(This question was submitted by Olubukola Deborah Ashley)
It all actually began in Matthew chapter 3 when God declared the political status of Jesus. (Luke also reported the story). When Jesus was being baptized in the Jordan, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove. (Matthew 3:16) It is based on this that artists depict the Holy Spirit as a dove but it’s a wrong depiction. The Bible didn’t say the Holy Spirit LOOKS like a dove. It says the Holy Spirit DESCENDED on Jesus LIKE a dove! Simile. When doves go after a target, like say food from a height, they’re sudden, fast and bullet straight. That’s how the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus. Zoom! This should lay to rest the erroneous concept of “dove anointing” and its corollary, the “fire anointing” from Pentecost.
God spoke from heaven at the baptism – “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” (Matthew 3:17 MSG) This was of course a political declaration since God wasn’t talking about biological procreation. Jesus is not Son of God because God gave birth to him physically. He was declared Son of God. It was by political proclamation. God was saying in essence, Jesus is my heir apparent. (God is a monarch. He rules a kingdom). It’s by the same token he calls us sons, whether male or female. God didn’t give birth to us at General Hospital, did he? Our sonship is a political realism, and that figures.
After baptism Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. There he was subjected to a successive array of temptations by the Devil. For forty days and forty nights he had fasted, becoming very hungry at the end of the exercise. The whole thing was an endurance test and as we shall soon see a great test of character.
There were three temptations in the wilderness. Let’s call them the classic temptations because they weren’t the only temptations Jesus faced in his lifetime. The Bible says that after the temptations the Devil left him for a season. In other words, there were other cycles of temptation. (Luke 4:13) Temptations come in seasons. In your hunger, debility and weakness, the Devil will come after you.
In the first of the temptations, Jesus was asked to turn stone into bread. That temptation is our subject matter: ‘The Devil played on his hunger, gave the first test: “Since you’re God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.” Jesus gave a very curious answer. He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Why didn’t he simply say, “No, I won’t turn any stone into bread!” Though to be honest commanding a stone to turn into bread was nothing to Jesus. He’s the Lord of creation he can speak to stones. He spoke to the sea, calming a petulant water mass with a shush. (Mark 4:39) He would become known for radical transformation of situations and circumstances with the use of words. (Matthew 8:8) Bread itself was nothing to him. He fed thousands upon thousands with miraculously multiplied loaves of bread. (Matthew 14:13-21, 15:29-39) So we need to take a look at the context of that quote. He was actually alluding to the Manna Crisis. This is the story:
God had liberated the Israelites from Egypt and off they went to the Promise Land. The journey from Egypt to the Promise Land should ordinarily have taken eleven days by some estimates, but that eleven-day journey turned into a forty-year journey. The main issue was a lack of faith in God. The Israelites were an incredible lot. They pushed even God to the limits. God’s patience ran out several times over the course of that journey. Thank God for Moses. Food was a particularly thorny issue. The former slaves demanded set menu items in the desert: “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us into this wilderness to starve us to death!” (Exodus 16:1-3 MSG) And that complaint came shortly after God had decimated the Egyptian army in the Red Sea! Actually, three days before that complaint, they were complaining about potable water. They had come to a place named Marah but the water at Marah was bitter. Which is why they named it Marah in the first place. Marah means “bitter.” With just a little patience they would have come to a place called Elim. It had twelve springs. (Exodus 15:27) But these were an exasperating lot – executive pilgrims! Anyway, God fixed the water problem at Marah and it was after that “God set up rules and procedures; that’s where he started testing them.” (Exodus 15:26)
Thereafter, they came up with another culinary complaint. They bellyached they didn’t have lamb stew and bread! Since no flour mills existed in the desert, God decided to bring in extra-dimensional supplies. That’s how far God stressed himself to please these blokes. He rained down angel bread from heaven. (Psalm 78:25) The cynical lot named it “Manna.” That name didn’t come from a Starbucks menu. Manna means “What is it?” (Exodus 16:31) You can almost see the sneer as they called it Manna. No one had ever seen angel food before! Angel bread is actually like white flakes. It tasted like honey wafers. (Exodus 16:31) But even in the collection of the wafers they disobeyed God.
Then they began to complain about the manna itself. They said they were tired of manna. They want fish kebab: “We ate fish in Egypt – and got it free! – to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna!” (Number 11: 4-6) My!
Now, remember Jesus had travelled with the Israelites, albeit as God. He was the one they were driving round the bend. His presence was the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night. He was the one who provided all the meals in the desert, took care of them, even gave them health insurance. But in the temptation the equation was reversed. The one who was tempted as God in the wilderness was now being tempted as man in the wilderness. The one who was pushed to the limit as God was now being pushed to the limit as man. Would he make the same mistakes as the Israelites, would he be willful, go against God given his conditions? Would he follow God’s program, wait to get to Elim rather than complain at Marah? Would he resort to self-help, put self-gratification above the word of God? Would he subordinate himself to God’s administration? These questions would play out throughout his life culminating at Golgotha. The temptation was trial run. God was testing his acclaimed Son. And fear was incorporated into the temptation. There were wild animals in that desert. (Mark 1:13) In other words, this was a 360-degree stress test. There was a test of faith too. More like Fear Factor and Extreme Survival put together. The model for the temptation was thus the Israelite journey, only that Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness rather than forty years. The scale was One Day to One Year.
And so the statement God made to the Israelites circa 1446BC took on contemporary relevance in the circumstances of Jesus. This is the full text: “Keep and live out the entire commandment that I’m commanding you today SO THAT YOU’LL LIVE and prosper, and enter and own the land that God promised to your ancestors. Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God’s mouth.” You can see where Jesus took his quote from. He was quoting himself! After the temptation, God fed Jesus with manna, just as he fed the Israelites. The Angels “ministered to him, bringing him food and serving him.” (Matthew 4:11 AMP)
Considering the great capacities Jesus had, the real temptation for Jesus was therefore humility and self-control. Power is nothing without control. (That statement came from a Pirelli tire ad by the way). The whole thing was a great test of character. And it was consistent throughout his earthly walk. This explains some of the statements made by Jesus: “I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.” (John 6:38) The most telling statement spoken by Jesus as per our discourse is found in John 4:34: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” That was essentially what he told the Devil during the temptation. And so where the Israelites failed Jesus succeeded. The first temptation of life is therefore humility – the ability to subordinate oneself to the will of God. The Bible wrote concerning Jesus: “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
Because of this, Philippians 2:9 says God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him a name above all other names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall declare that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. In other words, the reason we sing Jesus Christ is Lord in church today… The reason demons genuflect at the name of Jesus… is because Jesus aced that first temptation in the wilderness. And the reason his name is the world’s most recognized brand is because he passed the test of that first temptation.
If he had turned that stone into bread he would have lost all these, plus more!
Will you be humble and give your life to Christ? Please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.
© #Illuminare Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org