The earthly ministry of Jesus, which encompassed the last 3 1/2 years of his life, is composed of two main parts. The first part is considered somewhat of a "private" ministry where he received baptism from John the Baptist, experienced temptation by the devil for forty days, and initially met many of the disciples. It ran from the fall of 26 A.D. to the spring Passover season of 27 A.D. The public ministry of Jesus starts during the Spring of 27 A.D. when he appeared at Jerusalem's temple and runs to his death in 30 A.D. (John 2:13 - 25).
In the fall of 26 A.D., just a short time before his baptism and temptation, when he is about thirty (Luke 3:23), Jesus travels from Nazareth (Mark 1:9) to Bethabara (John 1:28). He does so in order to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). Interestingly, John the Baptist, who will perform the baptism ceremony, does NOT know in advance who exactly is the Messiah (John 1:31, 33). God has told him, however, to look for a special sign denoting who is His only Son. This sign (likely only visible to John), which will occur after the baptism, will be the Holy Spirit descending out of heaven and remaining on the person (ultimately Jesus).
John witnesses the sign of the Messiah immediately after the baptism when Jesus comes up from from the Jordan River (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10). He sees God's spirit, like a dove, descend and remain upon Christ (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:21 - 22, John 1:32 - 34). Then, a voice from heaven says, "This is My Son, the Beloved, in Whom I have great delight" (Matthew 3:17, HBFV, see also Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). The next event, Satan's forty day temptation assault, will spiritually prepare the Lord for beginning his public ministry during the upcoming Passover season.
After his baptism, God's spirit leads Jesus from Bethabara into the wilderness (likely the wilderness area of Judea located just west of the Dead Sea). He is led to the area so that, while he is fasting for forty days, he can experience unparalleled temptation at the hands of God's great adversary the devil for the entire time period (Matthew 4:1 - 11, Mark 1:12 - 13, Luke 4:1 - 13). His overcoming of the adversary will prepare him to soon enter Jerusalem, in power and zeal, during Passover.
After his baptism, both Matthew and Luke each list three specific temptations, directed at our Savior, toward the end of his fast. Satan's last subtle lies were chosen to appeal to any human-based weaknesses and desires Jesus might choose to indulge. The devil's ultimate goal is to get him to sin by choosing to do things contrary to God the Father's perfect will.
The devil tempted Jesus to PROVE he was God in the flesh by immediately alleviating his hunger through a miracle (Matthew 4:3 - 4, Luke 4:3 - 4). He also challenged him to prove his Father's love by jumping off a high location to see if he would be kept from injury (Matthew 4:5 - 7, Luke 4:9 - 12). Perhaps the greatest temptation that came to Christ was to forego the prophetic trials, pain and tortuous death that awaited him and instead immediately rule over mankind (Matthew 4:8 - 10, Luke 4:5 - 8). After Jesus overcame "the god of this world" (John 12:31, 2Corinthians 4:4) he was ministered to by angels (Matthew 4:11, Mark 1:13). He soon returns to Bethabara (John 1:28).
Next Map in Life of Jesus Series
The First Miracle