In Matthew 4, Jesus goes out into the wilderness.
We know this story well. They teach it to us when we are children as both a warning of Satan's manipulative ways and an example of Jesus' strength and trust in God. We are taught about how Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which the devil tested Him by demanding He prove He was truly the Son of God. Our story ends with Jesus saying "away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'worship the Lord your God and serve him only'" (Matthew 4:10). Our story always ends here, but it shouldn't; and it doesn't, because in the same paragraph, Matthew 4:11 notes that following the confrontation, "the Devil left [Jesus], and the angels came and attended him."
We skip over this incredibly important line because it seems obvious; of course the angels came and attended to Jesus, God's one and only Son. How nice of them to visit Him following such a triumph. I have heard so many preachers brush off this significant line as a jovial anecdote; they conjure up images of Jesus eating a big dinner after such a long time of fasting, his cup overflowing, smiling and laughing with his pals; as if one of the angels is Antoni from Queer Eye, whipping up fresh avocado toast for everyone. But this wasn't a moment of celebration; this was a moment of restoration.
We forget that Jesus was fully human. Hebrews 2:14 says, "since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity." The only way for Jesus to break the power of death was to live the perfect life, but He had to do so fully human. In the Bible we consistently see Jesus embracing His humanity. In Matthew 3 He is baptised by John in the cold waters of the Jordan river alongside His fellow men. In Matthew 8:10 He marvels at the words of a faithful centurion, overcome by wonder. When the sister of His deceased friend meets Him, He weeps alongside her. Right before His death on the cross, He is nervous; He asks his friends to stay with him, and He wishes for another way. John Calvin wrote, "Christ put on our feelings along with our flesh,” and he truly did.
Jesus was a fully emotive human being. He was both mighty saviour and man, above this world and yet part of this world. He may have lived the perfect life, but that did not mean that His life was perfect. He was the perfect example of how to live in an imperfect world. He cheered on his friends, he challenged people to be better, and he wept. He felt every beautiful, wild moment of life on earth completely. He felt every heartbreak, every ray of sunshine, every single nail.
So after 40 days and 40 nights, after being tempted by a devil, our strong and mighty saviour was embraced by the angels and they attended Him. We do not get any indication of what this moment looked like, but I like to imagine it was like returning home for just a moment. With the angels, Jesus was surrounded by heaven's majesty; a privilege He sacrificed to come to earth and save us. I like to imagine this as a tender moment; of Jesus being fed physically, emotionally and spiritually. Of him being embraced by those heavenly hosts who love Him and worship Him.
Why is all of this this important? The reason is twofold.
We cannot forget that after the wilderness, the angels attended to Jesus; just as our God will attend to us and we, the church, need to attend to others. Recognise not only the spiritual needs of those around you, but the physical and emotional needs of those around you. We must do everything we can to attend to those around us so that they may experience the love of Christ. January is mental health awareness month. As a church, let's commit to actively attend to the emotional needs of our brothers and sisters. Let's not just tell people to pray; let's come alongside them and make sure they are attended to, just as the angels did for Jesus.
We’re all only human, after all.
This story is also important because by recognising the humanity of Jesus, we can better recognise that He truly lived and died for all of humanity. God loves every single one of us SO MUCH that He sent His one and only Son to us so that the veil would be torn and we could be reunited with our saviour. We have been extended such an incredible grace, and with it, a responsibility. We do not get to pick and choose who Jesus came to save. We do not get to decide who Jesus sacrificed Himself for, because He was very explicit: His sacrifice was for all of us.
In the second half of Matthew 4, Jesus calls his disciples to join him and they drop everything to do so. There is no hesitation. He begins to preach and news of his miracles and teaching spread across Syria. People come to him and he heals them; all of them. There is no limit or prejudice to his miracles. He is simply there to save all who declare God their King.
Don't be afraid of the wilderness; you will be attended to.