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Jesus, Captain of Our Salvation and our High Priest
The Initiation and Temptation.

For eighteen years Jesus was the obedient son of Joseph's family.  Mary must have known that this idyllic relationship with her son would have to come to an end, and I suppose, there might have been a dread for that Day when her beloved son would have to leave home - normally - the home that he would become the head of.  But Jesus had a mission.  His Heavenly Father had a work for Him to do.

John 5:17-18  Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." [18] For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus was not to take over the work of his step father and become a master house builder, though He certainly would have been very successful at the trade.  No.    He was to do the work of His Heavenly Father - the work of the redemption of man and healing him from the horrible consequences of sin.  He was to become completely identified with man and was to become the Compassionate High Priest for sinners who would heed the call of Salvation.  It was quite clear that His mission would be a difficult one but He would set Himself to the "occupation" and would not quit until the "job" was done.  Today, we study our Lord as our High Priest - His initiation and temptation.

The Initiation of Jesus as our High Priest.

It appears that John the Baptist's parents probably died while he was quite young and he had left the place of his birth.  He lived a life-style that was similar to that of the Essenes but I am reluctant to say that he was, himself, a member of the sect.    Rather, John lived a life very similar to that of Paul, who was instructed in Arabia by Jesus Christ, Himself.[1] It was during these years that John was being trained in isolation through the scriptures, away from the apostate influence of the Jewish religion.  It is not difficult to place John in this unique role as the greatest of prophets who was to say, "Thus saith the LORD."   John was aided by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and likely, special instruction by the LORD Himself in these years of isolation.[2]  As the forerunner of the Messiah, John was thoroughly familiar with the prophetic scriptures about the Christ - so much so that John was to introduce Jesus to the Jewish people as "...The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."   Right away Jesus' role as the Lamb of God was introduced as depicted both in Jewish sacrificial ritual and prophetic passages.  Not only was this salvation to be offered to the Jews but to the whole world - a revolutionary thought in the mind of the Jew.

As part of his revival. John was performing the ritual of baptism.  The revival was a movement away from the present Jewish religion and toward the coming Messiah and His Kingdom.  John's baptism was an indication that the Jew had  confessed his sins and professed that he too was looking expectantly for this Messiah that John was preaching about.   According to R. C. Sproul, this baptism was a slap in the face for the Jews for it was a part of the regime for accepting a gentile proselyte into the Jewish faith.  In the process of the gentile being proselytized, he would confess his sin, that he was unclean and would express his desire to become identified with the Jewish faith, denouncing his previous life-style.  John was, in effect, saying that the Jew who presented himself for baptism was denouncing his former way of life (the apostate Jewish faith) - that he was unclean and that he desired to become associated with the coming Messiah and His kingdom of heaven.  Quite a disturbing confession for the unbelieving Jew and act of faith for the Jew who would come to Christ.

Many Bible students  have wondered why Jesus presented Himself to be baptized for He had no need for confession of sin, being sinless.  Even John wondered at this presentation and questioned Jesus about His need to be baptized. Rather, John said that he should be baptized by Jesus.  Jesus' answer gave the clue to His baptism:  But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" [15] Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.   Matthew 3:14-15.   Jesus' baptism was not that of confession of sin but of His identification with His Father's mission to redeem all men who would avail themselves of His righteousness.   By submitting Himself to John for baptism, Jesus was humbling Himself to the needs of sinful man and to the plan of God to redeem them from their sins.   Immediately after Jesus' baptism, the other two members of the Trinity revealed Themselves - the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and the Father in audible voice; "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"   Matthew 3:17 (NIV).   Thus, Redemption's Plan is finally initiated by the Son of God, Jesus had lived, God in flesh for this moment - there was no turning back.  The Savior had come - Redemption had arrived for mankind.

Jesus suffers the Temptation.

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,   Luke 4:1
His mission being initiated, His first act was that of obedience.  The original for "led" is much stronger than the English would impress.  Gk. ago could be translated to be conducted to a place.  This was the force and urgency of the Holy Spirit's "direction."  Compare with the synoptic text; Mark 1:12 the original in that text is even stronger - gk = ekballo = to expel out towards - translated "driveth" (KJV), "impelled out into"(NAS).  

A lot is said about the temptations of Jesus - the arguments go back and forth as to whether it would have been possible for Jesus to have rebelled against His Heavenly Father.  Some argue that if rebellion was not a choice then the temptations would have had no force or potency upon the soul of Jesus.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  The first Adam sinned in ignorance and rebellion being a sinless man - indeed, a living soul - spiritually alive unto God.   The second Adam, however was the Savior Himself - the God-man.  The issue was not the possibility of Jesus sinning but the suffering in temptation that He had to endure so that He could be our High Priest.  His eternal sinlessness was a forgone conclusion.  His temporal suffering was a necessity - it was through this that Jesus, the God-man was to become our unique, compassionate High Priest, having been tempted on all points just as we are. 

Some Bible students have suggested that Jesus had to be able to sin, for to eliminate that possibility would take away the validity of the temptation.  Their argument is that if the possibility for Jesus to sin were not there, then the temptation is rendered powerless in its effect on the humanity of Christ.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A. W. Pink makes this comment on that question:

"We are frequently hearing of preachers making the statement that our Lord could have yielded to the solicitations of Satan, and that to affirm He could not is to rob the account of His conflict with the Devil of all meaning. But this is not only a mistake, it is a serious error. It dishonors the person of our blessed Lord. It denies His impeccability. It impeaches His own declaration that Satan had "nothing" in Him--nothing to which he could appeal. If there had been a possibility of the Saviour yielding to the Devil that season in the wilderness, then for forty days the salvation of all God's elect (to say nothing of the outworking of God's eternal purpose) was in jeopardy; and surely that is unthinkable. But, it is asked, If there was no possibility of Christ yielding, wherein lay the force of the Temptation? If He could not sin, was it not a meaningless performance to allow Satan to tempt Christ at all? Such questions only betray the deplorable ignorance of those who ask them.


"It ought to be well understood that the word "tempt" has a double significance, a primary and secondary meaning, and it is the application of the secondary meaning of the term as it is used in Matthew 4 and the parallel passages, which had led so many into error on this point. The word "tempt" literally means "to stretch out" so as to try the strength of anything. It comes from the Latin word "tendo"--to stretch. Our English word attempt, meaning to try, brings out its significance. "Tempt," then, primarily signifies "to try, test, put to the proof." It is only in its secondary meaning that it has come to signify "to solicit to evil." In Gen. 22:1 we read, "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham." But God did not solicit Abraham to evil, for, "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He (in this sense) any man" (Jas. 1:13). So, too, we read, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil" (Matt. 4:1). The purpose of this Temptation was not to discover whether or not the Saviour would yield to Satan, but to demonstrate that He could not. Its design was to display His impeccability, to show forth the fact that there was "nothing" in Him to which Satan could appeal. It was in order that Christ might be tried and proven: just as the more you crush a rose, the more its fragrance is evidenced, so the assaults of the Devil upon the God-Man only served the more to bring out His perfections, and thus reveal Him as fully qualified to be the Saviour of sinners.


That the Saviour could not sin, does not rob the Temptation of its meaning, it only helps us discern its true meaning. It is because He was the Holy One of God that He felt the force of Satan's fiery darts as no sinful man ever could. It is impossible to find an analogy in the human realm for the Lord Jesus was absolutely unique...." [3]

Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.   Luke 4:2     (NIV).

It is tempting to rush on to the next specific temptations by Satan but we should not overlook the fact that Jesus ate nothing for forty days.  During these awful days, suffering in a considerably weakened physical state, He was tempted to sin by the devil.  There is no record of these specific temptations - we know only of the final moments as recorded in the Gospels where Satan makes his final bid to get Jesus to rebel against His Heavenly Father.  Suffice it that we know that He was tempted on all points.  I need not to go in to specifics but let me say this: no believer can say that Jesus doesn't understand some point of our weaknesses.  Jesus did not have a sin nature to provide the tension of sin's call - the devil supplied this tension and with a vengeance!

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. [3] The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."  [4] Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'" [5] The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. [6] And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. [7] So if you worship me, it will all be yours." [8] Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" [9] The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. [10] For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; [11] they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" [12] Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" [13] When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.   Luke 4:2-13, (NIV)

In the first of these specific temptations was in the area of physical appetites.    At this point in time, Jesus was literally suffering from extreme malnutrition.   Here is a brief description of the results of malnutrition - starvation:

"...The basic metabolic response to starvation is conservation of energy and body tissues. However, the body will mobilize its own tissues as a source of energy, which results in the destruction of visceral organs and muscle and in extreme shrinkage of adipose tissue. Total starvation is fatal in 8 to 12 wk."[4]

Satan was appealing to Jesus' legitimate need to nourish his body.  Jesus' answer was a quote from Israel's experience in the wilderness - very appropriate for they were challenged to trust the Lord for their sustenance.  But not only that but they were to trust the Lord's word that He would provide for their survival in the wilderness - witness the Rephedim experience.  Jesus knew that the Father could sustain Him in His extreme condition of malnutrition - He was not to take matters in His own hands thus: "Jesus answered, 'It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'"   Luke 4:4, (NIV). To point out the seriousness of Jesus' physical condition let me share with you an important detail that the synoptic reference in Matthew brings out:    "Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him."   Matt. 4:11, (NIV).  The reason why the angels attended Jesus was because he needed medical attention because He was extremely malnourished.   This same procedure occurred after He suffered in Gethsemene after praying so intensely that he sweat great drops of blood: "An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him."  Luke 22:43, (NIV).   It is not a great stretch of imagination to hold the view that Jesus was, indeed, in grave danger and that Satan's temptation had a legitimate ring to it - yet Jesus trusted in His heavenly Father for His survival in this dangerous time.

The second temptation was a subtle temptation based on Psalm 2 with a horrible twist.    As the Son of God, Jesus had as His inheritance - Messianic rule of the millennium.   When Satan took Him on that high vantage point, he caused all the kingdoms to pass before His view.  All this was to be given to Jesus - all He had to do was to worship Satan and by inference reject the cross.  As absurd as this offer may sound to us,  Satan must have thought it was a valid temptation - one that would tug at the desires of Jesus to see His kingdom established.  But His answer was unswerving:   "Jesus answered, 'It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"   Luke 4:8 (NIV).

The third temptation fell in line with popular Jewish myth that the Messiah would be announced from the heights of the Temple.  We have already discussed on such myth - the Tower of the flock - the  Watch Tower of Migdal Eder.  We do not know which place - except that the temptation probably accommodated the popular acceptance of the heralding from the high place of the Temple, the coming Messiah.   Add to this the special addition of Jesus casting Himself from this tower would have added sensationalism to the whole announcement - truly a bath qal experience in the extreme.  Interesting that Satan uses the scriptures to strengthen his temptation - it is a quote from Psalm 91:11, 12.    This points out one of Satan's weapons in temptation - misuse of the Word of God.   Jesus dismisses Satan with another quote from the wilderness experience[5] - Israel had tempted God in the wilderness - this would truly been rebellion against the Father's plan for redeeming man - note that the cross was completely bypassed in this temptation - this was the mission of Satan - to distract Him from His mission to save the world by dying on the cross for their sins.

Jesus was tempted on all points of sin, but was victorious, making Him our compassionate High Priest.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.   Hebrews 4:15 (NIV).

Jesus went through all this tremendous suffering so that He would be able to sympathize with our weakness.  Note "our weakness."  I wonder how many times we are ashamed to come to Him because we have given in to some temptation?  Or perhaps, we shun fellowship in prayer because we are ashamed of some reoccurring sin.   Jesus understands our weakness, says the writer of Hebrews.  We should bring everything to Him, confessing our sins and asking for His help in our time of need. 

We will soon be viewing a contemporary video of Calvin Hunt - a man who had everything going for him - a good job, a loving wife and children - except for one terrible problem - he was addicted to crack cocaine.  In it we will see how his wife Mariam and his children found escape from the clutches of sin through the saving power of Christ.    It was through their consistent prayer for Calvin and their patient love for him that eventually, he received Christ as Savior.  Even then Calvin had a tremendous problem dealing with his slavery to drugs but eventually through the power of Christ he was victorious over his habit.  One of the major elements of the account was how much prayer came into play for Calvin's salvation and his eventual victory over the habit of cocaine.  We will never know the intensity of Jesus' temptation - at least not at this side of eternity.  We can know that we must come to Him for He is our sympathetic High Priest who has been tempted as we are  - in an intensity that we will never know.

We will continue this study next time, Lord willing - may we appreciate His loving care over us.  Let us never abandon that secret place where we can confess our sins to Him and bring our weaknesses to Him.

1. Gal 1:11-17.

2.  For a glimpse into how the LORD may have communed with John a review of Elijah's life would be helpful.

3. A. W. Pink, Why Four Gospels.

4.  See:  http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual/section1/chapter2/2b.htm

5.  Deut. 6:16  "Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah."