In this editorial we shall contemplate pressures and circumstances our Lord and Saviour faced as he strove to please his heavenly Father in all things and to live a perfect life. The conquest of sin, sinlessness, and the upholding of God’s righteousness was the precondition for salvation: this was the burden Jesus of Nazareth had to bear for you and me. It is important for us to contemplate just what this means and what it involved; and if we do we will love our Lord more and seek to please him and his Father.

Growing up in Nazareth

Jesus was the eldest of at least seven children in the house of Joseph and Mary (Mark 6:3). As the oldest it would be expected that he would provide an example and take a measure of responsibility. No doubt his mother Mary would have depended upon such a wise and compassionate son, a dependence that would have increased with the loss of her husband Joseph. In these circumstances Jesus became “the carpenter”, the bread winner. In this complex situation he witnessed, he learned, he dealt with human nature at close quarters in the dynamics of family life.

His mission required a perfect knowledge of flesh, of human weakness and passion lest he be deceived by sin: and we read that he “needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:25). Coupled with this and an essential component of its attainment was a perfect knowledge of Scripture. How else could the victory over sin be achieved? In the life of the Saviour, Sin loomed large: that it was so can be seen by him clothing it with reality, by his personification of it as “mammon” (Matt 6:24), as a “strong man” (12:29), as the diabolos (John 8:44), as “the prince of this world”(John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).

For him life would be very different from his contemporaries: it would necessarily be unique. This he must accept. Marriage was out of the question; there could be no children in the usual, natural way. He would “make himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Matt 19:12). Neither could there be home or possessions: such was the devotion, the single-mindedness required that there could be no distractions. And this so you and I might be saved: indeed we are “bought with a price”.

His ministry and public life

Jesus left the comforts of his mother and the family home in Nazareth, never to return: ‘count down’ had begun at the age of 30. His public ministry would begin following necessary compliance with his Father’s will, his baptism. In this he would do in symbol at the beginning of his ministry what he would do in reality at the end, “die unto sin”. His Father’s approval of His Son’s life to date was signalled in two ways: the voice from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee am I well pleased”, and the visible descent of the Holy Spirit upon him in the form of a dove (Luke 3:21–22; Isa 11:2).

Temptation in the wilderness

The declaration that he was the Son of God and the possession of the Holy Spirit without measure, brought to him unique temptations. He was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1).

There (like Israel), he fasted 40 days and was “an hungred”. Hunger can break through stone walls. He was challenged to prove he was in fact the Son of God by using the newly bestowed power to turn stones into bread. “Lust of flesh” and use of the Spirit for personal advantage was set aside by higher considerations: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:1–4; Deut 8:1–3).

Set upon a pinnacle in the holy city, the temptation to cast himself down from it was presented to him: this would prove him to be the Son of God, for no harm would befall him for God had declared that His angels would bear him up (Matt 4:5–6; Psa 91:11,12). But he would not be drawn: he would not act whimsically, capriciously, for the sake of pride: he rebuffed the temptation with familiar Scripture, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (v7; Deut 6:16). He must succeed where the national servant Israel had failed.

From the vantage point of an exceeding high mountain he viewed “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them”. By the flick of his fingers as it were, they would be his – he merely had to fall down and worship the diabolos. Attractive as by-passing the cross was, it would only be a temporary tenure: this was not to be compared with reigning forever on the throne of David in righteousness and peace (Isa 9:6–7; 11:1–10). The suggestion was rejected with vehemence, “Get thee hence Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt 4:8–10; Deut 6:13).

The temptation resisted, his Father’s approval and care was seen in ministering angels coming to him. It is notable that all the temptations were met with Scripture, cited from parallel circumstances in Israel’s wilderness experience. He had mastered his Father’s Word and digested its telling lessons. He could appropriate them to life’s trials. Surely he is our leader, our example, in whose footsteps we must tread (1 Pet 2:21–25).

Challenging questions

During his ministry his popularity, his miracles and teaching reflected upon the chief priests, scribes and elders. Their opposition grew and they sought desperately to discredit him, expose inadequacy, malign and trap him in his words, often under the guise of sincerity. They were jealous of the respect the multitudes accorded him and did everything in their power to humiliate him publically. But he was master of every situation. He faced numerous carefully crafted questions, but his astonishing answers showed he had pondered every issue: he was never confused or stumped. He treated their questions seriously, his answers bringing out lessons of the utmost worth, when with the power at his disposal he could have shamed and humiliated his detractors. But then he was the Saviour of the world; sinlessness in the midst of hostile provocation must be preserved. Consider the following.

At Tabernacles prior to his crucifixion, while teaching in the Temple he was rudely interrupted by the scribes and Pharisees. They shamelessly set in the midst of the attentive multitude a woman taken in adultery, in the very act. Quoting Moses that she should be stoned, they asked him his judgment. This was two-edged as they saw it, for however he answered he would be culpable. His response is monumental. His delay in answering, his writing on the ground, emboldened them. Instead of reading his delay as an opportunity to reflect upon their callous actions they persisted with asking him. Only then he lifted up himself and replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Not wishing to see their humiliation, the conviction of their own consciences and departure, he again stooped down and wrote on the ground. Beginning at the eldest they all melted away. Then to the poor humiliated soul before him he spoke words of comfort and hope, “… Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more”(John 8:1–11). James says that only a perfect man can control the tongue. It is this that we see here in the sinless Son of God, our Saviour.

It is important that we do not lose our focus when we consider God’s Son, His suffering Servant. These words are intended to make us reflect upon the price that was paid to ransom us from the grave. Without our Lord’s loving obedience to his Father we would be in darkness and destined to eternal oblivion. Instead we have been redeemed, we have before us the prospect of glory, honour and immortality, of joining our voices in praise to the Lamb of God who overcame, and singing with exceeding joy,“Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev 3:21; 5:5, 13).