Jesus' Baptism & Temptation


Today's Reading: Matthew 3:13-4:11

Jesus' baptism and temptation is a favorite topic for papers in college and seminary theology classes.  These passages propose an interesting question: If Jesus is God, why did he have to be baptized, and why/how could the temptation thing work?

One of the the things that makes the gospel unique among world religions is that our god wasn't like any of the other gods who's stories have them doing great things for the "salvation" of their people.  In general, stories of other savior-type gods are either about demi-god humans (the product of a god reproducing with a human) and winning a few great battles, but the salvation in those stories is largely limited to a short-term peace and deliverance from some worldly enemy.  The oppression will return.

On the other side is a being who is said to be fully divine, but these gods keep their distance because the human world is considered too profane for their holiness to mix with.  The impurity and imperfection of the created world and its inhabitants isn't good enough for the gods, and even seems to present a danger to the gods.

Jesus' baptism and temptation takes on at least one of those themes: that God is too good to mix with human life.  One of the key pieces to Jesus' life and ministry is that Jesus was 100% God and 100% human.  Although there was nothing about Jesus that in any way compromised God's divinity, Jesus still experienced the full-breadth of human life.  The result is that when he speaks of dealing with temptation and the hardships of life that we all face on a daily basis, he's not simply speaking platitudes that sound good but he has no basis for personal experience; Jesus has faced all the temptations that you have faced (yes, probably even including all the sex stuff...why do we always want to make an exception when sex comes into the picture?)!

The gospel is so profound because the God of the Bible considered humans and creation to be so important to him that he voluntarily intermingled with the same messy world that we wake up to every morning.  God himself, came down and entered into and experienced the entirety of human experience.  No other god has ever done that; no other god has voluntarily entered the physical world, saw the mess that it was, and then voluntarily stuck around to see it become better.