“When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17)
“Then the tempter approached him and said, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3).
Jesus is our amazing prototype for how the Subdue and Rule Mandate should be exercised because of His absolute commitment to His Father’s will. More specifically, Jesus modeled perfect obedience to His Father’s will at His baptism and during His wilderness temptation. Therefore, a Jesus level of obedience is essential to subdue and rule properly. So let’s look at Jesus’ baptism and wilderness temptation for insights.
Jesus’ official ministry began with obedience when his Father revealed Him to Israel as God’s Son, i.e., Israel’s Messiah. As Daniel Boyarin points out in The Jewish Gospels, it was commonly understood that the term “Son of God” referred to Israel’s Messiah due to the connection between the two titles in Psalm 2:2, 6-7.
“The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One (messiah/Israel’s king, Psalm 2:2) and “‘I (God) have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ I will declare the Lord’s decree. He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’” (italics author).
Boyarin continues, “The bottom line of this demonstration is that early on, the term “Son of God” was used to refer to the Davidic king without any hints of incarnation of the deity in the king.” Also, the terminology of “father-son” is covenant language by which a conquering king declares his dominion over a vassal king, of whom he demands absolute loyalty and obedience.
John’s baptism was a typical ritual immersion to show that a person had repented from their sins against God and that they were returning to God’s covenant terms. John’s baptism didn’t wash away sin. It was only for those who had already turned from their sin. However, proving repentance and a heartfelt return to God wasn’t the Father’s purpose for Jesus at His baptism. Jesus had nothing of which to repent because He was already sinless.
According to Dr. Brad Young, “the one who desired baptism was required first to turn from sin and then approach the waters with a pure heart. Repentance prepared the way for baptism. In that regard, the pure life of Jesus was not a hindrance but rather a prerequisite for John’s baptism” (italics author).
The Father used John’s baptism to introduce Israel to her spiritually pure Messiah (John 1:31). Since Jesus was already spiritually qualified for the role, he obediently submitted Himself to John’s baptism “to fulfill all righteousness” because obedience was mandatory for His inauguration. Jesus accepted John’s baptism in submission to His Father’s will to show that His Father was sovereign over Him even though repentance was unnecessary.
Jesus’ baptism was His official presentation as His Father’s ultimate viceregent, Israel’s Davidic king, who would exercise His Father’s dominion over Israel on His behalf. Immediately after Jesus’ immersion, His Father declared Jesus His “vassal king,” who would serve Israel’s divine King with absolute loyalty and obedience. The Father’s “You are My Son” declaration acknowledged Jesus’ authority, and the Holy Spirit’s descent invested Jesus with power – the two essentials for God’s viceregent.
However, Jesus’ commitment to his Father’s will via covenant obedience would have to be tested before He was released into His mission to introduce God’s kingdom to the people of Israel and prepare them for its inauguration.
Jesus’ wilderness temptation coupled His submission to his Father’s will with how He would exercise dominion. The essence of Jesus’ temptation is similar to what Adam and Eve faced in Eden. Like Adam and Eve, Jesus’ Father granted viceregency to His “offspring” along with the corresponding authority and power to carry out their God-given assignment to exercise dominion over the earth. Both Jesus’ and the Couple’s temptations are the connecting point between them, and the question both parties faced in their temptations was the same, “Will you choose to exercise your dominion according to your Sovereign’s will or not?”
Adam and Eve were created as God’s son and daughter, installed as His viceregents (Genesis 1:28), and then tested by Satan (Genesis 3). At His baptism, Jesus was declared “God’s Son” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22), installed as God’s viceregent (over Israel and eventually the world), and then tested by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).
So, for fun, let’s compare the two temptation episodes.
In the Lust of the Flesh (Enjoy) category:
Adam/Eve – “Saw that the tree was good for food,” satisfy your need/desire outside of God’s will.
Jesus – “Turn these stones into bread,” satisfy your need/desire outside of Your Father’s will.
In the Lust of the Eyes (Obtain) category:
Adam/Eve – “Delightful to look at,” obtain the fruit that wasn’t allowed yet.
Jesus – “Throw yourself down,” obtain the recognition that wasn’t allowed yet.
And in the Pride of Life (Achieve) category:
Adam/Eve – “Desirable to make one wise,” achieve “god-like” status.
Jesus – “I will give you all these things (the kingdoms of the world and their splendor),” achieve the messianic goal of exercising God’s dominion over the nations.
The goal is the same in every temptation, but the two parties’ responses weren’t.
Their responses to their Sovereign King:
Adam and Eve denied God’s will and rebelled.
Jesus affirmed His Father’s will and obeyed.
As said before, Adam and Eve were meant to rule as kings over Eden and serve as priests to protect Eden against spiritual contamination. They were to do so not according to their wills but God’s will. Likewise, Jesus was to exercise dominion like a king over His God-given domain, in this case, His body and mission, and like a priest, protect both against spiritual contamination. Adam and Eve failed when they obeyed their own will over God’s, and Jesus triumphed when he obeyed His Father’s will over His own.
Let’s look at Jesus’ three temptations more closely.
The first temptation was an appeal to the flesh, i.e., to enjoy. Adam and Eve knew no hunger because God provided everything for them, yet just the desire for a particular food caused them to reject God.
On the other hand, Jesus’ wilderness temptation began after his forty-day fast. The stress of extreme hunger intensified His temptation, and this stress ramped up Jesus’ temptation far beyond the superficial aspect of enjoyment that Adam and Eve faced. Forty days of fasting brings on more than hunger pains, and fear of bodily harm and self-preservation also kick in.
Not long ago, I watched a friend fast food for forty days because he believed God told him to do so. I told him I thought his fast probably wasn’t from God since such extreme self-denial wasn’t wise for a man his age, and I suggested he pray about it more. I also asked him if he had talked to his doctor about his extreme fast, and he said no. That sent up even more red flags, but he went ahead anyway.
As the days passed, I watched his fast’s effects on his body. My friend isn’t frail by any means, and he seemed to be doing well after a week. However, over the following three weeks, I saw his body tissues shrink over his frame and his face become gaunt. Toward the fast’s end, his voice became hoarse, his eyelids drooped, and we could all see how weak he had become. I truly feared for his health and safety, and I can’t imagine the fear people experience during a famine.
The good news is that he came through his fast without any damage (that any of us know of) and regained his strength relatively quickly. His experience greatly affected how I view Jesus’ 40-day fast, especially in the Judean wilderness’s harsh hot, and dry climate.
Jesus’ fast was more than just a quest for spiritual focus. It was meant to place Jesus in a position to test His total commitment to His Father’s will and to prove His readiness for His mission. Despite His fast’s intensely physical, emotional, and spiritual trial, it still wouldn’t compare to what Jesus would face before and during His crucifixion.
Adam and Eve were tempted by forbidden food. Jesus’ temptation was driven by hunger and the desire-driven choice between obeying His will or His Father’s. His temptation was likely intensified by the “sweat of your brow” anxiety, the visceral fear that prompts our drive for self-preservation. It’s possible the Father used the 40-day fast to bring Jesus as close to His breaking point as possible to prove whether or not He would entrust His survival to His Father.
In the Judean wilderness, Satan faced a person on the edge. Satan’s goal was to entice Jesus into effectively nullifying His Father’s will by exerting His God-given will and dominion drive to turn stones into bread. If He had done so, Jesus would have disqualified Himself as God’s “image/imager,” just as Adam and Eve had.
After mulling this over, I think I understand more clearly why Jesus angrily rebuked some Pharisees for manipulating God’s word to satisfy their desires while nullifying His Father’s will in the process (Mark 7:13). They were doing what He would not.
Satan freely acknowledged Jesus as His Father’s viceregent. The Father had declared that just forty days earlier at Jesus’ baptism. Satan’s question, “If you are the Son of God,” should more accurately be translated, “Since you are the Son of God…”(Young). Jesus didn’t have to prove He was God’s Son, Israel’s Messiah, under His Father’s dominion. The question is, “Will God’s Messiah stay submitted to His Sovereign in all ways, especially under intense pressure?”
Satan’s question parallels how he tempted God’s original viceregents in Eden. Satan’s recognition of Jesus’ unique status shows that he knew Jesus carried humanity’s Subdue and Rule Mandate with its God-given authority and power. Therefore, the essence of Satan’s first temptation appears to have been a lure that exploited Jesus’ human need and fear. In fact, all three of Satan’s temptations were meant to goad Jesus into a “go ahead and exercise Your human dominion and divine power even if it violates Your Father’s will.”
If Jesus had succumbed, Satan would have retained his proxy dominion over the world he gained when God’s viceregents rebelled against their Sovereign God and submitted their irrevocable Subdue and Rule Mandate to Satan’s influence.
Jesus’ disobedience would have been His disqualification. But thankfully, His obedience supremely qualified Him and set the course for His earthly ministry and our ultimate restoration.
Satan’s second temptation appealed to the eyes, i.e., to obtain. In Adam and Eve’s case, the temptation was to obtain the fruit to reach a goal beyond what their Sovereign intended for them at that time – to be like the other elohim (supernatural beings, “gods”).
In Jesus’ case, Satan tempted Him to exercise His will to obtain recognition as God’s anointed king prematurely. Yes, it was His Father’s will to present Jesus as Israel’s king, which happened at Jesus’ baptism, and Jesus knew during His wilderness temptation that His destiny was to be recognized as Israel’s Messiah eventually. But his Father’s plan was “the cross before the crown.” The Father’s will for His Son was to accomplish His work through the power of a righteous life and message, not a spectacular display of credentials.
Furthermore, to presume upon His Father’s word is a display of arrogant dominion demanding that the King gives to His “inferior” what He has not yet granted. For Jesus to exercise dominion righteously, He needed to follow His Father’s will and strategy faithfully and precisely.
The essence of Satan’s second temptation was luring Jesus to obtain what his Father had already willed for Him prematurely. Adam and Eve fell for the shortcut to obtain God’s goal, but Jesus didn’t. Jesus’ trust in His Father proved a second time that He maintained dominion over His human desire to “obtain.”
Satan’s third temptation appealed to human pride, i.e., to achieve. In Adam and Eve’s case, they wanted to achieve wisdom and greater insight regarding good and evil to be more like the elohim (as the serpent said) instead of their more “limited” created state. Therefore, they exercised their dominion autonomously to achieve that wisdom by willfully overstepping their Sovereign’s boundary and taking hold of the one tree in creation that wasn’t part of their domain. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was solely God’s domain within humanity’s earthly domain.
In Jesus’ case, Satan tempted Jesus to achieve His Father’s ultimate goal for Him, to subdue and rule the entire world and its various human dominions as its preeminent king. However, Satan’s way for Jesus to achieve His global Messiahship was not sanctioned according to the Father’s will.
The Father’s priority was for His Son to redeem and restore humanity with Jesus’ ultimate mission to extend his Father’s dominion over all the earth forever (Daniel 2:44-45; Luke 1:32-33). Satan tempted Jesus with the right achievement but in the wrong way, at the wrong time, and against His Father’s will.
Satan also played off the post-Fall corruption of the Subdue and Rule Mandate. As explained before, humanity’s dominion command never included subduing and ruling other people as it was over the rest of creation. Humanity’s sole ruler was God Himself, and God’s command to subdue and rule intended for people to work shoulder to shoulder over creation.
Jesus is unique as to humanity’s Subdue and Rule Mandate. Because Jesus is God incarnate and his Father’s perfect “image” (the King’s proxy), He is in the unique position of exercising dominion over people just as His Father does. Therefore, when Jesus returns as Messiah, He will not only rule over creation and humanity, the King over God’s never-ending kingdom (Daniel 2:44-45; Matthew 25:31; Revelation 12:5; 19:11-16), but Jesus will also rule alongside His fellow human beings. For example, the disciples (Matthew 19:28) and “he who overcomes” (Revelation 3:21).
So, the essence of Satan’s third temptation was an appeal to Jesus’ pride as the eventual and ultimate ruler of all his Father’s world, including people. But had Jesus sought dominion in Satan’s way, He would have lost what Satan was offering him anyway, which was humanity with its Subdue and Rule Mandate.
Jesus’ baptism and temptation accounts show He prevailed where Adam and Eve failed by firmly and continually obeying God’s will over their own. Submitting one’s will to God’s will is essential for exercising the dominion mandate correctly and righteously. Jesus chose not to disobey or act presumptuously for self-gratification, self-interest, or self-achievement. Jesus’ perfect and Father-affirmed life proved He remained yielded to His Father’s dominion and could exercise absolute dominion over the first and most crucial part of God’s creation – His human will. We can’t rightfully exercise dominion without first being under God’s dominion. Since Jesus was firmly committed to His Father’s will, His Father could entrust Him to exercise dominion at will because their wills were synced.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit
Jesus also proved to be the Father’s prototype of the New Covenant person for subduing and ruling creation via the required power of the Holy Spirit and absolute obedience to God’s Law/Torah. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus at His presentation/baptism. Jesus relied on the Torah to guide Him through His testing (Luke 4:1). Jesus truly is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, “I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:27).
Having passed the wilderness temptations, Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). From that point onward, Jesus began His work of exercising dominion as He demonstrated the kingdom of God “with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).
Aside from the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power, which corresponds with the Father’s will, our natural God-given powers and abilities must also be submitted to His will. Otherwise, when we assert our drive to control and manage things, we risk hurting ourselves and others if not done righteously.
Jesus is the model of the New Covenant person, especially regarding the Subdue and Rule Mandate. Jesus’ New Covenant provides the way to regenerate our human natures and prepare us to properly rule as God’s viceregents, equipped with legitimate authority and power to exercise God’s dominion on earth.
So, what does it mean for people to subdue and rule the earth? As God’s proxies, we follow His example. What did God do in the beginning? He created (Genesis 1:1), He shaped (Genesis 2:8), and then maintained creation (via His agents, Genesis 2:15). Through human reproduction, we take part in creating more people. As God’s viceregents, we address the world around us to bring order, shape it to our liking and others’ benefit (subdue), and maintain what we’ve accomplished (rule). Our dominion should be exercised just as our Heavenly Father, our King, would.
In Exodus 34, God gave Moses a clearer revelation of Himself by proclaiming His name, which revealed some of His primary attributes. That list powerfully illustrates how God wants us to subdue and rule properly. Since we’re to fulfill our mandate in line with God, then according to that list, we’re to be merciful, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to all, and forgiving those who rebel and sin against us intentionally or by accident (Exodus 34:6-7, italics author).
As His Father’s prototype for His New Covenant re-created people, Jesus showed us how to exercise our God-given dominion over creation and alongside other people. To learn that, we need to look more closely at how Jesus used His dominion, authority, and power and how He did not.
Boyarin, Daniel. The Jewish Gospels, The Story of the Jewish Christ
Young, Brad H. Jesus the Jewish Theologian
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts
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