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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






18 July 2005

Jesus in the Wilderness


Q: Why did Jesus go into the Wilderness?

A: While the Bible doesn’t spell things out, it is likely that God had several reasons to do this: First, the Son came in the flesh to face temptation. Remember that the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the Wilderness immediately after His baptism (see Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; and Luke 4:1-13). Jesus had just associated and identified Himself with our sins and was now exposed to temptation such as we face. This was also an opportunity for Him to reject His Father's will, to shortcut the path laid out by the Father, and to establish His kingdom through might and glory instead of through service and suffering.

Second, this time shows him as “Israel reduced to One”; that is, He embodied all that Israel was and was supposed to be. He kept perfectly the Law that Israel and its people kept only in part or not at all. As such, His time parallels the 40 years Israel wandered in the Wilderness.

Also, 40 is often a number associated with judgment and divine wrath (again Israel in the Wilderness, the Flood, Jonah’s message to Nineveh, and others). So even as Jesus faced temptation because of His association with us, so He also was in the first stage of experiencing the full consequences of divine justice and wrath over man’s sins.

ADDENDUM: See also the subsequent post, The Number Forty, and its comments.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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