Jesus Christ, the Last Adam
Luke 4:1-14 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil.
And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”
Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.
Jesus Christ is called the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), of whom the first Adam was a type (Romans 5:14-21).
“Adam” speaks not only of an individual person, but as the representative of all mankind. The first Adam did what we all do, or what we would all have done had we been in the same situation as he. The first Adam fell and allowed sin to come into the world. It has often been said, “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” 1
Adam was created in God’s image, but that image was marred through sin. His role was to fulfill God’s plan for the entire human race—to be the visible demonstration of what it means to be truly human. Then Genesis 3 happened, and true humanity as God intended was ruined.
Jesus Christ also was/is in the image of God. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), but was entirely free from sin. Whereas the first Adam failed to fulfill God’s intentions for true humanity, Jesus Christ perfectly succeeded. Now, as we consider what it means to be truly human, we must look upon Jesus. He is not only the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), but also the image of the ideal man. Since the true believer is in Christ, and Christ is in the true believer, the recapturing of the ideal man is made possible. We have been freed from the guilt of sin, we are being freed from the power of sin, and one day we shall be entirely freed from the presence of sin. All of this is because of Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
The great comparisons and contrasts between the first Adam and the last Adam are profoundly illustrated in the account of the wilderness temptations of Christ.
When tempted, Adam was in paradise, in a perfect garden called Eden. Jesus, when tempted, was in the Judean wilderness.
Adam was directly tempted on one occasion; Jesus was tempted for 40 days. His temptations culminated with the three temptations we read about in the gospels.
Adam was able to eat freely from every tree in the garden, so presumably, he was not hungry. Jesus had eaten nothing for 40 days, and was beginning to feel the pangs of hunger which signal the beginning of the starvation process.
Adam was tempted in three specific areas. He was tempted with the lust of the flesh, with the lust of the eyes, and with the boastful pride of life (cf. 1 John 2:15-17). He saw that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was good for food (the lust of the eyes). He knew that it would be good to eat (the lust of the flesh). He also believed that its fruit would make him wise—as wise as God—with the ability to know good and evil (the pride of life).
Jesus was also tempted with three temptations. He too was tempted in the area of the lust of the flesh (“Command this stone to become bread”). He too was tempted in the area of the lust of the eyes (“The devil … showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time”). He too was tempted with the boastful pride of life (“All this authority will I give you, and their glory”; “Throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you’”).
Whereas Adam failed in his far lesser temptation, Jesus’ emerged victorious. Praise the Lord! The Son of man resisted and won! The devil was defeated, and our Perfect Adam was preserved. He accomplished all of this under the harshest conditions, subjected to the most intense testing possible. He was therefore qualified to be our all-sufficient Savior by becoming the sinless Lamb of God, slain for our sins from before the foundation of the world.
He didn’t win the battle as God clothed in humanity; but as a man trusting in His Father. With each of His responses to the devil, we hear Jesus tenaciously clinging to the Word of God… “It is written,” “It is written,” “It is written.” But even more than that, Jesus clung to the God of the Word! He would not allow anything to hinder or ruin His relationship to His Father. Nor would He go beyond His Father’s purposes for Him, then and forever!
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (His whole life was bound up with God’s words to Him and for Him. He didn’t need to turn stones into bread, He had the living bread of the Word of God!)
“You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.” (He would never consider worshiping anyone other than His Father, no matter what was promised. The Lord was His God, and He would have no other gods before Him!)
“You shall not tempt the LORD your God.” (It was an abominable thought to Jesus, that He would act presumptuously toward His Father. His role was to submit to His Father, not control or manipulate Him.)
Jesus passed the tests. He passed them with flying colors, because the fear of the Lord was His wisdom. The LORD strengthened Him at every stage of temptation, as with the psalmist:
“You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.” (Psalms 91:13-16)
The last verse in the passage we cited reads like this: “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.” (Luke 4:14)
After the temptations and testing, Jesus discovered new power. That’s the way it always is. A new release of power and authority results from successfully trusting in God, and from resisting the devil. The suffering accomplishes something, and results in a greater display of the glory of God through our lives.
We live by the last Adam, not by the first one. In Him, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). He is our pattern, our model. We desire with all that we have and with all that we are to be conformed into His likeness. Only then will be experience what it really means to be human.
Thanks for reading.
1 By the way, this phrase was used in the third book of the McGuffey’s Readers, which at one time was the main textbook for teaching children how to read in our nation’s schools (from the 1830s to the 1920s).