This is an excerpt from the eBook I’m working on. For those of you reading each week, I’m making my way through the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ life. This is the next chronological event and is based on the truth of the Scriptures. It’s an imaginative, artistic rendering of Jesus to, hopefully, inspire hearts, and help us to apprehend new perspective to things we’ve heard over and over.
Let the wonder and majesty of Jesus’ life, His coming to us, take hold more deeply and truly in our hearts and minds.
Hope you enjoy!
7 – Triumph in the Desert
“If you are the Son of God . . .”
An angel of God, personal guardian of Jesus . . .
It mystified us when the Most High forsook his almighty power, glory, beauty and majesty. It’s impossible to describe this thing he did. Our Maker, while human, knew we were near, even though he did not see us or converse with us, nor did he ask us directly for anything. He could have.
The fact that he needed us to protect him?—this was unthinkable.
He became lower than us, his created angelic host who worship him continually. He emptied himself to be like those he had created and whom he loved to the point of foolishness. Love that is so strong it makes one act crazy.
I say this because it’s true. The whole affair astounded us . . . how Jesus held his true glory, within, hidden in a way even from himself.
Even by human standards, for thirty years, he remained ordinary. Except for the last three years of his life, he did little to cause anyone to take notice of him. He gave new meaning to the word humble.
Not privy to his plans, short term or long, he continued to baffle us; we adored him more and more for what we watched him do. He lived a good, beautiful life—in a large family. But we wondered if he would live this way forever. We missed him as our Sovereign—and we wanted so much to be seen and known by him—like before.
I remember the day the Spirit led him into the wilderness of Judea’s harshest terrain. The scene went like this:
I kept right in step with my Lord, but questioned his behavior and said so when Michael joined us. This was after Jesus had trekked up most of a small mountain.
Michael was still in awe of Jesus’ baptism. It had profoundly touched all us. I had passed from joy into worry, because I watched him head directly into the wild and without sufficient clothing … no food, water … how would he manage out here? What was he thinking? Why now?
I blurted out to Michael that this was the first time Jesus had put himself in imminent danger.
I continued my questioning aloud: “Will he rely on supernatural powers against the elements, the wild animals, lack of food? He appointed me to guard him, but this— ”
“He is being driven out here by the Holy Spirit,” Michael interrupted. “There was a meeting in heaven.”
I waited to hear more.
“Lucifer came. He had his strongest ones with him. They came to settle something with the Most High. It could have been war again.”
“And?” I felt uneasy.
“Jesus will meet Lucifer—out here some place,” Michael said.
I shook my head at the news. “I won’t let Lucifer anywhere near him.”
“We will allow it,” Michael said. “Orders. Jesus is to be tested—as a man of faith.”
I gazed at the back of Jesus as he climbed, then glanced at Michael. “Of faith? We are talking about our Maker.”
Michael explained, “Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Joseph, David—spiritual testing precedes spiritual greatness. Adam and Eve failed. As their offspring, their ‘seed,’ Jesus must not fail. The children of Israel also failed their test in the wilderness, but Jesus cannot.”
I grew more nervous.
“The Most High explained these things to us after the meeting in heaven. As a human being, Jesus must overcome the power of sin. Our fallen brother, Satan, he will be here—and he’ll wait until Jesus is weak.”
Moving away from Michael to follow closer behind my Lord, I called back: “Jesus was, is, and will always be, holy! What do you mean by ‘weak?””
“Let’s stay close to him,” Michael said. “I don’t know what to expect.”
I realized that the desert would now become the testing ground for Jesus, just as it had been for Israel during their sojourn in the wilderness. They had failed in the desert—failed miserably. I couldn’t imagine Jesus failing at anything. Certainly, he would be faithful like David—who lived years in this same harsh wilderness while Saul sought to kill him. But, what if he did fail? What would happen then?
Michael guessed my thoughts. “He knows what he is doing.” Then he touched me, adding, “There is something more.”
“What?” I was thankful for Michael’s encouragement, but what else did he have to tell me?
“We can do nothing to help him during his testing.”
I remembered when the Lord had told us in heaven that there would come a time in his earthly life when we would want to step in and help him. He made us promise to be obedient and let things happen.
“Is this the time about which he warned us?” I voiced to Michael.
He shrugged. God had left this hidden from us. Why, we couldn’t imagine.
On the fortieth day of Jesus’ fast and stay in the desolate land, Lucifer came. I sensed his approach from behind. Jesus was seated on a flat shelf of rock that was warm from the morning sun. Jesus had shivered in the desert cold all night long.
“Who do we have here?” Lucifer addressed me first, but his eyes were fixed on Jesus. Jesus couldn’t hear him, of course.
“God, the Son? Quite a transformation! Why . . . this is too good to be true!”
My fallen brother laughed an evil laugh and I moved closer to Jesus.
He continued his one-sided dialogue with me. “Is this His Holiness, now a creature of earth? Amazing.”
I couldn’t speak. I wanted to fight.
“Step aside,” Lucifer demanded of me. He knew I could do nothing. Michael stepped up beside me.
Lucifer shook his head at us, gloating with a crooked smile. “Watch me, if you want. I’m about to let him know I’m here.”
At that moment, Jesus bent over folded arms to hold his stomach. His face held pain. He searched the ground and found two round rocks with his eyes. He rose up and went to them, picked them up and returned to sit, holding one in each hand.
Lucifer leaned close to his ear and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.
Jesus looked up with a startled expression.
He threw the rock to the ground and said out loud, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God!’”
I was beside myself. I began to pace around Lucifer and Jesus in a wide circle, close enough to see everything, far enough to obey orders. Michael called to me, “Get back! Leave them.”
Lucifer grinned at us, shaking his head.
I called back to Michael, “I can’t leave him—not now!”
Lucifer looked at me with such arrogance I nearly sprang at him. He said, “I think I’ll share a few words with him in person now.” He laughed again and said, “Fool, he doesn’t even know you exist. He can’t even see you.”
It was a cruel blow, for Lucifer managed to hit on the one thing I longed for the most.
“He chose me to be his closest companion and protector.”
“Yes, he needs one of those,” Lucifer mocked.
Jesus must have sensed Satan’s presence near him. He went from sitting to kneeling and bowed his head in prayer.
“He knows I’m here. I might as well let him see me.”
Immediately, Lucifer, the Satan of evil, appeared to Jesus in the form of a handsome man—a man with the look of power and authority. And, for a moment or two, it seemed as if Jesus knelt in front of Satan until, seeing him, Jesus stood.
Now, face-to-face, Satan laughed at Jesus.
In response, Jesus peered back into cold eyes. He did not appear frightened or even unnerved by the evil one.
Satan looked away from him and stepped back. Dressed as a Jewish man of affluence, with hands on hips, he said, “Son of Man, I have something to show you.”
In an instant, they both disappeared.
“They are gone! Michael!” I called out. “Michael!”
After a lightning speed flight to heaven, the Most High informed us where we could find him—in Jerusalem at the temple.
Arriving there, we saw them close to the edge at the top of the temple’s pinnacle.
Satan waved at us and grinned.
We hovered in mid-air, ready to do whatever we might be forced to do.
“Why don’t you jump?” He said to Jesus. “Prove who you are.”
Jesus shook his head.
“Your guardians are here to catch you.”
Jesus’ eyes scanned the temple courts below. He loved the temple.
Satan put an arm around him and Jesus looked back at him. In a voice loud enough for us to hear him, Lucifer said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone!’”
Michael and I looked at each other with fright. Twice now, Satan had questioned Jesus regarding his identity.
It was just like Lucifer to come up with something as crafty and demeaning as this! The temple had been built for the glory of God; it was his dwelling place. But God dwelt now in the body of Jesus. To think that Satan would bring him here to demean and destroy him . . . we were outraged.
But we had no need to worry. Within moments, Jesus turned and looked directly at Satan and said, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
We sighed with relief. Jesus knew exactly who he was. Again, Satan took him away in an instant. This time, we did not follow, but we could see into the dimension where they’d gone. It was outside of time and place, but it was a real place nonetheless.
Satan took Jesus to a mountaintop, high above the earth itself. This dramatic ploy was Satan’s best. He offered Jesus the easy way to reclaim what he’d come for.
Projecting a vision, Satan declared: “All this I will give you.” Before Jesus’ eyes appeared all the kingdoms of the world: past, present, and future. Jesus seemed transfixed at the sight of these things … at everything the world had to offer, its splendor, its beauty and its power. When Satan ended the vision, he waited a few moments to let its impact sink in. Jesus seemed pensive.
Satan leaned close. “All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.”
With a repulsive look, and a commanding voice, the likes of which none of us had ever heard from him, he said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
As if lightning had struck, Satan disappeared in a flash. And, just like that, we were all three back in the desert. Jesus, Michael, and me.
Face down and semiconscious on the hard, dusty ground, at the place where Satan had first appeared, Jesus lay, and I was seated beside him. I gently turned the inert body over, laying Jesus’ shoulders and head on my lap. Looking down at his sleeping face, utter adoration filled me. I was in the form of a man, like him, and I was visible and present, as was Michael, who towered above us—standing guard I think .
In a place outside of time, just before we had returned to the desert, the Most High told us we could appear to Jesus to strengthen him. He had said, “My son has all of Heaven’s power and authority at his disposal. Nothing will be withheld from him.”
When Jesus awoke, he looked into my eyes. At first, he seemed frightened. He tensed. I knew he must think I was Satan, about to pull some new temptation on him.
I calmed him. “My Lord, Satan is gone.”
Jesus relaxed and closed his eyes. A smile spread across his face. He grimaced as a trickle of blood oozed from a new crack in his lips. I touched and healed it.
Jesus opened his eyes again. Mine was a gaze was worship. I whispered, “Do you know me?”
“He said my name then.” He said it softly with love.
“Yes. Oh, my Lord, you know me.” My heart overflowed with adoration for him..
We lingered this way awhile—Jesus’ head cradled in my lap. Michael brought a crystal cup of water, which he handed to Jesus. Other angels came with Heaven’s bread, like the bread that we’d once given to Elijah. Then we brought Jesus to a small waterfall in the mountains. It was a sheltered place near the Salt Sea. Here, in restful hiding, King David had written inspired praise songs when King Saul had sought to kill him. In the harshness of the desert, this refreshing place had provided Heaven’s help to Israel’s kings.
We stayed with Jesus and ministered to him until he was strong enough to return to the Jordan River. Whatever he was going to accomplish, we were certain he was in full command, even though he seemed weak.
Just imagine . . .
“If you are . . .”
Satan put this question to Jesus about his identity. Was it a matter yet to be proved, even to Jesus himself?
The first of three tests: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
There’s something familiar about this—they are similar to the words: “Eat the fruit of the tree, then you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” First Eve and then Adam had done so. They had failed their test and eaten. Here, now, was Jesus to redeem everything lost to Satan from that first act of sin.
Jesus replied to Satan that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. And he did not succumb to his own desires but waited in obedience to his Father.
From Heaven’s perspective, it was a big day. Imagine, as if you were there, what it might have been like. Can you picture it?
“Did you see that? My son, my son, he is obedient unto death!” God the Father exclaimed to everyone in heaven. “He will not fail in his mission. Truly, my son, he is the Bread of Life!”
Atop the pinnacle of the temple, the second test came after translating Jesus there.
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
“Oh blessed day!” A trumpet sounded with Elohim’s shout of happiness. “My son, my son! Did you see that, you angels, did you hear what he said? Although he has humbled himself and lives by faith, as do all men on the earth, yet he knows who he is! He cares not for the opinion of others, but for mine alone. He will save all the fallen! Do you see my son? He is one in my Spirit, whose goodness, beauty, and glory fills my temple!”
And then the third test came. The devil took Jesus, within or outside of the dimension of time and place isn’t known, but he brought Jesus to the summit of a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.”
It was actually his to give.
Now this was perhaps the hardest of all three tests. How very tempting to bypass all the work, the pain, to bypass the torturous cross! How easily Jesus could gain what he’d come to reclaim. But there was not a moment’s hesitation and his tone held utmost authority when he gave the command: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
And his heavenly Father sang in triumph a wondrous blessing upon his son, “You hold all power and authority both of heaven and earth. You, my son, are my voice, my hands, my heart! Go and win human inheritance back from the Prince of darkness!”
After the devil left Jesus, angels came to revive him. They gave him heavenly bread to eat. They soothed his weary soul and told him that his Father was pleased, and that he held all authority of heaven and earth in his hands. Isn’t that amazing?
What a wonder . . .
Isn’t it incredible to consider that Jesus was tested like we are? That is how very far God came to reach out to take us by the hand, to lead us safely home. He put himself in harm’s way, to suffer just as we suffer, to be tried, just as we are. And, in him, we triumph against the evil that comes against us.
It’s really a wonder that Jesus had to go through a time of testing at all. God doesn’t enjoy the deserts any more than we do. He’d prefer to spend time with us in the Edens of our love with him. But in the times of the desert, our love is proven and made strong—just as it was for Jesus.
The Scriptures say that the Holy Spirit led Jesus to go there. It was so hard for him that angels were sent to minister to him after his ordeal. Jesus is the hero of heroes.
Heaven and angels, the unseen world, the spiritual world, existed before our world. And on this dramatic stage, we must realize that this is all very real. God is telling an amazing story, one we are caught up in; one day we will see King Jesus, and he will sit on a real throne.
“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
Now and then people have been allowed to catch glimpses of the unseen world. Throughout the Scriptures there are some who have seen and described heaven, God’s throne, the witnesses in heaven, the city, even the Lord himself. God has created a domain that includes myriads of angels, and they exist in a kind of hierarchy with specific duties and purposes. His glory and majesty is a subject of their awe and wonder.
But to think Jesus gave up so much—to show us his love—won’t it be thrilling to see him in glory with his angels?
Journal Exercise . . .
We are ever reaching. We must discover who we are in God and our hearts ask, “Who am I? Why am I here?” These questions recur over and over in our lives. Also, we experience temptations that try to draw us away from God even in our searching.
Record in your journal what you have learned and experienced while pondering Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Look back to times when you’ve experienced temptations, or times when you felt God let you fall through his fingers. Sometimes we live long enough to become thankful for those times. Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of it and cannot see clearly at all. Can you find a truth in Scripture to get you through the ordeal? Can you trust in God’s heart, even though you cannot see what his hand is doing—and he seems so far from you? In these times of testing and proving, we become just like Jesus. And, be aware, we are never alone. Angels are beside you and here to help and the Holy Spirit is inside of you.
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