The Honor Challenge


“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  Matthew 4:1

This is amazing stuff!  Every day, just more and more amazing stuff to learn and to see and live in!  Here I am, only travelling as far as the next verse in Scripture and I’m wowed again!  Jesus, King of kings, absolute holy One even as man, submits to the baptism of repentance before all.  Why?  For God’s honor.  This is what pleases God.  This kind of heart resembles the heart of God.  This lifestyle, this behavior brings glory to God.  So Jesus stands up for the righteousness of God by humbling Himself in baptism before men and God.  And God announces that this is pleasing to Him.  That when Jesus upholds God’s honor before heaven and earth, it is absolutely beautiful to Him and worthy of praise to the one honoring Him.  Yes, this is how His beloved Son acts because this is how His beloved Son feels about His Father.  And this is the kind of life and attitude toward God and before people that brings pleasure to the heart of God.  So what comes next?

Immediately after Jesus honors God publicly with His attitude, life, and actions, the Spirit leads Him into the wilderness.  I notice that Jesus didn’t lead Himself there.  He was led by the Spirit.  That Greek word “anago” for “led” is a passive word.  That means that someone else, not Jesus, was doing the leading.  Here he was at the water and then the Spirit leads him up, truly up in elevation, to the wilderness.  This is God taking charge of Jesus’ direction.  Jesus is just following or coming along.  God is directing and Jesus is allowing Him to direct.  God is sovereign in all of Jesus’ life.  Why?  Because Jesus knows that this whole story of His life is not about Him but about the glory and power of His Father.  At the baptism, God made known the glory and power of His Son.  But this shows how Jesus will use that power.  It’s not a temptation, it’s a test.  How will Jesus use His power?  What is the purpose of His power?  What’s the purpose of Jesus?

Here Jesus is being led by the Spirit up into the wilderness.  Why?  To be tempted by the devil.  “Peirazo”, the Greek word for tempted, means “to be tested.”  And it’s culturally during Jesus’ time period not about “moral trials of conscience,” but it is actually about challenging God’s honor here.  That’s what the devil always does.  He challenges God’s honor.  It’s what he did in the garden with Adam and Eve and it’s what he’s trying to do all the time in our lives.  And it’s what he wanted to do with Jesus.  This test has a lot to do with courage and fidelity to God.

Courage and fidelity to patrons was highly esteemed by the Greeks.  Cicero himself defined courage as “the quality by which one undertakes dangerous tasks and endures hardships.”  And this courage was to be applied toward your patron!  So during this time period in history, the Greeks esteemed something called “honor challenges.”  Here, someone would try to “smear” the honor of a patron.  The servant was to uphold his patron’s honor.  If he failed, his patron’s honor was “smeared.”  But if he was victorious, then the patron was glorified and the servant was successful.

That’s exactly what is getting ready to happen here in the wilderness.  This is an honor challenge.  God’s honor is being challenged by Satan.  Jesus, the Servant, must uphold the honor of His Patron.  Will He?  So it’s not really about resisting sin here, but it is all about upholding the honor of God.  Does that change how I view the trials and tests and “bad” situations in my life?  What if I saw myself being led by the Spirit into honor challenges just like Jesus?  Would that change how I handle anything?  What if it’s more than about me resisting sin?  What if it has to do with me upholding Your honor, God?

So, if Jesus wasn’t at the heart or the center of this battle, if Your honor was, then what does that mean for me?  Maybe it’s not about me when I’m in a battle or in the midst of testing and difficulties.  Maybe I need to remember that it’s really all centered on You.  Skip Moen states, “The battle is between God’s honor and the devil’s arrogance–and you are the playing field where the battle rages.”  I’m going to be put to the test, both physically and mentally, just like You, Jesus, because the devil wants to diminish God’s honor still.

Will I, like Jesus, uphold God’s honor by my faithfulness and fidelity no matter the hardship or challenge I face?  How well do I know my Patron and His own words and heart that I may defend Him and uphold Him by them?  Will I depend totally on His spoken word and will?  Would I be victorious in an honor challenge?  To be so, would be to be worthy of praise.

See, Jesus was declaring war on our enemy and the enemy of God.  Honor challenges are a test of humility.  Just like Jesus, we can’t answer the challenge in our own strength.  We have to accept the challenge in the strength and power of God, by His words and His ways.  I have to humble myself to the absolute truth and power of Your words, God.  And I have to humble my self to obey them and You.  And I must expect to be entered in honor challenges, time and time again.  This is how I grow in faith.  And this is how You are glorified before the angels, even the fallen ones, and mankind.  This is how You refine me.  This is what Jesus went through for Your glory.  And Jesus Himself told us, “Just as the Father has sent me, so am I sending You.”

I am not exempt from the “trials” of Christ.  I have entered into them.  It’s how I’m sent, just like You, Jesus.  This is part of God’s refining me.  This is how I become victorious at honoring You.  What’s suitable for the Son, is more than suitable for me.  You are in charge and I submit to that, to You.  More than anything I want You to have Your way in me as You draw me closer to You.


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