By Jamin Roller
I have a friend who won the conference championship in college football his senior year. He has a game ball signed by his teammates and a beautiful championship ring on display in his house. The thing is, he did not play a single down in that game. In fact, he didn’t play in any conference games that season. He got hurt early in the year and was sidelined for the remaining games. His injury prevented him from competing with his teammates and contributing to the team. But he still got the ball and ring that only the champions got. As part of the team, he got to share in what the team won even though he could not compete on the field. What he could not do, his team did for him, and he got to share in their victory.
In the passages we read today, we see Jesus in that kind of role in His baptism and temptation. He tells John that He must be baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). We see several times in the Old Testament story that going through the waters signified the people of Israel being set apart as a unique people with a redemptive purpose. Over and again, they failed to live up to their unique identity and fulfill their redemptive purpose. In His baptism, Jesus stood where Israel was supposed to stand, but where they failed, Jesus succeeded. He perfectly represented God and faithfully fulfilled His purpose. What Israel was unable to do, Jesus did for them.
In His temptation, Jesus faces the choice that every human has faced since Genesis 3. Listen to God’s voice or listen to the voice of the enemy. Live depending on yourself and what you can secure; or depend on God, and be sustained by His words. All of us, in some way, have chosen bread alone. Out of our sinful condition, we reject God’s voice, and give in to temptation. In His temptation, Jesus stood in the place all humanity stands, but where we fail, Jesus succeeds. What we are unable to do, Jesus does for us.
In His life, Jesus is a righteous representative for all of us who, because of sin, cannot be what God intended for us to be. The beauty of Jesus’s life is that He then shares His righteous life with all who, through repentance and faith, belong to Him. As Christians, we get to share in the victory that He alone earned, that through His grace becomes our victory.