Son of Man, Son of God
(Luke 3.23 – 4.15)
We’re currently in a series on the gospel of Luke. In the previous messages, we saw all the events which preceded the birth of Jesus, and that of John the Baptist before him. Next we saw Jesus as a baby, then as a pre-teen. Last week we saw John the Baptist and his very particular task of preparing the way for the coming of the true King.
Today, we’ll finally see for the first time in Luke’s gospel our Lord Jesus as an adult.
1) Jesus, Son of Man (3.23-28)
In general, in a genealogy you find a person’s ethnic background (or backgrounds). The same thing is true (amazingly) of Jesus.
Jesus belonged to the descendants of David. His genealogy proves that he was the King the people of Israel had so long waited for. The prophets announced a King in Israel who would succeed David to the throne and whose reign would be eternal. Jesus is this King.
Jesus was Jewish (belonging to the descendants of Abraham). When God called Abraham, and chose him, he said to him: “In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 26.4). Jesus is this promised blessing who came from Abraham. Jesus is the one through whom all the nations will be blessed.
Jesus was also of non-Jewish descent. He wasn’t purely Jewish; there are pagans in his family tree as well. In v. 32 we see that he is the descendant of Boaz, whose wife was Ruth, a Moabite woman.
Jesus belonged to the human race. We all have a common gene with both of our parents, and thus with our brothers, our uncles, our grandparents, etc. We can trace this back to the very first man. So all of us here possess a common gene with the first man, Adam. We are related to Adam, and thus to one another—we all belong to the human race.
But here is the mystery of the gospel: Jesus is not like us. He existed before the world began, in the form of God. He was a spiritual being. One day, he decided to unite himself to the human race. Just as we all have a biological something in common because we are all descended from Adam, we also have a biological something in common with Jesus, because he also is descended from Adam.
Today Jesus is alive—he was raised from the dead. He is in heaven with the Father, seated at his right hand. Think of it: today, in the highest places, in a seat of authority where not even the angels can sit, there is a human being, descended from Adam like us.
2) Jesus, Son of God, Tempted
In v. 21-22, Luke reminded us that the people came out to be baptized by John, and Jesus also came in the same way. But on the day of Jesus’s baptism, something very special happened: the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
This is one of the rare times in the gospels (and in the whole Bible) in which God literally speaks from heaven, making his voice heard by ordinary human ears. There were witnesses to this, people who heard his voice. So beginning at Jesus’s baptism, Luke changes his focus. Up to now the story has described elements around Jesus. Now Luke starts to describe the acts of Jesus himself: his baptism marks the beginning of his public life and ministry. It is the end of the story of Jesus the carpenter—the story of which the Holy Spirit decided not to speak at length—and the beginning of the story of Jesus the missionary.
Filled with the Spirit
The first act of Jesus that Luke describes after the events surrounding his baptism is to be led by the Spirit into the desert.
4.1-2: And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.
As we saw in last week’s message, Jesus is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit—that is, he fills us with the Spirit of God in our thoughts, our hearts, our entire beings. We are aware of the presence of God, where we were ignorant of him before; we develop an interest in the things of God where we had none before. We read in these verses that after his baptism and after the Holy Spirit came down in bodily form, Jesus was filled with the Spirit.
Obviously that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t before. He was conceived by the Spirit, was always united to him. But here, what Luke wants to show is that starting at his baptism, Jesus didn’t merely have the Spirit to commune and communicate with God; God had filled him with all the Spirit’s power, to accomplish the work for which he had come to earth. So his death on the cross and his resurrection, yes—but first, his life and his teaching. Jesus is fully equipped to do all of it.
To quote John the Baptist from John’s gospel: God does not give the Spirit with measure. The power of the Holy Spirit which was at work in the person of Jesus was fully present, and unlimited.
Led by the Spirit into the Desert
Over the course of Jesus’s life and ministry, we will see the Holy Spirit lead him in other places, in other circumstances. But it is noteworthy that the first place the Spirit leads Jesus to is in the desert, where he will remain for forty days. Over these forty days, he is alone and hungry.
The first act of Jesus’s life in his role of Messiah is to be placed in a situation of total lack, where he is alone and in need of basic elements for survival.
It reminds us of John the Baptist, who lived in the desert before the beginning of his ministry as prophet. It’s a similar situation: God leads John to live in the humility and hostility of a desert, far away from civilization, before beginning his ministry.
In the same way Jesus, having lived a life more ordinary than John before his ministry, spends several days in these same humble conditions, where he is tried and deprived, before beginning his ministry.
The passage tells us that he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
Tempted by the Devil
Now that Jesus is at his greatest moment of weakness, the devil approaches him and tempts him.
First it is important to remember that God isn’t tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone (cf. James 1.13). So when Jesus is tempted by the desert, it’s important to see that the devil tries to tempt him, but at no point was Jesus inclined to do what the devil was suggesting. We can be tempted by evil, in the sense that we go along with evil to satisfy our desires—but not Jesus.
“Command this stone to become bread.”
4.2: And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ ”
The first temptation of the devil is both psychological and physiological.
Note that Satan says, “If you are the Son of God…” Remember, just before going out into the desert, during his baptism, the voice of God was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son.” But now he has spent forty days in the desert, hungry and weak. His body is exhausted. Generally, when they are physically weakened, even pious men can have a tendency to ask, “Where is God?” So the devil is trying to make Jesus question himself: “Are you really God’s Son? Did his voice really come out of the sky, or was it your imagination? If your Father is really with you, then prove it.”
Jesus’s temptation is also physical—he’s starving, and he could certainly perform a miracle in order to feed himself. If you have ever fasted, you know that moment when, as soon as the thought of food comes into your head, you’re ready to eat whatever you find (within reason). So the devil tries to convince Jesus to use his power in a way for which it wasn’t intended.
But the Lord resists the temptation, because his heart is more inclined toward his Father than the immediate satisfaction of his desires (even those which are legitimate). So if satisfying his desires means renouncing the Father’s sovereignty, he prefers to refuse his desires.
“Worship me for glory.”
4.5-8: 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ”
Satan’s second temptation depends on ambition. Jesus’s ambition (so to speak) is to establish his reign on earth. But before that can happen, he must go through the cross. He must suffer for the men and women over whom he reigns, to make them innocent before God, to make for himself a just people, to deliver them from the power of Satan.
As Paul says in Ephesians 2.1-2, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…
Basically, the devil offers to serve Jesus on a plate that which he must suffer to obtain.
But by his response, Jesus shows that he is ready to suffer a horrible death rather than worshiping anyone or anything other than God.
“Throw yourself down from here.”
4.9-12: 9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
The third temptation is similar to the first. The devil says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” With one difference: the first two times, Jesus responded to Satan by referencing what is “written”—the Scriptures. This time, the devil uses the Scriptures himself.
He says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written…”
The devil leans on the Word of God to drive Jesus to defy God. Jesus leans on the Word of God, to show him what it is to have a complete vision of all the Word.
We read in v. 13-15, 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
As we mentioned before, Jesus is filled with all the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke shows that from this moment on, his reputation began to grow in all the region, because of his works, and those of the Holy Spirit through him.
3) Why Was Jesus Tempted?
The question must be asked: why did the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the desert to be tempted? Didn’t Jesus teach us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”? The Lord taught us to pray that God limit our exposure to temptation (after which we could sin); so why does God lead Jesus to be tempted?
To test his greatness and his authenticity.
Not sinning while in his weakest state proves Jesus’s divinity.
In general, if we’ve had a night without sleep, if we’re hungry, we are less pleasant than we would be if we were feeling well. We have less control of ourselves; we are more apt to give in to temptation.
Often what stops us from sinning is the lack of opportunity, or the threat of punishment. But when all of that is taken away, when we are isolated (no brothers or sisters around, no threat, no witnesses), we are more likely to give in.
The Lord is in this state, and worse than most of us have ever experienced; so the fact that he did not let temptation take root in his spirit shows that he is the perfect man, the Lamb without stain.
To be our victorious representative after Adam’s failure.
We are all descended from Adam; we all share in the same nature that we inherited from him. And sadly, we also inherited the condamnation that comes with his (and our) rebellion against God. He as our representative, our champion, before God in the garden of Eden, and he failed. By his failure, he dragged all of us down with him.
But now, God has given us a new representative, to pick up the race of Adam. He is also a descendant of Adam, and so he can be our representative; but he is also divine—he can be our Mediator with God. Jesus was tempted, but he did not give in; he never sinned.
By Adam’s sin, we are all condemned, because we share in it. By Jesus’s victory over temptation, and by the rest of his perfectly obedient life, those of us who have faith in Jesus are not only forgiven, but considered righteous, just as he is. We used to share in Adam’s condemnation; now we share in Jesus’s righteousness.
The devil—the tempter—exists, and works constantly.
The devil really exists. He is a spiritual being. His existence is as old as creation. He knows men well. He knows how to deceive us. His deception may take many forms: making us believe we are doing good, while we’re doing evil; making us minimize sin; making us think only of ourselves. All of this has one end: driving us to rebel against God.
“Watch and pray, that you may not fall into temptation.”
The devil waits for the right moment. He will come to tempt us at the moment we least expect it. He will seize opportunities during which we are weak. We will come at us at our weakest points.
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus counseled his disciples, teaching them how not to fall into the devil’s snares: Watch and pray (Matthew 26.41). And in this episode in Luke’s gospel, we see how Jesus acts. He is ready; he is knowledgeable of Scripture. His heart is attached to God; he has been fasting and praying. He does not stand in the way of sinners, but finds his delight in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1.1-2).
Jesus, victorious over temptation for us.
Jesus, Son of Man descended from Adam, and Son of God equal and united with the Father, united himself to the human race, to achieve victory over temptation in our place. His victory is given to us, and we are considered victorious over temptation because of his victory, considered righteous because of his righteousness.
In the same way we were considered sinners and marked by sin because Adam gave into temptation, in the same way, if we place our faith in Christ we are considered righteous, because Jesus accomplished all the law of God for us, resisting every temptation to give righteousness to his sinful brothers and sisters.