And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written,
‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
My seven-year-old son Nathan is in full superhero mode. We’ve been tracking this development for some time now. At first, it was simply a matter of wearing his Incredible Hulk suit to Wal-Mart while Beth shopped. First grade makes things more socially complicated, so now he’s ditched the suit and advanced to auditing superhero classes (Netflix), studying their ways, examining their moves, practicing on the couch cushions. We all resonate with superheroes as they save the world time and time again, tapping into our innate desire to be saved. But this desire can quickly morph into the desire to be the hero of our own story and save ourselves. We all know we can’t do that and we need Jesus.
That’s what makes this text so tricky. Isn’t Jesus just like another superhero? Well I mean, not exactly like another superhero, because of course, He is Jesus—there’s no on like Him. But really? What’s the big deal? Why not turn the stones into bread? Would that have hurt anything? But this text teaches us that it is enough to be a child of God, walking obediently by faith in His Word. This is exactly what it means to be human, and it is precisely enough. If Jesus had turned those stones into loaves of bread, it would have been disastrous for humanity. God just declared to the entire world, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” and Satan’s temptation is a direct threat to that declaration from God. Satan essentially says, “Son of God? NBD [no big deal]. You’re not that special. Jesus, why don’t You do something really spectacular, really sensational, something that will prove that You are big time—that will prove that You are worthy of the status You have.”
Why not tap into that divinity Jesus has tucked away? Why not borrow a little bit of deity to silence Satan’s smack talk? Because Jesus was not a mixture of human and divine—that’s superhuman. He’s fully human and fully divine. In this text, He represents humanity. In other texts, we see His fully divinity on display (the transfiguration). But we need Jesus to be simply human on this one, and Jesus already knew that.
In other words, Jesus’ victory here is ironically and profoundly human. You see, we need not only Jesus’ victory, but we also need the way He achieves this victory. We need both because we face this temptation every day. Is it enough for you to be a child of God? Is it enough that the God of the Universe, your Father in Heaven says to you, “This is Ben, My son, in whom I am well pleased?” Because of the Person and work of Jesus, that is exactly what He says of you. Jesus’ victory is your victory. The Bible teaches this unabashedly.
But we also need the way Jesus achieves this victory—“No” to Satan; “Yes” to God. Nothing superhero-ish about it. Difficult to be sure, but no special powers needed—simply a renewed humanity achieved in us day-by-day by the work of the Holy Spirit. Every day I’m tempted to put on the Hulk suit because I don’t believe I’m enough. Every day I am tempted to put on a sensational show—Satan tempts me, the world demands it, and my flesh craves it. Every day I want to demonstrate something spectacular, and often I fall prey to that temptation.
Jesus’ actions in this text show us what it truly means to be human. Being human means complete and utter dependence upon God. We were designed this way. Adam and Eve, our spiritual parents, decided being human was not enough. We prove we are the children of Adam and Eve in our frequent quests to be spectacular. All of us make this same decision every day in a myriad of ways. Jesus shows us the vanity of that nonsense. Jesus shows us that we don’t save the world with flash, pop, or zing but through day-by-day dependence and obedience to our Heavenly Father. That’s the way He saved the world.
Jesus helps us see God’s expectations entail daily dependence and trust in what He has declared about us. It is enough to be a child of God, humbly walking, resting, serving, and obeying Him. Besides, the superhero costume does not fit me that well. The shoes are too big to fill.