo by Marissa&Eric on Unsplash
[Photo by Marissa&Eric on Unsplash]

Just as Moses did not eat while he was on the mountain, Jesus “
fasted” the entire forty days. The gospel accounts leave no doubt that the Spirit of God led him to this confrontation. He was under divine compulsion. As the Messiah and Son of God, he had to succeed where Israel failed – (Deuteronomy 8:2, Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1).

  • (Matthew 4:3-4) – “And the tempter came and said to him, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

The first temptation recalled the incident when the Israelites murmured against Moses and longed for the “fleshpots of Egypt.” However, God responded graciously by providing them with “manna” from heaven to eat - (Exodus 16:1-4).

Rather than complain or demand what was his by right since he was the Messiah, Jesus responded to the Devil by citing the passage in Deuteronomy that described this miraculous feeding of Israel:

  • (Deuteronomy 8:3) – “And Yahweh humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh does man live.

Unlike Israel, he did not complain against God because of his hunger. Instead, he submitted to the will of his Father.

TEST NOT GOD


  • (Matthew 4:5-7) – “Then the Devil took him into the holy city; and he set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you; and, On their hands they shall bear you up, lest haply you dash your foot against a stone. Jesus said to him, Again it is written, You shall not test the Lord your God.

Ironically, having declared that the Messiah lives by every word that comes out of the “mouth of the Lord,” Satan used one of those words to tempt Jesus to commit a rash act. Since devout Jews expected the Messiah to appear in the Temple, would it not advance his cause if he descended from the “pinnacle of the Temple” and landed gently in its courts when the nation was in the Temple worshipping God? – (Malachi 3:1).

At his baptism, the voice from heaven identified Jesus as the “beloved Son,” but he was summoned to fulfill that role as the “Servant of the LORD” who suffers for his people. He would be manifested to Israel through his submission to a shameful form of death, not in impressive displays of royal power or military might – (Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 42:1, Matthew 3:17).

Jesus responded again by citing a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy - “You shall not test Yahweh your God, as you tested him in Massah.” It was at Massah that Israel complained once more - (Deuteronomy 6:16):

  • … And there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore, the people strove with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said to them: Why do you strive with me? Why do you test Yahweh?” - (Exodus 17:1-3).

The Gospel of Matthew intends for us to recall this scriptural background when reading the passage, and once more, where Israel failed, the Messiah overcame.

  • (Matthew 4:8-10) – “Again, the Devil took him to an exceeding high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and he said to him, All these things will I give you, if you wilt fall down and worship me. Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.

The next temptation was all too real. At his baptism, the heavenly voice alluded to the Second Psalm that promised God’s “Anointed One” would inherit all the nations of the Earth. Universal sovereignty was his Messianic destiny - (Psalm 2:7-8, Matthew 3:17).

Hence, the Devil offered him what was his by Divine decree. Strikingly, Jesus did not dispute Satan’s right to grant sovereignty over the governments of the Earth, which certainly would have included the Roman Empire.

Imagine all the good he could do if he wielded the might and majesty of Rome! If anyone deserved unlimited political power, it was Jesus of Nazareth. Nevertheless, he rejected the offer, and in doing so, he quoted from the same passage he had just cited when fending off the second temptation:

  • You shall fear Yahweh you God; and him shall you serve… You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples that are round about you; for Yahweh, your God is a jealous God; lest the anger of Yahweh your God be kindled against you and he destroys you from off the face of the earth. You shall not test Yahweh your God, as you tested him in Massah - (Deuteronomy 6:13-16).

The Messiah of Israel must submit to the will of God no matter the cost. Rather than the broad way of political power, Jesus chose the narrow and dangerous road that would lead to his inevitable death on the Roman Cross.

Having completed his test, the Devil departed, and angels “came and ministered to him.” According to Luke, Satan “departed from him for a season,” indicating this was not his last attempt to derail Christ’s mission. On at least one other occasion, he would again tempt Jesus with political power - (John 6:15).

Precisely how the angels “ministered to him” we do not know. However, having overcome every test by the Devil, Jesus next “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.” Only then did he begin to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

  • Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the Gospel” – (Mark 1:14-15).

His Messianic Mission began in conflict as the Devil gathered his forces to stop Jesus. His mission would also end in conflict and his death at the hands of his enemies, but not before he proclaimed the Good News of salvation and the Reign of God to the towns and villages of Israel.

Having overcome the Devil, the Herald of the Kingdom was now under the direction and anointing of the Holy Spirit. His mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the people of Israel had begun in earnest. The Messiah arrived alone in Galilee as the humble “Servant of the LORD,” not an imperial conqueror at the head of a vast army.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Messiah Arrives - (In the ministry of Jesus, the kingdom of God arrived, commencing with his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist – Mark 1:1-3)
  • The Forerunner - (John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah, the herald of the Good News of the Kingdom of God – Mark 1:4-8)
  • Rend the Heavens! - (The Spirit of God and the voice from heaven confirmed the calling and identity of Jesus – Son, Messiah, and Servant of the LORD)

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