Christianity 201

December 16, 2012

A New Teacher Launches His Church

While looking at the Christmas narrative this week, I decided to cheat and read ahead a little. While we tend to think of Jesus initiating his public ministry in the changing of water into wine at Cana, the closest thing we find to an official ‘launch party’ is his baptism by John in the Jordan River. Today we would hold a rally or kick off an advertising campaign, but after public confirmation of his ministry by both John, the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove), and The Father (the voice from heaven); we instead find Jesus in the wilderness for forty days.

Just as I am sure the twelve disciples looked at the events of Good Friday by saying, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to end;” it would have been equally fair for someone present at that time to say, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to begin.” Today is no different. We want to launch ministry with large meetings and newspaper space and television airtime; not with a 6-week fast.

It always amazes me how some key events in scripture are presented so succinctly. The Bible wastes no words; its concision is a model for authors of all types. The 4th chapter in Luke kicks off with just two verses:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

And the section ends with this one we often overlook:

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary notes: “The words imply that the temptation was renewed later. The Savior lived under the constant pressure of evil.” The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary states it somewhat differently, “The devil does not reappear until 22:3 [what scripture calls “entering into” Judas] but it would be rash to assume that he was inactive during the intervening period. (p. 1035)

Matthew Henry says of this verse:

What was the result and issue of this combat, Luke 4:13. Our victorious Redeemer kept his ground, and came off a conqueror, not for himself only, but for us also.

1. The devil emptied his quiver: He ended all the temptation. Christ gave him opportunity to say and do all he could against him; he let him try all his force, and yet defeated him. Did Christ suffer, being tempted, till all the temptation was ended? And must not we expect also to pass all our trials, to go through the hour of temptation assigned us?

2. He then quitted the field: He departed from him. He saw it was to no purpose to attack him; he had nothing in him for his fiery darts to fasten upon; he had no blind side, no weak or unguarded part in his wall, and therefore Satan gave up the cause. Note, If we resist the devil, he will flee from us.

3. Yet he continued his malice against him, and departed with a resolution to attack him again; he departed but for a season, achri kairoutill a season, or till the season when he was again to be let loose upon him, not as a tempter, to draw him to sin, and so to strike at his head, which was what he now aimed at and was wholly defeated in; but as a persecutor, to bring him to suffer by Judas and the other wicked instruments whom he employed, and so to bruise his heel, which it was told him (Gen. 3:15) he should have to do, and would do, though it would be the breaking of his own head. He departed now till that season came which Christ calls the power of darkness (Luke 22:53), and when the prince of this world would again come, John 14:30.

Jesus public ministry was born out of hunger, out of spiritual struggle, out of personal testing, and out of wrestling with these to a degree to such as none of us have ever known nor will experience. This is how he inaugurated his public ministry. In the next scene he makes his public declaration in the temple that, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (vs. 21)