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North St Chapel 14.11.07 The credentials of Jesus Luke 3.21-4.13

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Jesus’ credentials 3:21-4:13

North St Baptist, Cheddar. 14.11.07

Barry Norman, Film critic, talking about movies portraying Jesus said,

Very few people could have as magnetic a personality as Christ, and no actor has got that. You will always know you are looking at an actor pretending to be someone infinitely greater than he is...the whole point about Christ, if you believe in Christ, is that Christ is divine, not that he was jolly good chap.[1]

What you think about Jesus will be the biggest conclusion of your life.

Luke is writing to a gentile called Theophilus (1:3). Luke wants him to be assured of the truth about Jesus. Try imagining you are reading Luke for the first time. Why believe in Jesus? Who is he? What’s he setting out to do? What credentials does he have? Luke has presented his birth and a snippet from his childhood, but now the reader has to get to grips with his person and purpose, and here in our text today Luke starts to address that.

John prepared the way, and his baptism was a “half way” between the Jewish idea that only those outside needed baptism (they were OK as “insiders”) and Christian baptism (forgiveness, death and resurrection with Christ). John spoke of the need for forgiveness, even for “insiders” but obviously was short of the Christian element of death and resurrection. Yet Jesus subscribed to John’s baptism at the start of his ministry. In fact this snippet in 3:21-22 sets the scene for Jesus ministry (23) and temptation in 4:1-13. Even the genealogy is significant!

The man who is God.

Jesus’ baptism shows he identifies with humanity and the people of God. The temptations will show he’s not in need of repentance for sin. Though Satan tempted, Jesus never failed. So the baptism shows his association with humanity, yet his distinction from it. This is where the genealogy comes in too. The genealogy takes Jesus human life back to Adam.. He is identified with humanity. It ends with Adam, the son of God. Jesus descended from Adam, and yet, as the baptismal voice of God proclaims,

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”

So Theophilus can be assured this is no ordinary man. Totally ordinary but totally extraordinary! The baptism account will show this precisely…

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

Do you accept that Jesus is the MAN who IS God? Accepting or rejecting this is the issue for you as much as it was for Theophilus.

The man who trusts God.

There are three temptations stated:

·        Change stone into bread because you’re hungry. A physical temptation. Meet your own needs. (“Use your status as Son of God to help yourself. You’re no good to anyone else unless you look after yourself”)

·        Worship me and I’ll give you authority and a kingdom. (After all, Jesus had come to establish a kingdom. Why not cut out the hard bit!)

·        Prove you are the Son of God – make God save you. (After all, he won’t let you die will he?)

It seems to me that the connection in these temptations is the suggestion from Satan that Jesus acts independently of the Father. Satan was trying to drive a wedge between the Father and the Son. He didn’t want the Father to be well pleased with him. He wanted to break the unity, love and trust of Jesus for the Father. And indeed, if he did, he would break the whole trinity. Jesus was led by the Spirit, as we read, but if Satan had his way Jesus would not trust the Father or be led by the Spirit. This would have been more cataclysmic than when scientists split the atom.

John Claypool…tells a poignant story in The Preaching Event about identical twin brothers who never married because they so enjoyed each other’s company. When their father died, they took over his store and ran it together in a joyful collaboration. One day a man came in to make a small purchase and paid for it with a dollar bill. The brother who took the dollar put it on top of the cash register and walked the customer to the door to say good-bye. When he came back to get the dollar, it was gone. He said to his twin brother, “Did you take that dollar bill?” His brother said, “No, I didn’t.” That would have been the end of that except that in a few hours he brought the matter up again. “Surely, you took the dollar bill. There was nobody else in the store.” His brother got angry and said, “I’m telling you, I did not take that dollar bill!” From that point mistrust grew until finally the two brothers could not work together. They put a partition right down the middle of the building and made it into two stores. They didn’t speak for the next twenty years.

One day a stranger pulled up in a car and entered one of the two stores. “Have you been in business very long?” was his first question. “Yes, thirty or forty years,” was the answer. “Good,” continued the stranger. “I need to see you. I passed through this town twenty years ago as an out-of-work vagrant. ... I hadn’t eaten for days. I came by the alley outside and when I looked in and saw a dollar bill on the register I sneaked in and took it. I was raised in a Christian home and taught not to steal and I want to pay it back.” He had no idea why the old storekeeper began to weep. “Would you mind coming next door and telling my brother that story?” he asked. Of course, with the second telling the two were reconciled amid many tears. Twenty years of broken relationship had been based not on fact, but on mistrust.[2]

Jesus wasn’t going to let Satan build a wall between him and his Father.

The third temptation particularly shows this.  It would in fact have been an act of unbelief, even though Satan’s argument sounds good. If God loves you he’ll look after you. But Jesus says that to do what Satan wants is an act of testing God. People don’t test somebody in whom they have complete trust[3]

Do you trust God?

The man who obeys God.

In each of the three temptations Jesus reacts according to the Bible. It is written (4), it is written (8), it says (12). Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit and full of the word of God. By the third temptation Satan is onto Jesus’ methodology. From his mouth (v10) we hear the words, “it is written”. He quotes Psalm 91:11-12. Interestingly he stops there. Had he quoted v13 he might have got a metaphorical shiver:

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;

you will trample the great lion and the serpent!

Satan is selective. He’ll often start with a half truth. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether Jesus trusted God.

Do you trust? (Trust and obey go together. If you don’t trust, you won’t obey. In Jesus we have one who totally trust the Father)


The man who does all this as a man.

Throughout the temptation Satan uses Jesus’ status as Son of God to tempt him. When he says “If you are the Son of God” it’s not “if “as “if perhaps” but “since” or “because”. This is not only a reasonable translation of the word (εἰ, for example in Mark 6:30 “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…”) but we know from the gospels that Satan is fully aware of who Jesus is: Luke 4:33-35.

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

Yet although Satan uses Jesus status as the Son of God to tempt him, Jesus uses his position as a man to resist. He deliberately refuses to use his divinity. He stays hungry as a man, refusing to turn stone to bread. He simply quotes scriptures, all of which are directed to humans. In fact, the quotes come from Deuteronomy 6 and 8. If you look at Deut 6 you will see the context there is “when you get to the land this is how to live.” The context then is the 40 wilderness years. Forty years of failure to obey. Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days showing he’s obedient.

And let’s go back to the genealogy. Jesus is a descendent of Adam, the son of God. Elsewhere the Bible speaks of Jesus as the second Adam. Where the first one was tempted by Satan over food and failed, the son of Adam who’s the Son of God didn’t fail.

            This should be a great encouragement to us. Not only does it mean, as we will see next week, that Jesus is able to help us, but he’s also an example to us. We don’t have to succumb to temptation. Jesus didn’t resist because he was the Son of God but in his humanity.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Cor 10:13)

Therefore we learn with Theophilus that Jesus is…

The man for the people.

  • He has the credentials for the task.
  • As the Son of God he knows God, he is God. He’s the inside track to our creator. “It’s not what you know but who you know”. Theophilus was an “outsider” but if he accepts Jesus, who he’s about to find out about, he has a direct track to God. The same is true for you and me.
  • As a full human he has the inside track to our lives too. As the book of Hebrews puts it:

he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (2:17-18)


we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.(4:14)

Jesus understands our temptations. He is able to sympathise. But not only does he understand. He is able to say to us, “You don’t have to yield”. Remember, Jesus didn’t resist as the Son of God but as a man committed to trusting God. You and I can do the same.

·        Most importantly, although there is great encouragement for us knowing Jesus shares our temptations, we come back to the starting point that this is the commencement of Jesus’ ministry. It is as though Luke is emphasising to Theophilus, and therefore to us, what you make of Jesus now will shape how you understand what I tell you from here on. If you think he’s only a man you’ll make no sense of the nature of his ministry. Right at the outset, Luke says, you’ve got to understand the nature of Jesus and his ministry. There is an enemy who has to be overcome. The first round is over. Jesus, the Son of God, won unreservedly. But it’s not the knockout round yet. Satan will return (v13). But in the man who is God we have one who will always win. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:53).


[1] Cited in S Legg, Man, myth or maybe more? p18

[2]Larson, B., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1983). Vol. 26: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 26 : Luke. Formerly The Communicator's Commentary. The Preacher's Commentary series (86). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.

[3]Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Lk 4:1). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

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