The heavens parted.
We use that phrase jokingly when someone is about to make some dramatic pronouncement. In the situation that Matthew talks about, there was a dramatic pronouncement. Though not a joke, it feels pretty friendly.
The Father says of the Son, “I’m proud of him.”
And then, while there is still a warm feeling, the scene changes.
Jesus is led out into the desert.
Jesus doesn’t eat for forty days and nights.
Satan shows up and suggests that Jesus make some bread out of the rocks.
We look at the story and we cheer for Jesus. We talk about how well he resists the temptation to turn well-baked stones into no-need-to-bake loaves. We sing about how he quotes Deuteronomy to the devil.
But our optimism is because we are looking at the story long after the forty days are over. We’ve got to look at it from ground level.
Jesus gets the affirmation of his life. What he already knew to be true is stated to his cousin and whoever else was around. From a human perspective, this is as big an affirmation as you can have.
And then Jesus is directed to the desert. There is no food. And the next day, no food. And the next day, no food and the next day and the next. And then, when he was in the desert as long as Moses had been on the mountain, as long as Noah watched it rain, satan shows up.
Big high, long period of dryness, big confrontation.
It sounds exactly like the lives of many people I know. Just when they think that God loves them, stuff blows up. And they wonder where the love is.
But God’s love isn’t measured by weeks.
Relationship never is.
And Jesus understands.