Jesus Is Our Brother
Introduction: Jesus is given many amazing titles in the Scripture. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Chief Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, the Great High Priest, the Cornerstone, the Almighty, the Bread Of Life, the Captain of our Salvation, Messiah, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lamb of God, Light of the World, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Man of Sorrows, Morning Star, The Resurrection and the Life, the Rock, Rose of Sharon, Son of David, Son of God, Son of the Highest, Sun of Righteousness, The True Vine, The Word, and scores more. Each of these titles tells us something important about the person of Jesus, His origin, His character, His ministry, or His destiny.
However, there is a title given to Jesus that is not nearly as lofty as these. In fact, it is really more of an inference than an actual title, and when you first hear it, it sounds, well, almost sacrilegious. But were it not for this description, many of the more formal titles would be applicable. Jesus is Our Brother. I want to suggest to you that this title is in some sense the theme of our Scripture text today.
My assignment is Luke 3:21-4:13, but I would like to start with a passage from the book of Hebrews. Luke writes historically about what Jesus did and said; the author of Hebrews interprets those things for us theologically. Listen to Hebrews 2:10-18 (NIV):
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation (Jesus) perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes men holy (Jesus) and those who are made holy (us) are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers….
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
I don’t know about you, but I need help with temptation. Actually I do know about you. I know you need help as well. And because Jesus is our Brother, He is able to help. In Luke 3 and 4 we are going to examine some of the historical facts that led the writer of Hebrews to refer to us as brothers of Jesus. We will consider three key ways in which Jesus identified with the human race, thus enabling Him to serve as our merciful and faithful high priest. They are His baptism, His genealogy, and His temptation.
Rather than read this entire text this morning, especially the long list of largely unpronounceable names at the beginning of chapter 4, I am going to read the appropriate sections as we come to them.
The baptism of Jesus, as recorded in Luke 3:21-22.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Luke gives us only the briefest account of Jesus’ baptism. He doesn’t tell us where or why or how or by whom He was baptized, though the context gives us some of that information and the other Gospel writers fill in most of the rest. Luke has told us that crowds were coming to be baptized by John, accepting His call to repentance. Now we learn that Jesus also was baptized.
The natural question is, if John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, why would One who had nothing to repent of come to be baptized by John? In fact, that seems to be the very question John himself asks of Jesus in Matthew’s account (3:14): “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (NIV) I find it interesting that John resists baptizing Jesus for exactly the opposite reason he refused to baptize the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They were sinful and unrepentant, and therefore unworthy of baptism. Jesus was sinless and therefore, in John’s understanding, too worthy for it.
Only after Jesus assures John it is OK to baptize Him, does John agree to do it. Here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 3:15: “’Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” But what did Jesus mean? The term “fulfill” is usually used of the fulfillment of prophecy. I suspect Jesus has in mind the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53, where we read, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” Jesus sees His baptism as an essential part of the process He must go through to fulfill His life’s work of paying for the sins of His people and declaring them righteous. That part is to thoroughly identify with them.
Think about it. While Jesus could actually have been standing with John, calling people to repentance, instead He identifies Himself with the sinful people He came to save. He who has no sin takes His place among those who have no righteousness. Paul puts it this way in 2 Cor. 5:21: “For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Interestingly, the very next verse in Isaiah 53 says “he was numbered with the transgressors.” He was not a transgressor, but he willingly identifies himself with the transgressors. He treats them as His brothers.
We also must not overlook the amazing event that accompanied His baptism. “The heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit descended on Him and a voice came from heaven.” Friends, heaven had essentially been silent for 400 years since the last of the OT prophets passed off the scene. Now comes the voice of God confirming Jesus’ life and character: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” I don’t think it would be inappropriate to consider this event as tantamount to Jesus’ ordination for ministry. Others have referred to it as His inauguration. God is placing His stamp of approval on Jesus for the task ahead.
This is really the culmination of all that Luke has recorded for us so far regarding the first 30+ years of preparation for Jesus’ ministry. The angels declared Him to be the Son of God in Bethlehem. The prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna declared Him to be the salvation of Israel when He was dedicated as an infant in the temple in Jerusalem. Luke 2:40 covers His childhood with these words: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” The last verse of chapter 2 summarizes His adolescence by telling us “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
And while his young adulthood is passed over in silence, John the Baptizer bursts on the scene when Jesus is “about 30 years of age” and declares Him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and then baptizes Him. After all this preparation God Himself declares Jesus to be His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. What a mountaintop experience this must have been for Jesus!
Isn’t it curious, then, that the very next event in His life is the temptation? Have you ever experienced unusual temptation right after a spiritual high point in your life? I sure have. Often our greatest struggles with sin follow our greatest victories. When things are going well, we have a tendency to think we have accomplished it on our own. We slack off and put life on cruise control. We think we’ve got life by the throat because of the big sale, the new birth, the promotion, the advanced degree. But then we let our guard down and become vulnerable to temptation.
But increased vulnerability is not due just to our own attitude; the Enemy of our souls also starts working overtime to trip us up and bring us down. If our lives are already messed up and we’re failing to have any kind of impact for Christ, the devil doesn’t waste valuable resources on us, but if he sees us reaching significant milestones of spiritual growth, he’s going to pour the coals on and do his best to trip us up.
You see many examples of this in Scripture. Elijah enjoyed a literal mountaintop experience on Mt. Carmel by defeating the 400 prophets of Baal, but before the fires on the altar had died out, he was attacked with a threat that overwhelmed him with fear and depression. The Israelites experienced a great victory at Jericho, but it went to their heads. The next stop in their conquest was a tiny little town called Ai, and they were soundly defeated there. Peter preached powerfully in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, with the result that 3,000 people were baptized and added to the church, but then he was arrested and thrown into prison. Again and again, spiritual victory is followed by testing and temptation.
Not surprisingly, Jesus also felt the heat of Satan’s attack immediately after an event of major spiritual significance in His life. Yet strangely, between these two events Luke inserts a list of 75 names, many of which are not found anywhere else in the Bible! He gives us a second genealogy of Jesus, the first being found in Matthew 1.
The genealogy of Jesus (3:23-38)
Here’s how Luke introduces it: ”Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, etc.”
I struggled over what to do with this strange list of names this morning. It is part of Scripture, so I know it to be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, or for instruction in righteousness, as 2 Timothy claims for all of Scripture. However, considering the size of my preaching portion, I don’t want to get bogged down in the details and miss the purpose for which this genealogy is placed here. I believe the primary purpose is again one of identification—to identify Jesus as truly human and show Him to be mankind’s representative to God.
Let me note for you a few things that are unique about this genealogy. First, Luke goes backward from the present to the past, whereas Matthew goes the opposite, more normal direction. Second, unlike Matthew, Luke traces the lineage further than Abraham, the father of the Faithful; he goes all the way back to Adam. Third, Luke’s genealogy appears to be that of Jesus’ stepfather, Joseph, thus offering us Jesus’ legal line, as opposed to Matthew’s, which probably offers His royal line. Most importantly, Jesus is presented as having a thoroughly human genealogy. Furthermore, He possesses the proper roots to be the promised Messiah. He is in David’s line. He is Abraham’s seed. He is Adam’s seed. He is our Brother.
By the way, I think there is a significant reason why Luke goes all the way back to Adam and why he reverses the normal direction of his genealogy. I believe it may be so that the final name in the list would be Adam’s, named just before Luke’s account of the temptation. Adam faced temptation and we all know the result. Jesus also faced temptation, but the outcome was very different.
Jesus is our Brother in His baptism. He is our Brother in His genealogy. He is also our Brother in facing temptation. That is where I want us to turn our attention for the remainder of our time this morning.
The temptation of Jesus (4:1-13)
Listen to the account Luke gives us:
“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”
And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
I suggest that we think about the temptation of Christ in terms of an analogy from the world of chemistry. Let’s start with …
The Crucible. A crucible is a vessel generally made of porcelain that is used to heat metals or chemicals to a very high temperature in order to purify them. The crucible thus became known as a symbol of severe testing. Jesus is being tested in this passage. He is being placed in a crucible of circumstances, and the fire is turned up white hot. And like first-year chemistry students, we get to observe the incredible results.
But why is this necessary? Well, if Jesus is going to be our Brother, He must walk in our shoes. If He is going to become an effective advocate and sympathetic high priest for His people, then He must know by experience the temptations we face and must show us by example that it is possible to resist rather than yield.
The crucible of temptation is created by the circumstances, the situations which, by their very nature, raise the stakes of temptation. The crucible for Jesus is created by several such circumstances:
Jesus is in the wilderness. The wilderness in Scripture is often a dark and foreboding place. But you have undoubtedly noted that Jesus is led into the wilderness. (I know the ESV says here He was led in the wilderness, but in Matthew 4 it clearly states He was led into). He didn’t just wander there. He didn’t choose to go there on His own. There is no culpability involved in His being in the desert. He was led there by the Holy Spirit. Not only that, He was led there to be tempted. Now isn’t that a disturbing thought? What are we supposed to do with that, especially when the book of James tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
These are difficult questions, but at least part of the answer is found in the fact that the term translated here “tempt” has a much broader meaning in the original Greek of the NT. The same word is often translated as “test.” Whether a certain situation is a temptation or a test depends upon the context and even upon the motive of the one instigating it. In fact, the very same event can be a temptation and a test at the same time.
There is no doubt that the devil viewed this situation as an opportunity to tempt Jesus, to entice Him to do evil, to violate His character, and to undermine His entire mission. But the Holy Spirit views the same event as an opportunity to test Jesus, to validate His character, to establish His credentials, and to defeat the Evil One. In summary, God doesn’t tempt but He does test. His goal is not to see us fall but to see us stand and grow.
Jesus is alone. For nearly six weeks, He is by himself, isolated and alone in the wilderness. Again, He doesn’t choose this, and there are times when isolation is unavoidable for us, too, but we need to be aware of the dangers that can result from being alone. Isolation can be a breeding ground for temptation and sin. When we are alone and no one else is looking, it is easier for us to take moral or financial short cuts, to take spiritual holidays. The Devil loves isolated people and undoubtedly takes advantage of Jesus’ increased vulnerability due to His aloneness.
By the way, God has a remedy for isolation for us—it’s called the Church. Christian community provides a safeguard that is essential for spiritual growth. Many of you meet regularly in small groups, a place where honest relationships develop and where prayer and accountability take the place of condemnation and fear, where it is safe to be open and tell the truth about ourselves.
Jesus is also hungry. Luke tells us He has eaten nothing for forty days, only to have Satan tempt Him to turn a stone into bread! Talk about temptation! I’ve probably never been really hungry in my entire life. Oh, I say I’m hungry from time to time, like several times a day. But most of the time I eat because it’s time to eat or because Jan has lots of delicious things sitting around, not because I’m hungry. I suspect the same is true for most of you.
But there are other kinds of hunger in our lives that Satan also loves to exploit, and these are probably more common for us:
there’s the hunger for affirmation,
the hunger for significance,
the hunger for belonging,
the hunger for security,
the hunger for intimacy.
Sometimes we try to meet these legitimate hungers in illegitimate ways, and in the process we invite temptation and put ourselves at risk.
Well, let’s summarize so far. After Jesus experiences a great spiritual high point, He is in the wilderness. He is alone. He is hungry. He is in the crucible.
What happens next? Well, for the chemist after the elements are placed in a crucible, the Bunsen burner is lighted and a flame is applied to the contents. The fire is about to be placed under Jesus.
Jesus is confronted by a supernatural Adversary. Two extremes must be avoided when it comes to Satan. Many people live in ignorance or denial of a personal devil. They believe references to Satan and demons are from the realm of myth and legend, premodern explanations, if you will, of experiences we now understand scientifically. These people need to come to grips with the fact that there is indeed an unseen world that is very real and very dangerous.
On the other hand, others seem to believe Satan is behind every calamity in their life. They are constantly rebuking, binding or casting out Satan, or blaming him for their sin when instead they ought to be taking greater responsibility for their actions. These people need to understand that unlike God, the devil is not omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent. He must work through a limited number of fallen angels that the Bible calls demons. Because of this, I suspect few of our temptations are directly from him, though we may experience the disruptive work of his demons.
But Jesus is personally attacked by the devil himself. Satan doesn’t delegate this job to demons; he doesn’t sit back and rely on others to trip Jesus up; he isn’t satisfied to let isolation and hunger do its number on Jesus. He attacks personally and with the full force of the most potent weapons at his disposal. This fire is hot!
Jesus is attacked very personally. The devil must have been at Jesus’ baptism because the focus of his challenge is Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. The voice from heaven had said, “You are my Son,” and the first two temptations begin with, “So if you are the son of God.” Again and again, Satan hits Jesus at the very core of His being. If you are the Son of God, prove it. Prove that what has been said about you is true. He tests Jesus’ worthiness to be the Messiah. The fire is getting hotter.
Jesus is tempted to the point of suffering. (Heb 2:18) Remember what Hebrews says about Jesus’ temptation? “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:17-18) Jesus’ temptations were real. Don’t ever think otherwise. They reflect genuine, gut-wrenching conflicts, not merely a role that Jesus acts out with a prearranged outcome. He felt the struggle. He experienced the rush of adrenalin and the voice that says, “Just do it, no one will see, no one will know!”
Some of us, sadly, don’t know much about suffering from temptation. We just give in. We’re like the guy who bragged, “I can resist anything but temptation.” But when you resist, when you struggle, when you fight against the powers of darkness, it results in real suffering. The fire is getting white hot.
Jesus experiences the full range of human temptation. (Heb 4:14-15) It appears that the devil tempts Jesus throughout the forty days he is in the wilderness in ways we are not told. But as the time draws to a close, the temptations reach their zenith in the three temptations revealed in our text.
I think the first temptation is best seen as a simple and straightforward temptation to meet one’s basic needs apart from God. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” He had the power to do that, and a sandwich would have tasted mighty good on the 39th day of a fast. Furthermore, on the surface, there is nothing evil about wanting a sandwich. There is no Old Testament law that required Jesus to fast for 40 days. He could have ended his fast early without sinning.
But the key may be found in Paul’s profound insight in Phil. 2: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil 2:5-7) To take back the powers He had voluntarily abandoned to meet his own needs at the behest of Satan would be turning His back on the purpose for which He came. He must not meet legitimate needs in an illegitimate way.
The second temptation is the solicitation to seize power on one’s own apart from God’s promise and provision. After showing Him all the kingdoms of the world the evil one says to Jesus, “If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” This was a genuine offer because Satan is temporarily the Ruler of this World. In fact, he is offering Jesus a really good deal—a short cut. He’s offering glory without suffering. It would be very tempting to accept the crown without the cross, to wear a crown of gold without first wearing a crown of thorns.
And the third temptation is for Him to demand miraculous protection where it is not needed. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here (the pinnacle of the temple).” Then Satan has the gall to quote Scripture about the promises of God to protect His people. “If you are going to take up the cross, Jesus, you better be sure God is going to protect you. Go ahead. Make sure he can be trusted before you go any farther. Take a swan dive from 40 stories. The Bible says God will catch you.”
The promises of God are real, but they are not intended to be used to test God. They are there to rely on Him when unavoidable circumstances put us in danger. Snake handling is not faith; it is foolishness.
I think it is important for us to realize that these are just three of many temptations that Jesus faced before, during and after this event. Hebrews 4 says: “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are . . .” As hard as it may be to comprehend, Jesus experienced the entire range of temptations you and I experience.
He was tempted to ignore his obligations as a son and as an employee.
He was tempted to take revenge for wrongs.
He was tempted to lust.
He was tempted to covet and envy.
He was tempted to indulge his senses.
He was tempted to abuse good things God has provided.
He was tempted to benefit himself at the expense of others.
The fire has reached its zenith, but the purpose of a crucible is not to burn things up; it is to purify them. And so we see
The purified product. Jesus never yields. Each of the devil’s temptations are alternative choices to doing the will of God, but in each temptation, Jesus chooses to keep His life and His mind in alignment with God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures. To each of Satan’s attempts He goes straight to the Word of God.
It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone.”
It is written, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”
It says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Jesus’ knowledge of and commitment to the Scriptures saved His bacon. And that’s what Psalm 119:9 promises, doesn’t it? “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” That works for young men, but also young women. It works for children. It works for geezers and geezerettes. It worked for Jesus our Brother.
But friends, the key is not just memorizing Scripture so you have a verse you can whip out on a moment’s notice. Jesus is also filled with the Holy Spirit. At His baptism Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. (3:21). Then in 4:1, Luke tells us that Jesus was not only led by the Spirit but that he was “full of the Holy Spirit.” God had given the Holy Spirit to Jesus to empower him for living in obedience to his will. And that same Holy Spirit is given as a gift to us, to every person who turns from themselves to Jesus in repentance and faith. The Holy Spirit is given to us for the same reason. He empowers us to live our lives in accordance with God’s will.
Well, after 40 days, the Bunsen burner is turned off. Look at verse 13, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” The struggle isn’t over, because the devil only leaves temporarily. Jesus will face him many more times in the 3 ½ years of His earthly ministry. But the showdown in the desert is over. The pattern of obedience to the will of God through the Word of God has been established and it will serve Jesus well throughout His ministry.
The Significance. Let me ask you a question. What was this all about? What hangs in the balance? What is at risk? What would have happened if Jesus had given in? What’s at risk is the souls of people. We hang in the balance. If Jesus caves, it’s over. If Jesus stumbles, the New Testament ends right here. We are left to rely for eternity on a good person like Gandhi or Mother Theresa, or worse, yet, on our own feeble efforts. We don’t have a Savior. But Jesus doesn’t stumble.
Conclusion: I close where I started today, with the book of Hebrews. Listen carefully to Heb. 4:14-16: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
In closing this morning, the truth I want to focus upon, more than any of the other marvelous truths in this passage, is the continuing intercession for us in heaven by our Brother, Jesus. Many Christians have a pretty good understanding of what Christ has done for us in the past through His death on the cross, and also of what He will do for us in the future when He comes again in power and great glory. But they are not so clear about what He is doing for us today.
Christ died to save you, but He also lives to keep you. It is because of His continuing work of intercession that we are sustained through every pressure, kept through every temptation, encouraged through every persecution, and will eventually be brought triumphantly into glory.
Do you have a special prayer warrior who remembers you daily? I do. It’s an amazing comfort and encouragement! But Mom is 98 and one of these days soon her work of intercession will be over. But the intercession of Christ will never end. The prophet Isaiah paints a beautiful word picture for us when he asks, “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16, NLT)
Prayer: Father, thank you that we have a praying, interceding friend and Brother, who not only gave His life for us, but also lives to intercede for us. His sacrifice is utterly acceptable to you, his contact with you is immediate and unbroken, His priestly ministry on our behalf is never-ending, therefore, the salvation which He secures for us is absolute and secure. Amen.
Baptism of Jesus
Temptation of Jesus
Genealogy of Jesus