In today’s Bible reading, Matthew tells us about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Most often when people talk about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, they talk about Jesus’ baptism and his healing ministry that followed.
It’s unfortunate that in 1227, Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury decided to put a chapter break between Matthew three and Matthew four. It’s unfortunate because when you’re reading one chapter at a time, you miss the fact that the end of chapter three talks about Jesus’ baptism. Chapter four talks about Jesus’ temptations. With the chapter break, it’s easy miss the flow between chapters three and four.
I would argue that Jesus’ ministry begins with His baptism by John. I would also highlight the fact that in all three Synoptic Gospels,* Jesus’ baptism is immediately followed by His temptations, followed by his healing ministry.
Why is this important? You cannot separate Jesus’ temptations from His endorsement from His Father and His healing ministry. Jesus’ ministry includes His temptations. Why? I have heard that every leader — and especially every minister — must go through a period of testing. Not testing to see if they’ll pass the test, but testing to remove impurities like you would with silver or gold in a crucible.
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. (Proverbs 17:3)
When God tests a heart, He isn’t doing it to learn if you can pass the test. Instead, He tests the heart to purify the heart, to remove the bad things from the heart. He tests the heart, not to see if you can pass the test, but to prove/demonstrate that you can. God didn’t wonder if Jesus would pass the test in His temptations. He did it to show Jesus’ sinlessness and to provide a model for those who would pursue ministry and other leadership roles.
Have you been tested? Maybe you’re going through a period of testing right now. Don’t be misled by my discussion of testing for ministry. All of us are ministers. All of us need to be tested. It’s for our good and for the good of those who we will minister to.
Don’t look at times of testing as cruelty on the part of God. Look at those times as the goodness of God to make you more like Jesus, chipping away and burning off those things that don’t look like Him, and to demonstrate to those around you how much you do look like Jesus.
* The Synoptic Gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They’re called synoptic because they look similar in the stories they tell and their wording. They can easily be harmonized to show their similarities and differences. John’s Gospel is not a Synoptic Gospel, because he tends to be more theological in his presentation, as opposed to chronological.