“(1) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (2) And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
(3) Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’
(4) But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by the very word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’” (Matthew 4:1-4)
Then Jesus was led. Led. My Almighty Savior and Lord was led. He followed someone else. Jesus was subservient to another person’s will. He was submissive in walking second in line rather than first in line. And Jesus lost none of His strength, none of His dignity, Jesus didn’t become less valuable in doing so, and He certainly didn’t become any less God. These four words are some of my favorite in the Bible because they justify me as a submissive woman and they challenge the world’s long held beliefs on what it means to be submissive.
These four words also challenge me by what follows them. Jesus did not just submit to any Tom, Dick, or Harry. Jesus Christ followed the will of the Holy Spirit. If you are going to follow anyone, the Holy Spirit should be it. And that is where I am challenged. Before I became a Christian I was really good at following various Dominants, or Masters/Mistresses. I was a fairly obedient submissive. I know how to follow physical instruction well. Go here, do this, come back. I follow baking and cooking instructions perfectly too. And I am actually really good at putting together furniture from the complicated instruction things you get from stores. If you gave me directions, or a map, I can find my way anywhere. I am pretty good at following.
But then I became a Christian and the one thing I was really good at was challenged. The Holy Spirit led Jesus, and I am to be like Jesus, which means I need to be led by the Holy Spirit. The problem is the Holy Spirit doesn’t come with a map, an instruction manual, or a Google webpage of ‘How To’s”. Or at least not a reliable one made by a sane person. Instead I have to get to know Him. And that meant recognizing the fact that the Holy Spirit is indeed a Him. Then I have to begin to recognize His voice among all the other noise going on in my head and heart. I needed to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit. At this point I realized this would take time. This made me realize that Jesus didn’t just come up from being baptized in the Jordan, introduce Himself to the Holy Spirit, and follow Him perfectly immediately. Jesus had spent years, probably His entire life, getting to know the Holy Spirit intimately and personally so that when this day came He could follow the Spirit into the wilderness easily without getting lost.
I know this is true because it says in various other places in Scripture that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. They knew one another that well. Right now I don’t think the Holy Spirit would want to fill me. I have too much stuff inside of me still that would completely offend Him. Stuff I am working on with the Holy Spirit to clean up His living quarters inside of me. So I can be filled and led. But right now I am not there. I feel the Holy Spirit’s urging me, or His guiding hand sometimes. But it is never with the distinction of being led. Or maybe I am just making up the distinction, but from the world I come from…when you submit to someone….there is a distinct difference between being guided by them….submitting to their urging…and being led. Being led is like being blindfolded, hands tied behind your back, and completely trusting the other person to get you to the place you are going. I can’t say I have that sort of trust yet with the Holy Spirit. I still buck and ask too many questions, and demand to know too many answers. And I know I don’t know the Holy Spirit well enough, yet, to perfectly hear His leading direction.
With those thoughts in mind I continue forward in my swimming in verse one to read where the Holy Spirit was leading Jesus to. The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus to the nearest five star hotels. The Holy Spirit wasn’t taking Jesus on the easiest and safest road. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness knowing Jesus had no tent, no food, no camping gear … nothing. And what amazes me is that Jesus followed, knowing They were going out into the middle of nowhere with nothing on hand. I know I wouldn’t have that kind of faith or trust. I know that if the Holy Spirit began to lead me out into the mountains or the Cascades I would be like…..um no. I would claim the Holy Spirit’s voice as me losing my mind. I would turn my back and go home.
Jesus doesn’t do that. He continues to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit into dangerous and unknown territory. He knows the Holy Spirit well enough to trust Him. Jesus doesn’t worry about His comfort, or His stomach, or His safety. He trusts completely, wholly, and without reservation. Jesus, instead, looks forward to this time to be alone with His Father. He doesn’t worry about spending one day gorging on all His favorite foods before this fast. He just follows the Holy Spirit, who leads Him into nowhere land, and says……Hey let’s fast and pray for 40 days and 40 nights. And Jesus is okay with that. He would rather spend time communing with His Father and with the Holy Spirit…..than eating, than sleeping in a bed, than hanging out and partying with His friends. God is His priority. In a way I can’t comprehend. In a way I admire in awe, and with great humility. Because this Man, this Jesus, would then come away from His time with God to be tortured, beaten, flogged beyond recognition, and then hung on a cross to bear the weight of my sin, the sin done against me, and all my shame. And He followed God, and the Holy Spirit there, willingly…again.
Now I believe it is the book of James that says God does not tempt us to sin. Only Satan, the world, and our flesh tempt us to sin. But never God. So I know and trust that completely. Which makes the end of verse one hard for me to really grasp because the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Verse two tells me the tempting was not the only reason; there was communion with the Father as well, prayer, fasting, and by Jesus’ answers I am going to assume some Old Testament Scripture study occurred during those forty days and forty nights. And I guess I struggle with this because I have this ‘world’ view that being a Child of God means God will lead me away from pain and suffering and only onto good paths away from bad things.
But if I were to read my Bible I would know differently. Jesus tells me I will suffer if I follow Him. Jesus warns me that if I follow the lead of the Holy Spirit I will be attacked by the devil, by people who hate Jesus and therefore hate will hate me, and that the storms will come. Jesus actually prays for my protection in this world because the only way I will ever follow a safe path led by the Holy Spirit is outside of this world. Apart from this world when I am in heaven. And I want to rail against that, denying that claim saying no no no no no no…..my world will be perfectly safe, and a model of a little heaven with a house and a yard, and picture perfect. The problem is when I do that I buy into the world, I invest into this world and this life and put it into the place of most importance….and I tell my Lord and my God and my Holy Spirit…..sorry you need to lower down on the list because I don’t agree with you.
In this little snippet of Scripture I am shown the right away. What is wonderful about Jesus is that he doesn’t just tell me the way to do it, but He models this for me. He doesn’t ask me to do anything He did not do in all His humanity rather than in His divinity.
After forty days and forty nights Jesus is hungry. It seems like a no brainer statement, but I think a lot of us need to hear it. I know I need to hear it. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. He rose from the dead. He is my God. So in my mind I tend to forget Jesus is also human. He got hungry. He needed to sleep. He was fully human with all the weaknesses of our bodies. I doubt not eating all those days was something easy for Him. I am sure He had stomach cramps and pains. I doubt He got cranky and testy like I would have, but it is a question I plan on asking Him.
So there Jesus was, unbelievably hungry, with the vague possibility of being cranky, and physically weak from lack of nourishment. The Bible doesn’t tell us He was barely able to move, or that He was crawling, or unable to walk. Jesus had His mind about Him. He was standing with the devil on the pinnacle of the Temple. I have seen people come out of a week long fast and they are almost like zombies. They are completely drained. Jesus, however, doesn’t seem to be like that at all and He fasted for forty days. Which leaves me to believe there is some real truth to the words He speaks to the devil. So real truth to that Scripture He quotes that I don’t always take advantage of.
First of all the devil challenges Jesus’ identity by saying ‘if’ He is the Son of God, as if Jesus might be unsure of who He is. The thought seems ridiculous in the context of Jesus..but it is common place in the context of me. I know I struggle sometimes with the identities the enemy wants to put on me to replace the identity Christ put on me. I am in Christ. I belong to Christ. I am a Child of God. I belong to Jesus. I know this, but then little whispers in my ear bring up my past. They tell me I am a sinner, I am a whore, I am a victim, I have been raped, I have led other people down into the pit with a smile on my face. Sometimes I give in to those lies. Sometimes I reach out to put on those identities again and cover up my true identity in Christ. Jesus is the only identity that counts any more. All the others have been washed away.
Jesus models how I should respond to this type of badgering. This type of lie. He doesn’t even acknowledge it. It doesn’t affect Him. Jesus is so secure in His knowledge of who He is He brushes the attempt away easily. It doesn’t get to Him. It doesn’t bother Him. Which I think it is a very important point. I know that when I respond to an identity being pinned on me it is because there is some small part of me that fears it is true, so I feel I have to defend my true identity. The truth is I don’t need to defend my true identity. My identity in Christ it the truth, and nothing can change the truth. No matter what anyone says, Jesus has a hold of me and nothing will make Him let go. I need to remember that.
Then Satan tries to get Jesus to perform on command like a dog trick or a pony. Jesus will turn water into wine. He will feed thousands upon thousands with a child’s lunchable. If he wanted to, he could have done what the devil said. He could have turned the rocks into magnificent feasts to eat. Jesus doesn’t take orders from satan. He doesn’t perform on command for His enemy. He doesn’t need to justify Himself, or validate Himself, to anyone … much less a fallen angel who knows exactly who He is and what He is capable of. And that is exactly what a lot of non-Christians want me to do. They want me to perform on command for them so that they might believe or see Christ. When they really have no interest of seeing Christ at all, they merely want to make me dance. Jesus doesn’t perform on command for His enemies, for the Pharisees, to make them believers. Neither should I.
The last part of this section is Jesus’ answer to Satan. What I love about this is that Jesus answers a non-believers question with Scripture. He quotes text from Deuteronomy. Men don’t live on bread alone, they are sustained by the words of God. And Jesus is proof of that. Forty days he didn’t have food and he came out of that with His mind intact. He wasn’t feeble. He wasn’t falling over. He wasn’t near death. Jesus fed His soul, which in turn fed His body. Which is something that goes against science. I am, by no means, encouraging people to not eat. I don’t even think people should go out and fast for forty days and nights without seriously talking to their doctors first. They aren’t Jesus. We aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit. We don’t have that sort of relationship, but it has been done in the past by others. So it is doable. But it is just something for me to think about. I eat three meals a day and what not to feed my body. Am I reading enough Bible, or doing enough study in God’s word, to feed my soul? Or is my soul starving?
Back to my original thought, I love that Jesus answers this question with Scripture. I know a lot of people argue non-Christians with science and everything else. They do combat on academic worlds and planes. Jesus quotes Scripture. The perfect book that God wrote is enough. People may ridicule me for quoting Scripture to them, but at least I know that the source is good and Holy and right. The point of teaching I get from this is that Jesus didn’t quote Scripture to Satan to convert him. Jesus knew it was impossible. He knew there is no forgiveness for Satan and his minions. Jesus quoted Scripture because it is the truth. So when I discuss religion with people and my only book source is the Bible….I am not trying to convert them or win the argument. The only agenda I have in the conversation is sharing the light of Jesus into their life for whatever amount of time they will allow me. What happens to those seeds afterward is up to the Holy Spirit.
Jesus spoke Scripture because it was true; and not simply because He wanted to be right. I need to repent of wanting to be right, or to be understood. I simply need to share what is true and let the Holy Spirit have His way. Which goes back to that leading thing.