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Christ in the Wilderness 1

In Matthew 4:1-11, Christ is driven by the Spirit into the desert. In His battle with Satan, Christ is like Adam, like Israel and like David.

Like Adam, the devil confronts Him with audible temptations to doubt God's word and eat.  And like Adam the fate of humanity rests on His shoulders.

Like Israel, He is called 'Son of God', and goes through the waters straight into a wilderness trial.  Where they caved in to temptation over 40 years, Christ would be the true Israel, resisting temptation over 40 days.

Like David, He's just been anointed and now faces a giant, man-to-man, whose 40 days of taunts reproach the God of Heaven.  And like David, Christ's victory would mean victory for His people.

Adam failed.  Israel failed.  But Christ, the anointed King goes to battle for His people.  He steps up as Adam - the True Man.  As the Son of God - the True Israel.  As David - our Spirit-filled Champion.  And through apparent weakness He slays the giant who has dismayed and defeated us at every turn.  His triumph is our triumph.

Christ's temptations are not in Scripture to model for us a three point primer in spiritual warfare!  They narrate for us the actual victory of our Anointed Champion.  This is not Jesus your Example.  Not primarily.  This is Jesus who has taken your humanity to Himself, who has become Himself the true people of God and who has waged war on our behalf.

If you only see  'Jesus our Example' you lose the gospel and put yourself at centre stage.  If you see 'Jesus our Champion' you get the example thrown in.  But fundamentally your eyes are taken from yourself and fixed where they should be:

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within

Upward I look and see HIM there

Who made an end of all my sin


Christ in the Wilderness 2

Christ in the Wilderness 3

Christ in the Wilderness 4

Christ in the Wilderness 5


18 thoughts on “Christ in the Wilderness 1

  1. Dave K

    I like it. Reminds me of Luther in his brilliant "A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels":

    "Therefore you should grasp Christ, his words, works, and sufferings, in a twofold manner. First as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate....However this is the smallest part of the gospel, on the basis of which it cannot yet even be called gospel...You must grasp Christ at a much higher level....The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own. This means that when you see or hear of Christ doing or suffering something, you do not doubt that Christ himself, with his deeds and suffering, belongs to you.

    ...If you pause here and let him do you good, that is, if you believe that he benefits and helps you, then you really have it. Then Christ is yours, presented to you as a gift.

    After that it is necessary that you turn this into an example and deal with your neighbour in the very same way, be given also to him as a gift and an example."

    'Champion' is as good as 'gift' though I think.

  2. Marc Lloyd

    And David failed too, of course. Though he beat the giant, he failed in other ways. Jesus was faithful not only in the wilderness but later too.

  3. Heather

    Wonderful post, Glen.

    The concept of Jesus coming to do for the helpless what we are incapable of doing for ourselves is simply overwhelming. Just. Beautiful.

    It brings to mind the parable He told about the rich man and Lazarus because I was recently wondering if He told that to contrast Himself with the spirit of the world.

    As the "rich man" who had the power to save us filthy, sore-covered beggars, Jesus didn't just sit luxuriously up in Heaven and ignore the need. He did what needed to be done in order to save us.

    Maybe I think too much.

  4. Glen

    Great quote Dave, thanks.

    And helpful correction Marc. Jesus is the Anointed King who *gets* killed to win His bride - unlike David.

    Heather - I like that comparison between the rich man and Jesus, The Rich Man.
    And as for that 'Maybe I think too much' line... what have I told you about putting yourself down in my comments section!

  5. Heather

    Oops. Didn't mean to sound self-deprecatory.

    What I was thinking is that I've spent a lot of time pondering the parables and they look a little different to me when I ask "What is Jesus saying about Himself?" than when I look and ask first "What does it say about me?". The latter approach was my standard for years.

    Some of the illustrations are obviously about Jesus and others do not seem quite as straightforward. I don't want to ignore the fact that the moral certainly can apply to me as I go about living my fairly cushy life.

    But I've noticed that a lot of the "kingdom" parables take on a totally new level of significance when I can see Christ the substitute in them first.

  6. pgjackson

    'Christ’s temptations are not in Scripture to model for us a three point primer in spiritual warfare! They narrate for us the actual victory of our Anointed Champion.'

    Indeed. And that means, when it does come to thinking about our spiritual warfare, we can't, and shouldn't seek to get away from him as the Victor, and us only ever victorious in him:

    "And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." Revelation 12:11

    Top stuff. I had never spotted the David typology in such detail in this passage.

    Also, any thoughts on the change of 'environment' for the temptations? Adam failed in the garden, the Last Adam has to conquer in the wilderness.

  7. Tim V-B

    On the change of 'environment': the Last Adam will get his chance to conquer in the garden... of Gethsemane.

    Seems to me that Matthew is emphasising Jesus as the True Israel in the wilderness, while Luke emphasises Jesus the Last Adam (or rather, the first 'son of God' failed, and this Son of God will succeed). Of course, as Sailhamer shows in his Pentateuch commentary, Moses has already deliberately presented Israel in the Wilderness as a repeat of Adam in the Garden.

  8. Heather

    I noticed that Adam failed under "perfect" conditions and revealed a heart that was neither thankful nor fully trusting of his Maker's wisdom.

    The Israelites had experienced miraculous deliverance from oppression and certain death. They were being fed and had their needs met on a daily basis--yet still proved to be thankless and faithless.

    Jesus, in the wilderness (and later in the garden) met with temptation in a weakened, vulnerable state and overcame as is revealed by His implicitly trusting in the perfect goodness of His Father's Word and plan.

  9. pgjackson

    Yes, Heather, and yes, Marc. That's what I reckon is going on here. The Last Adam is going to have to succeed from the position of the mess created by the first. Unlike Adam, Christ is going in to bat with the team on a first innings deficit, so to speak. Christ's recapitulation of Adam and Israel is not God re-setting the clock, you can't do that to history.

  10. pgjackson

    Bobby, quite. I think that's a clear implication of what I'm trying to say. Christ's story is not 'just' a re-run of Israel and Adam minus the mistakes.

  11. Heather

    "Christ’s story is not ‘just’ a re-run of Israel and Adam minus the mistakes."

    I understood what you meant.

    Perhaps we should look at His sojourn here as the climax of His story?

    Most good books do have a point where the tension ( as recorded in The Old Testament) builds to the breaking point (Christ's life, death and resurrection). And yet the story still goes on for several pages afterward in order to tie up loose ends (the Church and opening of salvation to the world).

    Then, the really great authors wind things up with a grand finale right at the end (Christ's return?).....

    When it's done right, they leave you begging for a thrilling sequel (Eternity?) :)


  12. Glen

    "Recapitulation" is a big word. It has cosmic significance.

    Paul uses it in Ephesians 1:10.

    Irenaeus's meaning is certainly not just "re-run" but taking Adam's flesh to a new realm of immortal glory - 1 Corinthians 15 style.

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