Before Jesus embarks on His mission, God affirms His identity. “And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ” (Mark 1:10, 11). Leaving His baptism, Jesus retreats to the wilderness for a forty-day period of fasting and prayer, after which the devil’s angle of attack is on His identity: “If You are the Son of God . . .” (Matt. 4:6).
The devil’s attacks on Christ’s identity did not end with the wilderness encounter. Through human agents, the enemy continued his onslaught on the identity of Christ, attempting to insult Him with the slur that He was an illegitimate child (see Mark 6:3; John 8:41). Incidentally, Jesus experienced the social stigma attached to those who are born outside of the traditional family structure—if that describes you, know that Jesus understands.
All of these attacks on His identity, however, did not sidetrack Jesus. In a dramatic encounter recorded in Luke 12:13, 14, He responds to a request to mediate a dispute between brothers with a question: “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” (KJV). As noble or as urgent as the man’s cause may have been, Jesus’ mission was not determined by the circumstances that surrounded Him. So firmly grounded was His identity in God that He would not confuse other people’s emergencies with His mission. Ultimately, He rejected society’s attempts at defining Him.
Whereas Moses was shaken by the question “Who made you a prince and a judge over us ?” (Exod. 2:14), Christ overcame the very same assault on His identity. His confidence in His identity created boundaries for what His mission on earth entailed. Think about it—Jesus could have tackled climate change, human trafficking, gender inequality, and so on. These are all important causes, and the corpus of Scripture testifies that God cares about all of them; but they did not fall into the immediate scope of Christ’s mission on earth. So while we may find hints in His teachings and conduct of what He would have said about these issues, Jesus did not devote the Sermon on the Mount to addressing these things. He knew who He was, had nothing to prove to anyone, and stayed on mission.