LUKE 4:1

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness . . . 


Jesus is the name his Father in heaven gave him; and to the Hebrews, a name means everything.

What is known as the wilderness of Israel—the wild, unruly, and untamed barren land of this part of the world—is devoid of life, food, and water.

The wild was a dangerous place to be. Into the wilderness of testing, armed with only the name and vocation his Father had affirmed at his baptism, Jesus went.

Jesus. Humans need salvation. Look at what we do to ourselves, to one another. These hearts and their tears need resolve, drying, healing. We live. We love. We desire. We dream. We also kill. We hate. We lust. We create nightmares from our desire to shape the world according to our own designs. As Augustine explained it, our desires are disordered,1 and we fail ourselves and others when we try to live without a Savior at work within us.

Into this world, yours and mine, a Savior comes—a representative human. He models, in heart, in mind, in body, in purpose, what it means to live the truly good life. In his shining model, we see virtues that stand in stark contrast to the vices given sacred status by the world.

Jesus, the “Lord saves,” is the Savior given to us. He will face it all, all the horrors of the heart that we face as children of Adam and Eve, and will do it without breaking covenant with the Creator (Heb. 4:15). He will do, in his test in the wilderness, what Israel could not on its own.

Flesh and blood, Jesus moved in the world, grew up in a family, and became a young man. Then, in his thirties, he makes his move. Showing up at the baptismal waters of John, Jesus gets his business card from the Father.

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:21–22).

“You are my Son”—Jesus’s core identity and vocation is clear: to live as a Son in perfect covenant communion with his Father. Jesus knows who he is.

“Whom I love”—Jesus receives, at the beginning of his ministry, a word of affection and belovedness that will feed him the rest of his life. Jesus knows whose he is.

“With you I am well pleased”—Jesus receives an affirmation of his value before he has even done one miracle. Jesus knows why he is and what he must do that flows from it—he will not draw his sense of purpose from anything other than the Father’s love.

His vocation, his calling, his core identity, his essential nature, is blessed and secured by the Father.

After his time in the desert wild in Luke 4:18–20, he will stand to read the scroll of Isaiah and declare that the scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing. He will inaugurate the kingdom coming with this blessing and unveil it in his ministry.

But between Jesus’s baptism and kingdom proclamation from Isaiah lies the wild.

Jesus’s experience in the wild in Luke 4 is different from suffering or even just temptation. I was taught to conflate the two ideas of the wilderness and suffering, and though testing from all sides happens in all kinds of trials, the wild Jesus enters is a Spirit-led challenge on a field of battle into which he has been guided by the breath of God.

He has just had his name blessed, his belovedness settled, his intrinsic value affirmed in baptism (3:21–22). Now, that vocation, that belovedness, that sense of value—all established on covenant love with the Father—is about to be tested.

Tested? Does God test his people in the Bible? Did God test Abraham, Moses, his people Israel? Absolutely. The wild, the place of testing, can even be one we choose. Jesus is isolated and empty (fasting) by choice to face down the sinister voice that is about to tell him that everything God has said is untrue, and that there is a better way. Do you know that voice? I know that voice.

Jesus goes into the wild to face the enemy without the crowd or even his mother, Mary, to psych him up. It is him, full of the Holy Spirit, facing down the needling questions the enemy has prepared.

He will come out of this wilderness; we now know with the benefit of having the whole story laid before us. But for Jesus, there was no “next part of Luke” to read. He was going into a dangerous place where he would have to entertain the most basic, unsettling, and selfhood-challenging questions of his entire life. To be tested means we could fail.

Jesus will not fail.

And if he can face those questions down now as he goes into the wild, and answer them solidly for his own heart, he can walk the hard road ahead of him.


Lord of the Wild, we don’t choose to go places where danger might meet us. But in your story, we see the Spirit leading you into a place of risk and challenge. Give us the grace to be led by you into places that may challenge us, but that will also prove that faith is alive in our hearts. In Jesus’s name, amen.


Is there a wilderness you sense the Holy Spirit has led you into recently that is calling into question your faith and confidence in who God has called you to be? How are you doing so far?

For the Awakening,
Dan Wilt

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1. Augustine, Confessions 4. 10.15.

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

5 Responses

  1. I believe that we, as members of one body, the Church, are currently being tested. That testing is to reveal whether or not we will choose to once again live counter culturally like the early church, or continue to reflect the secular culture around us. If an awakening is now truly in progress, then there will be visible, long term fruit; if there is fruit, then it will be tested to verify its authenticity.

  2. Life tests for Christians reveal our position in fear or faith. Consider the storm Jesus commanded to stop.
    Mark 4:40
    He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
    1 John 4:18
    There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
    2 Timothy 1:7
    For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

    We either operate in the spirit of fear (satan’s power) or the Holy Spirit (God’s love, power, Jesus).
    Either or.
    No middle ground.
    Staying 💪’n the Lord

  3. Recently I had been asking God for opportunities to interact more with people outside the safe pastures that kept me comfortable. I had need of healing and the Lord was faithful to get me there. While the woman he connected me with were awesome and are just what the great physician ordered, simultaneously HE was preparing me to be a sanctuary. The world is lost and dying without knowing it. We who are sheltered in His wings and are abiding in His shadow are so far removed from the world we in this comfort have become almost useless. I am in awe of what God is bringing to light here in these passages. Jesus in the wild. Is exactly where we are being called. The outpouring we’ve seen recently in the lives of those in their 20 something’s is the incubation, the womb of the next generation. We have little time left to reach those our age who are lost and in a fog of comfort and competitive nature. The next best vacation or remodeling project or the next upgrade of living in luxury while long term care facilities are full of lost and lonely souls. Lord prepare me YOU are. May the wild areas you are revealing to us be the chaos you, by Your Spirit will guide us to for our good, others gain and Your glory in eternity. Make me a blessing lead me in paths of righteousness for your great name.

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