By J.R. Miller
Mark 1:9-13; Matthew 4:1-11
For thirty years the beautiful life of Jesus had gone on in Nazareth. He differed not from the other children, with whom He played and attended school, except in the stainlessness and sinlessness of His life. He grew up among plain people. The village where He lived was small, and everyone knew all the neighbors. Jesus was a carpenter, as Joseph had been. We may be sure that His work in the shop was always well done. He never did it carelessly. A man's religion is shown in the way he does the tasks of his trade or business or other occupation, quite as unmistakably as in his church attendance, his devotions, and his Sunday duties. Jesus did His carpentering conscientiously, honestly, skillfully. He was prompt and did not break His promises nor fail to finish His work at the time He said He would.
But one day He went away from His shop for the last time, closed it up, and left Nazareth. He had a call to higher and larger work. The time had come for Him to take up His mission as the Messiah. We are not told how this call came to Him, or anything of the spirit in which He answered it. But no doubt He knew what the call meant, and went eagerly to take up its tasks.
It seems strange to us, that Jesus should need to be baptized. The use of water implied symbolically, that the person baptized was sinful and needed cleansing; but Jesus was without sin. John recognized the apparent unfitness of performing the rite upon Him which he was performing upon those who came confessing sin and repenting of it. John would have hindered Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by you--and do You come to me?" Yet Jesus bade John to perform the rite on Him: "Allow it to be so now: for thus it befits us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:13-17). So John baptized Him.
When we ask the reason for this insisting of Jesus that John should baptize Him, several answers suggest themselves. Jesus' baptism was the consecration of Himself to His Messianic mission. He had come all the way from Nazareth to the Jordan expressly to make this consecration. Shall we then say there is no necessity for public confession, for the declaring ourselves on Christ's side and taking our place among His people?
The baptism of Jesus was His public confession. He accepted the divine call and before all the world declared His acceptance of the mission to be the world's Redeemer. We are called to follow Christ, and we should not hesitate to obey the call.
One meaning of Christ's baptism was that He was now taking His place as one with us, to be our Redeemer. He had no sin of His own, and yet He stood there that day in the place of sinners. His baptism with water was the shadow of that other baptism into which He entered as our Savior. Then His baptism was His consecration to His public ministry. From the bank of the Jordan He saw through to the end. The shadow of the cross fell on the flowing water; fell also across the gentle and holy soul of Jesus as He stood there. Baptism for us--implies also the consecration and devotion of our lives to God.
The divine manifestations which attended the baptism of Jesus were wonderful. "He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon Him: and a voice came out of the heavens, You are My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." The descending of the Spirit upon Him, was the anointing of Jesus for His Messiahship. Then the Voice from heaven clearly declared His Messiahship. The Father testified that this was His beloved Son, in whom all the promises of grace were given. Jesus thus entered upon His mission as the Messiah, to be the world's Redeemer.
At once Jesus disappeared from the Jordan. "Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness." There seems to have been haste--the word "immediately" indicates this. His going from the Jordan into the wilderness, was not merely a pleasant saunter of his own for recreation, or to get away from the crowd. The Spirit of God put the impulse into His heart. Notice, too, the strength and urgency of the impulse, "the Spirit drove Him," away from the Jordan into the wilderness. The word "drove" shows the tremendous divine pressure that was on Jesus, as He hastened from His baptism and the Father's declaration of His Messiahship. He must pass now instantly to the first step in His preparation.
"He was there in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan." Why must He be tempted? The answer seems clear. He had come into the world that He might destroy the works of the devil. He must meet the leader of the works of darkness, first of all, and enter upon His conflict with him. If he could not overcome Satan, He could not be the world's Redeemer. The conflict was fierce and terrible. All the power of evil was marshaled for the great battle. Matthew tells in fuller form, the story of the method of the temptation and describes the complete victory which Jesus won. Mark gives details which the other Gospel writers do not give. One is that Jesus was with the wild beasts. It was in the wilderness that He spent the forty days and nights, and the wilderness was the home of beasts. The fact added to the terrors of the temptation. No doubt Jesus was kept in perfect safety in the midst of the wild beasts. Not one of them would harm Him.
Mark also makes special note of the ministry of angels to Jesus. His words would seem to indicate that the angels attended Him through all the forty days. Matthew in his account of the temptation puts the ministering of angels at the close, after the period of tempting. But the words imply repeated ministration, as if they had come to strengthen Him at different times, between the several assaults of the tempter. This agrees with Mark's statement, which implies continuous ministry throughout the forty days. Heaven's eye was upon Jesus during all the time of His trial, and help was sent in every time of stress. It is the same with us when we are in any struggle or any need. God watches that we shall never be tempted above what we can bear, and that help shall always come at the right moment. We are never left alone in any need or danger.