The One Who Succeeds Where Others Fail

Why Jesus is My Hero #4 of 52

We all know that sinking feeling of an opportunity missed. I’m not much of a sports fan, but I ended up watching a bit of the Six Nations rugby yesterday – in sports you’re forever getting your hopes up as you see someone making a break from the opposing players, your heart is in your mouth with anticipation as they run towards the line, you’re convinced they’re going to make it, and then AGH! they’ve lost the ball and all yours hopes are dashed.


They Bible is full of moments where God’s people have an opportunity to do something amazing, and our sense of anticipation makes us read on with baited breath to see what’s going to happen. Then time and time again we find ourselves disappointed. Yet the fact that it keeps on happening somehow never seems to dampen our expectations that this time they’re going to get it right. From the very first moments of Genesis we find Adam & Eve facing such an opportunity – they’re living in the Garden of Eden in relationship with God, walking with him and enjoying all his good gifts. It’s paradise – surely these are a people with an amazing future ahead of them. But only a few verses later we find ourselves bitterly disappointed as Adam fails to obey the command God gave him and he eats of the fruit that Eve offers him. He could have been the ruler of the world as God’s ambassador, and yet he chose to throw it all in in a vain attempt to be god himself.

History repeats itself in the book of Numbers, as Israel are on the verge of entering the promised land – it’s the moment where it feels like we’re about to get back to Eden. God’s people back into God’s place, in relationship with God. And once more our hopes are dashed as they chose to disobey God and doubt his goodness, and as a result they’re forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years until that generation has completely died out.

What wonderful breath of fresh air it is then when we reach Luke chapter 4. Luke sets us up for two simultaneous rounds of Bible Top Trumps: his genealogy at the end of Chapter 3 names Jesus as “the son of Adam, the son of God”, so Jesus is presented both as a second Adam and as a second Israel (rather than necessarily being a reference to his divinity, the language of “the son of God” can also be used as a reference to the nation of Israel, God’s “firstborn son”). As the Spirit leads him out into the wilderness to be tempted, Jesus is about to face the same test that Adam faced in the garden of Eden and that Israel faced on the edge of the promised land. Will he manage to succeed where they failed, or will he be just another disappointment in a long line of disappointments?

As Luke narrates Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, it’s thrilling to see this character responding to the Devil’s seductive offers. Just as the serpent offered Adam & Eve the chance to be independent of God, knowing and deciding good and evil for themselves instead of having to listen to God’s commands, so Satan offers Jesus the authority and glory of the nations, if he’ll only worship him. And yet, at exactly the point where Adam & Eve failed the test, Jesus stands firm: where Adam & Eve doubt God’s word (“on the day you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall surely die”) Jesus believes God’s word (“It is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve'”). At exactly the point where Israel doubted God’s provision, complaining about their lack of food and water in the wilderness, Jesus trusts in God’s goodness, knowing that “man shall not live by bread alone”.

Where humanity stubbornly and sinfully rejects God’s word, Jesus is the one man who consistently obeyed his Father’s voice. That’s why we need a hero like him – our new representative, our second Adam.