At the core of the gospel message is Jesus, who was tempted and tried in every way we are but who was never anything but triumphant. He is a high priest who shares our nature, who can pray for us and with us. He is, as God announced right before his testing, the “beloved Son” of God. But he is not by himself. He is “the firstborn,” to be sure, but he is “the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29). Because we have a sympathetic High Priest, tempted in every way as we are, we are able then “with confidence [to] draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). And what are we to pray? “Your kingdom come, your will be done. . . . Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:9–13 niv).

Quite simply, following Jesus isn’t just a metaphor. His first disciples literally “followed” after him all across the map of first-century Palestine. Jesus told them, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward” (John 13:36). He says the same to all of us who have recognized him in the two thousand years since. We will “suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17). This “suffering” the Bible speaks of isn’t only political persecution or social marginalization or difficult circumstances, as we often tend to think. It is also the suffering of temptation, as God walks us through the place of the powers.

Author Barbara Brown Taylor recounts going to a seminar where a presenter talked about taking student groups out into the wilderness to experience in hiking and rafting “the untamed holiness of the wild.” Brown writes that a participant raised his hand and asked whether “there are predators in those places who are above you on the food chain.” The wilderness guide said that there weren’t, of course, because he wouldn’t take his students to a place where they would be so jeopardized. “I wouldn’t either,” the audience member replied, “but don’t lull them into thinking that they have experienced true wilderness. It’s only wilderness if there’s something out there that can eat you.” There’s some wisdom there. For Jesus, there was something dark and ancient and predatory out there in the desert.

Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).

This article excerpted from Tempted and Tried.

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