In Matthew, Jesus finds himself in two profoundly desolate places, both of which bookend the gospel—the wilderness and the cross.
Both are places of isolation. The wilderness is bleak, uninhabited, and the epitome of scarcity. The cross is unforgiving, alienating, and a place of abandonment.
Both are places of desperation. In the wilderness, Jesus is starving, dehydrated, and alone. On the cross, he’s suffocating, dying, and alone.
Both are places of temptation. In the wilderness, the devil taunts Jesus to miraculously prove he’s the Son of God by throwing himself from the temple (Matthew 4.6). A move that would’ve gained an instant following. This same temptation revisits Jesus on the cross through the words of the chief priests, scribes, and elders—“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27.41-42).
Like Jesus, we often find ourselves in desolate places—whether in our homes, workplaces, relationships, neighborhoods or communities. We find ourselves in desperate situations—whether we’re emotionally and relationally starving, hopeless, lonely, isolated, sad, fearful or overwhelmed.
And, like Jesus, it’s in these places that temptation nags us; where Satan pops by for a visit. Just as the devil tests Jesus’ Sonship in moments of despair, so too he attempts to subvert our identity in moments of desperation.
Yet, the irony is this: victory and hope spring from these desolate places.
In the wilderness and on the cross, Jesus is victorious. He triumphs. He’s obedient.
In the wilderness and on the cross, Jesus stays true to his identity. He’s faithful to God. He carries out his mission.
*Picture taken from feedingonchrist.com.