Jesus’ Temptation seen as a Rite of Passage
Author’s Note: I am making my wife read the Bible this summer as part of a continuing effort to establish headship, and I was reading to stay a little ahead of her. I had this epiphany, for lack of a better word, while I was reading the passage in Matthew 4 for probably the 100th time. Also, I would not have thought about Christ’s temptation in Matthew 4 without Jack’s earlier write up on rites of passage.
Length: 2,100 words
Reading Time: 7 minutes
Back in June, Jack wrote a post about Entering Manhood (2021 June 18). This post described the ancient rite of male passage, and highlighted that it is an important part of a man’s personal development.
One commenter asked whether a rite of passage is necessary for Christian men, and if there was a Biblical basis for rites of passage. Here is the comment from Titus2Homemaker on Jack’s 2021/6/18 post.
“Far be it from me to dismiss the potential VALUE in such rites of passage. But as this is a post for Christian men, I have to ask why the standard here is primarily the pagan world, and not Scripture. How does this concept fit in with Scriptural instruction, and with historical Jewish application of it? We know that there are Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (for boys and girls, respectively), but were there such life-or-death rituals involved? And if not, although we can say such rituals have VALUE, can we point to them as ESSENTIAL?
I ask that not to evade the issue of such forms of entering manhood, but because if rites of passage of that nature are not essential, then we might need to dig deeper to determine what the factors ARE that ensure our boys grown into men and not just overgrown boys.”
This is an important question that deserves consideration: Is there any Biblical foundation for the male rite of passage?
Ten days after I read Jack’s post, I was reading Matthew 4 which is the temptation of Jesus and then the start of his ministry. It is interesting to me that Christ went through what was essentially a rite of passage and after that He started his ministry.
Jesus is the Final Archetype
Jesus was a man’s man. He worked with His hands to build things. Being fully God, He understood authority and saw fit to submit to the will of the Father on our behalf. He saw through tests of the most educated and powerful religious authorities and had perfect answers for them all. He endured social and political pressure that only few will ever know and stayed on mission. He never lost frame regardless of what was thrown at him. He wept when there was loss and His heart felt pain. He was patient with those that did not have understanding. He was compassionate on those who did not deserve it. He was the perfect man with all the knowledge, wisdom, and discernment to complete His mission on earth … and yet, when the Holy Spirit took Him to the desert, we have no account of Him protesting.
Jesus’ Temptation as a Rite of Passage
The story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness bears a striking resemblance to what we would call a rite of passage.
He was God, with perfect knowledge and in perfect relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit so He knew what the end of His earthly mission entailed.
I can imagine He spent the time in communion with the Father, meditating on scripture, and getting prepared for the temptation that He knew was coming.
In it, we see not only a struggle to survive the elements, but also the pushing of body, mind, and spirit in overcoming evil.
Another aspect is the physical endurance. We do have an account that, even though He could have made sand into filet mignon, He did not eat for 40 days.* It stands to reason that he intentionally chose to fast.
Fasting (or starving?) is known to put one in a physically weakened state, but it can also impart clarity of mind and increased willpower.
I have, at times, had to go on a juice fast for a week. Calories were still coming in, just very few and in liquid form. After 7 days the hunger is ever present and substantial weight loss occurs. After 40 days Jesus would have been emaciated and weak. He was physically starving and, at least for me, thinking is affected by the discomfort and the desire for it to end. This is most likely the state of the human part of Jesus when He resisted the temptation from Satan.
Satan approaches the temptation with the frame that Jesus is human and subject to human desires and weakness. We see this in the 3 things he chooses to use to temp Jesus, physical comfort, a logic trap with spiritual implications, and then finally with wealth and power. In addition, Satan knows scripture, and he uses this to try to create further confusion. He probably knew who Jesus was and what Jesus on earth meant for him and so he threw his best at Jesus to derail the process. Much like with Eve, he targets the suspected weak spots and, as he often does, contorts what would otherwise be good things to make them evil, such as he does in making sex, possessions, pride, etc. into idols.
Other Rites of Passage in the Bible
While the temptation of Christ is a very distinct event that could be considered a rite of passage in the bible, there appear to be many others, once you consider that the purpose of a rite is to be a sanctifying and/or refining experience designed to prepare one for what life will bring.
- Job lost his estate and family, that is, his dominion over what God had given him. He was tempted by his wife and friends, yet remained strong in his faith through emotional and physical misery.
- Noah endured mockery and ridicule, but showed perseverance and faith.
- The patriarch Joseph lost his God given freedom when his brothers sold him into slavery. He was tempted sexually with Potiphar’s wife, and had his faith tested by being unjustly imprisoned, and his faith and trust in God was ultimately used to save an entire nation as a public administrator under Pharaoh during a famine.
- David seems to have had a more clearly defined rite. I would imagine that all his older brothers at one point or another had to care for their father’s herd in some capacity. During David’s watch he faced the lion and bear with stone age weapons. His tests involved the physical, bravery, duty, and faith. Those attributes were on full display against Goliath.
- Peter’s trial came in denying Jesus 3 times. The failure, the dejection he must have felt when he returned to his old life of fishing and subsequent forgiveness are part of the boldness of faith that the church is built on.
- It is obvious that Paul endured many trials in his lifetime, after living what was most likely a cushy life afforded a Pharisee, including beatings, stonings, being shipwrecked, being criminally charged, facing judicial action, and being socially rejected in general.
- All the disciples endured the testing of their faith in the decades after Christ’s ascension, most unto death.
In all these cases the hardships refine the areas of dominion necessary for men to build/cultivate the earth, kingdoms, families, and faith.
One could argue that some of these trials and tests were not Rites of Passage, given how we think about them today, because it came at the hand of God (or “fate” if you prefer), and was not organized as such by elder men in the community. However, these examples do emphasize the value of such an experience, and suggest that it is necessary for a man to endure and overcome hardship if he is to be successful in life and in spirit. When a community imposes the requirement that all men should endure a Rite of Passage, as has been done for eons, then it prevents any men from “falling through the cracks”, and tends to improve the overall quality of men in the group. I would assert that the enduring successes of prior generations of men made the community-created trials offered by a rite of passage necessary.
In our day, manually taxing labor is no longer common in order to be able to eat or clothe ourselves, and hard times typically means cutting back on our excess instead of real suffering. Overcoming trials builds strong men, who then build and enforce a stable society that makes life easier to the point that the hardships that created the strong men are largely gone. For the continual perpetuation of a strong, stable society, the continuance of a community organized rite of passage may be necessary.
Are there Rites of Passage for Women?!?
Going further with the idea of a Rite of Passage being any sanctifying or refining experience, we find that women have Rites of Passage too, except tailored to the God given differences of men and women. I believe there is a very good case to be made that those differing refining events in life are gender specific, reflecting those purposes for which God designed men and women.
For men, the challenges tend to be in the areas God called us to master; to be the spiritual head of the household, leader, protector, provider, teacher, and so on. These are the characteristics of Headship, and it is obvious that men’s trials tend to be around events that force growth in these areas.
The challenges for women tend to be events in the areas of the home, family, and bearing/rearing children because that is where they are called. For generations, girls learned those skills needed to care for children and a home working alongside their mothers and grandmothers. This was a prevalent part of growing up just two generations ago and if you consider how God often works through families, you can see the Titus 2 familial relationships being used in the perpetuation of the church. Paul indicates that women are saved by childbearing which would indicate that for women it is marriage, motherhood, and raising children that are sanctifying processes for her. Later in life, she becomes one of the elder women of the church who are to teach younger women how to be good wives, manage their households, and love their husbands.
In our modern culture, the three big temptations that women face are in (1) resisting the Feminist lies and demonic influences of our age, (2) overcoming the Curse of Eve in her fallen nature by submitting to male authority, and (3) preserving her sexual purity (i.e. virginity). A fourth challenge that is more about excellence than temptation, is in preparing herself for marriage, raising children, and becoming a Proverbs 31 woman in general. At the very least, a wise man should consider a woman’s ability to pass through these challenges as a rite of passage into marriage and then carefully consider how a prospective wife has approached the fourth in her life.
One of the interesting side effects of being opened to RP truth is that certain parts of scripture that did not make sense now do (i.e. women saved by child bearing). Some scripture passages that seem confusing or insignificant become quite important when seen through a Red Pill lens. (Examples include Numbers 30 describing the headship role of fathers and husbands, and their duty to protect women, and Genesis 3:20 when Adam gives his woman a name.) The debate Dalrock started by looking at marriage statistics and tying them to country club church teaching goes much further than that. Understanding God’s hierarchy of authority makes everything from the creation to the fall to God’s kingdom in Revelation fit together better.
Jesus did not kick off His official ministry in what we would consider a strong state of being. But for some reason, a 40-day physical endurance test that would have weakened His body and state of mind, was what God chose for the perfect man who in theory should not have needed testing. Jesus persevered through the trial and then completed his ministry which he knew would end with his excruciating death. At the end of time, who He really is will be revealed and we’ll all see the conquering king.
* Note: The number 40 is significant in the Bible. The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness as a punishment for unfaithfulness. There were 40 days of rain to flood the earth as a punishment for people’s sin. I would think the parallel of 40 days of fasting immediately followed by Satan’s temptation was intentional considering Jesus as the sacrifice for human sin.
- Σ Frame: Understanding Temptation (2009 December 21)
- Σ Frame: Trajectories (2020 February 28)
- Σ Frame: A Conversation About Human Potential and Purpose (2020 September 4)
- Σ Frame (Novaseeker): Viewpoints on Man’s Confusion about How God Works in the Life of a Believer (2021 March 29)
- Σ Frame: An Interview with American Pilgrim author Roosh Valizadeh (2021 March 31)
- Σ Frame (Novaseeker): Juxtaposing the Temporal and the Eternal (2021 April 26)