The Dry Place

By Inés Velásquez-McBryde

February 8, 2024

Scripture — Matthew 4:8-10 (NRSV)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”


The struggle for power: Where does real power come from? Under whose authority is Jesus operating?


Jesus underwent an intense leadership training bootcamp.

After having been baptized by his cousin John and hearing the voice of God the Father affirming him, the Holy Spirit leads him into a dry place, the wilderness. Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights and found himself at his weakest moment. Hungry. Tired. Weary. Thirsty. The tempter two times provokes him with the audacious statement: “If you are the son of God…”

Clearly, Satan did not get a personal invitation to Jesus’ baptism where God the Father proclaimed Jesus with the status of Son. Satan attacks Jesus’ identity, which is crucial to his leadership development, at a moment where any one of us would have loved a warm loaf of bread to ease the pain of hunger. The third time, Satan does not directly project any doubts about Jesus’ identity. However, he turns it around and focuses it on himself and his own identity. If you fall down and worship me, Satan provokes, I will give you the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Aahh! This is what it was about all along. Satan centers himself in the organizational chart in an egotistical struggle for power and worship.

One of the leadership aspects that stands out to me in this story is the struggle for power. Where does real power come from? The second thing that stands out to me is leadership authority. Under whose authority is Jesus operating? Jesus was not too gifted for his own good. He was offered the temptation, yet Jesus seemed to know where real power came from. It was a test at the beginning of his public ministry. What kind of leader would he be? Under whose authority? Would he reach for the bread of fame? Would he rule by force? Would he take what he wanted when he wanted in whatever manner that he wanted? Would the end results justify the means?

My desire to be in control is a fierce desire and an easy temptation as a leader. Jesus did not call the shots and did not let Satan call the shots either. In the three answers that Jesus offers back to Satan, Jesus de-centers even Jesus’ own self and points back to God the Father as the one that calls the shots. He was rooted in a beloved identity as Son in the deep place. He was also grounded, even in the dry place, in a non-abusive, non-violent, take-by-force type of God. Satan may have offered a temporal provision for felt needs yet the offer was shrouded in a toxic abusive realm. It was in the driest place—emotionally, physically and spiritually—that Jesus decided what type of leader he would be and under whose authority he would operate.


What are your temptations as a leader in the workplace and in your relationships?

Under whose authority do you operate whether in times of abundance or times of wilderness?

What seems to be unmanageable in your life as a leader where you need Jesus’ leadership model to transform you?


Sit with the whole story in Matthew 4:1-11. Invite the Holy Spirit to illuminate the text. Open your heart and your leadership life. Read it three times. Underline the words that catch your attention. Let the Holy Spirit speak into your inner leader.


God who has all power and all authority, help us surrender our temptations to grasp for our own self-constructed authority. Cleanse us from our fierce desire to be in control of ourselves and others. Help us surrender our leadership drives to your most wise and merciful authority. Recalibrate our practices. Examine our rules. Check our motives. We give up the hidden temptations that seem unmanageable in exchange for the lordship of Jesus in our leadership. May our leadership styles and organizational methods be themselves an act of worship wholly unto you, and you alone. Grant us grace. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus is Tempted to Abandon Serving God (Luke 4:1-13).

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Inés Velásquez-McBryde

Chaplain at Fuller Theological Seminary & Pastor, Preacher, Speaker

Inés is an ordained pastor, preacher, reconciler, writer, and speaker. We are pleased to feature Inés as a regular Life for Leaders writer. On June 15, 2019, Inés received her Master of Divinity degree from the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary where she now serves as...

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