Today’s passage is Luke 3:21-4:13:
The Baptism and Genealogy of Jesus
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josek, the son of Joda,
27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon,[d] the son of Nahshon,
33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,[e]
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.
Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness
4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spiritinto the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
After his herald John the Baptist went before him to announce the revolutionary “kingdom of God” movement, Jesus publicly shows forth God’s kingdom—in himself.
He comes to succeed where his people Israel had failed. The three sections here reflect that: baptism (3:21 – 22); genealogy from Adam (3:23 – 38); and wilderness temptation (4:1 – 13).
If Jesus got into a ship called the Mayflower, sailed from England across the Atlantic to Plymouth, Massachusetts, and treated the Native Americans kindly and fairly, what would he be communicating? That he was redoing and reliving U.S. history, in order to do it right. He would be saying that something had gone wrong from the very beginning, and that he was correcting that fundamental and fatal flaw. He would be saying that he was the true embodiment of the United States itself. That is what he’s doing with Israel.
Just as Israel went through the waters of the Red Sea, only to succumb to temptation, Jesus goes through the waters of his baptism, this time to overcome temptation.
Just as Israel was supposed to be God’s restoration of Adam and Eve, only to sin and be expelled from the garden land as well, Jesus is the one “son of Adam” who will truly undo the fall of Adam and Eve.
Just as Israel went into the wilderness to learn to depend on God instead of the power of Egypt, only to grumble and long for the days of their enslavement, Jesus goes into the wilderness to train his human nature to depend on God, and to break the power of sin’s enslavement over his human nature.
In fact, Jesus was also retelling all humanity’s story, because Israel’s story was itself an attempt to correct the Adam and Eve story. Jesus’s three temptations echoed Adam and Eve’s temptation in the garden. In Genesis 3:6, Eve took the fruit because she thought it was “good for food” (turn these stones to bread), it was “a delight to the eyes” (see the nations of the world), and because it was “desirable to make one wise” (be admired by others). Hence, Jesus was undoing the sin of humanity, reliving the temptation by Satan, without giving in. Where Adam and Eve took into themselves the power to define good and evil on their own, passing that fatal flaw on to all of us, Jesus was determined to bend his human nature back into alignment with God the Father, all throughout his life and death, so that he could give a corrected, purified humanity back to us by his Spirit in his resurrection.
Happy endings don’t come out of nowhere. They repair the failures of the past. The hero has to walk the same, challenging path of the villain, but make the different, faithful choice. For all happy ending stories are a pale shadow and imitation of Jesus’s story.
Jesus wants to retell your story, too. Jesus will draw you back to places in your story where you failed before. He wants to undo those mistakes with you. By his Spirit in us, he wants to bend our resistant human nature back into alignment with God the Father, with our willing partnership. This is the kingdom—the reign—of God over humanity, person by person.
How do you think Jesus would re-live your life story with you, to heal you and transform not only your story, but also your very being?
Mako Nagasawa is Director of the New Humanity Institute. He, his wife Ming, and their two children live in a Christian intentional community involved with urban ministry in Dorchester.