As if on cue Jesus goes to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. Immediately the heavens open and the Spirit descends upon Jesus as a dove. God the Father voices His approval upon His beloved Son. Jesus is here for a reason. The entire Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit are united in this mission and task. Jesus came for several reasons. He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus appeared to destroy the works of the devil. He also came to give his life as a ransom for many,
There is an urgency that runs through this text. Once baptized, the Spirit literally throws Jesus into the wilderness. There the Son of God would spend forty days being tempted by Satan. Forty is one of those numbers in the Scripture that mark a major movement in God’s work for you and me. It rained forty days and forty nights at the flood. The Children of Israel spent forty years wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. There they face many temptations and succumbed time and again. Even Moses disobeyed God in anger. He was not to lead the people into the Promised Land.
A greater than Moses is here. Jesus is the Prophet predicted by Moses and the entire Old Testament. Where Israel failed, Jesus would succeed. Jesus eagerly met Satan in the Devil’s domain. The wilderness was far removed from the lush beauty of Eden. In many ways the desert wilderness is a monument to Satan’s destructive work in creation. The Bible is clear in the fourth Gospel that all things came into being through Jesus. Nothing was made apart from Him. All that our Lord made was good, very good. Sin shook creation to its very core, even for the Son of God in human flesh.
The desert wilderness is a dangerous place to the uninitiated. Plants are covered with spines to protect from predators trying to steal precious water from these succulents. The fauna also is inhospitable to unwary humans. Scorpions, rattlesnakes, vipers, insects and lizards pose serious threats should one encounter them unexpectedly. Imagine Jesus, by whom and through whom all things are made, now finds His creatures hostile to Him! So thorough is the corruption sin has brought into creation itself. Jesus is neither afraid nor put off by the wilderness. He eagerly begins his ministry by taking it directly to Satan and his earthly domain.
In both Gulf Wars, the United States began their assaults with what is known as shock and awe. Using stealth planes and long range missiles, the American military attacked the capitol city of its adversary and destroyed his strongholds with pinpoint precision. Jesus could have used shock and awe in reclaiming His world and fighting Satan’s temptations. He chose a different way. Jesus faced the devil in human flesh. The other Gospels tell us He did not eat for forty days. Jesus made himself vulnerable to the worst the devil had to offer. Still He did not sin. Satan’s reign of terror began to crumble as the Lord retook control over what had been corrupted by the devil.
Neither Gulf War ended with the first air assault. Ground troops followed to complete the victory. Jesus could have ended it in the wilderness. Instead he conducted his own ground campaign disarming the evil one as he went throughout Galilee and Judea proclaiming: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Step by step, village by village and countryside alike, Jesus undid the evil work of Satan. Jesus gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute, mobility to the lame and freedom from possession by demons. Each act revealed that the Lord, the Promised Savior, had come unto His own to deliver and save them.
With the widespread decay of American life it appears to some that Satan is regaining control. The Word of God remains powerful and able to liberate those in bondage to sin. Institutions like marriage and the family are undergoing dramatic changes. Father, mother and children is no longer the norm. America’s sexual mores are shaped by addiction to pornography that is far more universal and damaging than anyone cares to admit. In a world were believers are beheaded and the deaths are recorded it seems that whatever gain Jesus made is reverting back to sin.
Fear not! Jesus is here. He who was baptized in the Jordan River entered into the fray for you. Everything He did, He did for you that you may be His own, forgiven and redeemed. Now is the time for believers to keep their heads and remain sober minded for the sake of our prayers. Now is the time for Christians to put faith into practice. It begins within the family and church and flows into the world from there. Above all keep loving one another earnestly for love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Use what God has given you to the glory of His name and in service to our neighbor. That’s exactly what Jesus did for the human race throughout His earthly ministry.
The Lord describes Christians in a variety of ways. You are the light of the world. A lamp is not lit to be hidden but to bring light that pierces darkness. Darkness disappears when light shines. Where the light of Christ shines, sin scurries for cover. You are the salt of the earth. Salt is a multi-purpose mineral. It preserves, it flavors, it cleanses. If it loses its saltiness then it is cast out as useless. It might wind up as an ice melter on winter roads. Jesus preserves His church to be an outpost of His kingdom where you live and work. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repentance and faith are in order, even for us.
We have a remarkable Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Instead of abandoning us together with creation, He chose to visit and redeem you. Jesus entered the world with a picture of you in His heart. You are the reason He was baptized. You are the reason He faced temptation. You are the reason He preached, taught and healed. Jesus could not imagine heaven without you. He gave you godly parents, a pious spouse, faithful pastors and teachers to reveal His love for you. It is here in His Church that you are forgiven and strengthened to be the people of God. To Him be the glory now and for eternity, Amen!