And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil … The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:1-3)
(This article is #9 in a series on the Trinity.)
When the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized, the Father identified Him as His beloved Son, while the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove. This established the Trinitarian basis for Christ’s ministry. His is a Trinitarian ministry from at least two perspectives: First, throughout His ministry we observe the synchronized movement and interaction of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Second, Christ frequently taught about each person of the Holy Trinity. Sunday’s Gospel records the events that immediately followed the baptism of Jesus. In this text we see, from the very beginning of Christ’s ministry, the interaction of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The man Jesus is completely filled with the Holy Spirit, for our text declares that He is full of the Holy Spirit. The Christ in His State of Humiliation is not always using the divine attributes communicated to His human nature; however, being filled with the Spirit, He is constantly inspired, moved, and directed by the Spirit to perform the Father’s will. Thus our text further explains that Jesus was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. The Holy Spirit is here leading and prompting Jesus to follow the way of sorrows, the way directly into the devil’s camp. This initiates the movement of Christ to the cross, a path commonly called the Way of Sorrows (Latin, Via Dolorosa). Jesus will be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Is 53:3), for this is the path directed by the Holy Spirit, this is the path desired of the Father, and this is the path needed to save grief-stricken, sinful humanity. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews references Christ being led to the cross by the Holy Spirit: Christ…through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God [9:14]. This is describing how the Spirit led Jesus to offer himself to the Father as the perfect sacrificial lamb, offered for our salvation.
At Christ’s baptism, God the Father had given His incarnate Son a word to cling to. The Father exclaimed from heaven, You are my beloved Son [Lu 3:23]. In every trial and tribulation, Jesus, the man, is now directed to cling to and trust in this word from His Father; no matter what happens, Jesus is to believe He is the Father’s beloved Son. Jesus’ mother also certainly conveyed God’s Word concerning His divine lineage. There was no physical evidence pertaining to Jesus’ identity. Nonetheless God’s Word, as just noted, along with the Old Testament, served as the outward divine guidance for Christ. Thus Jesus, as you and I are directed, walked by faith and not by sight. He trusted God’s Word.
The devil comes to God’s children and wants them to doubt whether they really are God’s children. He wants them to doubt the Word of God. For New Testament believers this Word is uniquely linked to their Baptism: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ [Gal 3:26,27]. Such temptation happened quintessentially to the Son of God. Satan thus prefaced two of his three temptations with the words, If you are the Son of God…[vv 3,9]. In effect the devil is asking Jesus, “Are you really the Son of God? Do you really believe the Word given to you at your baptism?” Similarly we are tempted and tried, and at times we, unlike Jesus, succumb to such temptations. In these the devil is asking us, “Are you really a child of God? Do you still believe the Word given to you at your baptism?” We were baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! We belong to God, and we are each absolutely united with Christ’s salvation.
Thanks and praise to our Triune God! The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to overcome temptation for us. The Son of God, in our stead, perfectly believed the Baptismal Word from His Father, along with the Spirit-breathed Word of the Old Testament. Clothed with Christ in our Baptism, we are so completely covered with Christ that the devil looks at us and sees Jesus! In tribulation, with the promises of Scripture and our Baptism, we can say, “Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!” (LSB 594 3)