As believers, we are clear that Jesus’ sacrificial death at the cross as our substitute saves us and grants us forgiveness of sin, deliverance from guilt and the power of sin and death, as well as paves the way for us to be adopted as God’s children. There is no doubt that we are saved by the death of Jesus at the cross; but how much do we appreciate that we are also saved by the life of Jesus when He was on earth?
Jesus lived a life of faithful obedience to His Father and He was fully pleasing to the Father and sinless in all His ways; He demonstrated unequivocally His competence to fulfill the Father’s task for Him to be the perfect ‘unblemished sacrificial lamb’ to die for the sin of humanity in Adam. As the second Adam, He fulfilled what the first Adam failed to accomplish; as the true “Israel”, He succeeded to be what the physical Israel failed to be as God’s chosen ‘instrument’ to effect salvation for the whole world.
Luke 4:1-13 can be compared to the testing of Israel in the wilderness seen in the OT. Israel was led by God through Moses in the wilderness (desert); Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness (cf Deut. 8:2 with Luke 4:1). Israel ate manna for forty years; Jesus ate nothing for forty days (cf Exod. 16:35 and Luke 4:2). The testing of Jesus is analogous to that experienced by Israel and the scriptural texts He cites derive from those events in which Israel was tested by God (Deuteronomy 6-8). Note that Jesus was full of the Spirit and He followed the guidance of the Spirit while Israel rebelled against God and grieved the Spirit (Isa. 63:10).
In Deuteronomy, Israel was allowed to hunger in order to learn that one does not live by bread alone (8:3); she was instructed to worship only the one true God and not to follow other god (6:4-15); she was commanded not to put the Lord God to the test (6:16). In each and every case, Israel failed in their obedience to God
Notice the far-reaching similarity between the nature of the testing of Israel. and the testing of Jesus in Luke 4:1-13. Jesus, in His representative role as Israel, God’s son, proved His faithfulness to God the Father in the testing in the wilderness and He responded to the testing victoriously in each and every temptation thrown at Him by the devil.
The tests faced by Jesus in the wilderness encapsulate all the tests Jesus would meet during the course of His ministry on earth; the tests continue throughout His ministry as He encounters forces hostile to God’s purpose and behind all such opposition stands the enemy, the devil. The tests intensify until the climax at the cross and Jesus did not falter but prove His fidelity to God the Father until “it is finished”. On the cross, He entered into the deepest and darkest depth of human loneliness, isolation, pain and distress. His sinless and sensitive spirit felt the full force of the turning of His Father’s face from sin. He plumbed the depths; He tasted the darkness of pain, opposition, rejection, loneliness.
Jesus is our supreme example and paradigm for living here on earth as God’s children and disciples. Remember that Jesus did not use His divine power to go through all the various testings He had to undergo as the true Israel; He shows us how we should live as humans as God intended. His life of obedience and faithfulness to God are needful before the climax at the cross; without them, He would not have been the perfect unblemished ‘sacrificial lamb’. God has to become a human to die; God has to be the human fully pleasing to the heavenly Father to ‘qualify’ to die for the sin of fallen humanity; God the man has to succeed in the task entrusted to him when the first Adam failed and physical Israel had failed. Only then can he drink the ‘cup of wrath’ and satisfy the propitiation required for our sin, and sins.
How do we fare in the ‘wilderness’ and ‘desert’ of our lives? Like physical Israel, do we yearn for the food in Egypt (type of the world) and disdain the manna God miraculously provides for us? Do we yearn for meat and complain of hunger and thirst consistently even though God has provided all that is needful? Remember the Son of Man, in His extreme hunger, affirmed that “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; He affirmed ‘worship the Lord your God and serve Him only’ in the face of the temptation to receive all the authority and splendor of the kingdoms of the world if only He were to bow to the enemy; He declared ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ when the devil challenged Him to prove Himself to be the Son of God.
As we go through loneliness, pain, illness, suffering, distress, in faithfulness to God and in obedience to Him, do we remember that Jesus understands and sympathizes with us? God not only understands us, He also suffers with us and the cross testifies to this. He longs for the day when we can be with Him to see and to share His glory; in the meantime, in His wisdom. Jesus, during the days of His ministry, knew what it was for life to give the impression that God had forgotten Him; He had every reason to pray that His Father would protect Him in the face of His enemies. Jesus has been where we are. He knows, He understands; He has felt it too and He can help you.
But remember also that truly we are not alone. God the Father has sent the Holy Spirit through the request of the Son to be with us and to live in us. This is the same Spirit who accompanied and enabled Jesus to fulfill His ministry on earth; He is now with us to enable us to overcome in the face of opposition and hostility. We need to look to Jesus and fix our eyes on Him, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith; indeed, He who has begun a good work in you would complete it on the day of Jesus.