Formations 01.15.2023: Expectations

Jordan Valley, Israel

Matthew 4:1-11

What does the incarnation mean, practically speaking? Did Jesus know about his divine origin from the start? If no, when did he find out, and how? Scripture indicates that Jesus grew not just physically but emotionally and spiritually (Luke 2:40), so we’re on firmer ground to assume that he grew as well in his understanding of his mission—whatever we might imagine that looked like.

In today’s passage, as we study Jesus’s temptations in the wilderness, we catch a glimpse of Jesus wrestling with his calling. What sort of Messiah will he be? For that matter, what sort of Messiah do you and I hope he will be?

Perhaps we’re hoping for a Messiah who’ll satisfy our needs. Hungry? Jesus will feed us. Broke? Jesus will pay our bills. In fact, Jesus will give us whatever we need; we just have to name it and claim it.

Or are we looking for a wonder-working Messiah who draws a crowd with death-defying miracles. Wouldn’t that be better than a meek and humble Jesus who shunned public acclaim?

Maybe we’re hoping for a Messiah with raw, political power: somebody who’ll fix whatever we think wrong with our country, our world, the way any proper autocrat would—with an iron fist.

How Jesus responds to these tests reveals his convictions about the nature of his messiahship. As appealing as they all might be, none of these scenarios is true to Jesus’s calling. On the contrary, he lives out his Messiahship with nowhere to lay his head, in the company of sinners and tax collectors, and ultimately on a cross.

How can the story of Jesus’s temptation highlight our own misconceptions of what Jesus is all about?


• Do you think Jesus genuinely struggled with these temptations, or did the devil never stand a chance? Explain.
• Jesus answered the devil’s temptations by quoting Scripture. What might this mean for us when we face temptation?
• When have you seen people attracted to a version of Jesus who does what Jesus refuses to do in Matthew 4?
• How does Jesus reveal what our priorities really are?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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