When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”. . . Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” . . . Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down…” – Matthew 3:16-17; 4:3-6
The essence of lostness is to do life apart from God. Whether the lifestyle is evil or benevolent, a life lived independently of God is broken and subhuman, falling short of the filial joy that is our creaturely birthright. Yesterday, we saw how Jesus chose to live with human ordinariness, completely dependent on the Father for direction in His choices, words, and actions.
Today, we explore why.
At His baptism, Jesus heard His Father’s heart and experienced His pleasure. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, Jesus enjoyed an intimate, childlike relationship with a Father whose love was like a blanket that enveloped Him. His response was simple: love Him back! Asked to pick the single greatest commandment of all, Jesus would later teach, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.‘ (Matthew 22:37). Is that “obedience”? Yes. Is it an expression of “dependence”? Yes. But if it is anything, love is seeking the pleasure of the One who is loved.
Immediately following His baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into an encounter with Satan. The Garden scenario was being replayed. Armed with the favor of God, the Son had a single task… love the Father. Like Adam and Eve, everything Jesus was tempted to do involved acting independently of the Father. “You’re the Son of God,” the devil said. “You can do whatever you like. Turn stones to bread. Show off a little. Take over the world.” But what was the price of this “freedom”? It was too much.
Near the end of His earthly journey, one of the disciples asked how Jesus would “manifest” or appear to His followers after His physical departure. Jesus replied,
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” – John 14:23
The people who will know Him are the ones who love Him. The obedient, dependent Christ-follower is not a mentally weak individual who has been deluded into a slavish relationship with an imaginary deity… but rather, he or she is a lover caught up in an intoxicating affair with a God who lives within.
The baby in Bethlehem not only inverted this world’s value system, He also turned the world of religion on its head. Religion is about what we do to obtain what we want or need from a god, or it’s a mechanism for becoming a god of our own. But through the baby-in-the-manger event, we discover that God is pursuing an all-consuming relationship with us — and in that relationship we find a delirious, unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8).
In the end of this story, temptation is not overcome through the will, but through a heart overwhelmed by the favor of God.
It’s another delightful facet of the Christmas Revolution!