When we look at the story of Jesus’ temptation found in Matthew 4:1-11, we usually pay attention to the obvious temptations: turn these stones to bread, jump from the temple heights, worship me. But read the devil’s words in the first two temptations once again. Both start with the REAL temptation: “If you are the Son of God…” What does this statement question? Those words question Jesus’ very identity. “If you are the Son of God…” Jesus had just been baptized, the Spirit came over Him, “and a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17).
Why did Jesus then head out to the desert? Was He, like us, searching for His identity? Voluntary abstinence from food is a tool to devote oneself to prayer and seek God; Jesus fasted to draw strength from His Father in heaven. We are told, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [tested] by the devil” (Matthew 4:1), but the temptation came after forty days and nights of fasting. Jesus’ flesh was at its weakest, and He was most human. Satan wanted desperately to deceive Him and to make Him doubt the truth of the words His Father had just spoken.
But Jesus would not and did not give up His eternal identity. He proved to us that when we are most human and at our weakest, we can still conquer temptation—through faith in the truth of God’s Word. He taught us that our identity is revealed through “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus conquered the lies of the enemy, and so can we.
Most of us question our identity every day, although we may not realize it. We often doubt our decisions, hesitate to act, feel uncertain, or become anxious about things we have no control over. This is human. This is also the enemy attempting to get under our skin; he knows us very well. He wants us to falter and fail and forget who we are—beloved sons and daughters of Almighty God. Remember that the Father’s love for us and the identity He has given us is not contingent upon US at all. God’s favor at Jesus’ baptism occurred before Jesus performed His first miracle or preached His first sermon. He loves us simply because we are His children.
When we wrestle with the enemy’s lies, we need only look to Jesus. He understands; He sees us, and we are His: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).
by RJ Flower-Opdycke, Co-editor