|Wolf Traut, The Baptism of Christ with Donor Portrait |
of a Kneeling Cistercian Monk (1517)
The devil sets out immediately after the Baptism of Christ, seeking to undermine Jesus' identity. We see this clearly in the temptations in the desert. The devil's opening challenge is: “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3). At the top of the Temple in Jerusalem, he continues this theme: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here” (Luke 4:9). This isn't about bread or miracles. It's about the Son's trust in the Father, and His trust in His own Sonship. Will Jesus try to save Himself? Or will He trust that He is the Son of God, and will be taken care of by the Father?
Obviously, Satan fails to get Christ to lose confidence in the Father, or to lose confidence in His Sonship. But Satan continues to pester Him, right up until the Cross, where the onlookers sneer, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40), a sentiment echoed by the chief priests and elders: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:43).
But Christ resolutely holds to His identity as the Son of the Father. This is a model for us, “for all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). This is the identity that should be central, and the identity that we should cling to.
There's a slightly different way of approaching this, by considering a different point in the Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20. We generally consider this passage for its implications for the papacy, since it's here that Christ declares that He will build His Church upon Peter. But that blessing arises out of an important discussion on the identity of Christ. When Christ asks, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15), Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16). This answer is inspired, literally (Christ says as much in Mt. 16:17). And it should be a model for us, since we have been baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27). If that's the case, then if I ask, “But who do you say that you are?” you should answer confidently: “I am a Christian, a child of the living God.”
That's your most central identity, because that's who God made you to be.