While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called "the Baptizer," was preaching in the desert country of Judea.
His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: "Change your life. God's kingdom is here."
John and his message were authorized by Isaiah's prophecy: Thunder in the desert! Prepare for God's arrival! Make the road smooth and straight!
John dressed in a camel-hair habit tied at the waist by a leather strap. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild field honey.
People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action.
There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life.
When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: "Brood of snakes! What do you think you're doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference?
It's your life that must change, not your skin!
And don't think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen.
What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it's deadwood, it goes on the fire.
"I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama - compared to him I'm a mere stagehand - will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.
He's going to clean house - make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."
Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him.
John objected, "I'm the one who needs to be baptized, not you!"
But Jesus insisted. "Do it. God's work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism." So John did it.
The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God's Spirit - it looked like a dove - descending and landing on him.
And along with the Spirit, a voice: "This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life."
Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it.
Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger,
which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: "Since you are God's Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread."
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth."
For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said,
"Since you are God's Son, jump." The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: "He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone."
Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: "Don't you dare test the Lord your God."
For the third test, the Devil took him on the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth's kingdoms, how glorious they all were.
Then he said, "They're yours - lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they're yours."
Jesus' refusal was curt: "Beat it, Satan!" He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."
The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus' needs. Teaching and Healing
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)