Today we begin consideration of the third temptation. First we examine: what was the devil’s “lure” in this temptation?
Satan brought Jesus to the top of a very high mountain. How Jesus and the devil came upon the mountain from the last temptation is unknown. Neither is such information important for the meaning of the passage.
On top of that mountain the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. The view must have been breathtaking. Apparently, a miracle took place, for all of the kingdoms of the world were seen in a moment of time. Jesus, on top of the mount, was shown the kingdoms and their kings. He was shown the richness of the land – the deserts, fields, farmland, and vineyards. Before Him, spread out as a sheet, were bodies of water with the busy fishermen. In His view were the governments of the land, the bustling merchants, and the rich nobles.
According to the accounts in Matthew and Luke, the devil offered the glory and power of these kingdoms to Jesus. Bow down, said the devil, and you will have this. Satan was offering great power – such power that even Caesar Augustus did not possess. Certainly, as king of this vast land, Jesus would be honored – all the glory would be His. He would have unparalleled authority over all lands and peoples. To Jesus would belong political, economic, and social power. He would rise in popularity with the people and become wealthier than the richest man. Such was Satan’s presentation to Jesus.
We must evaluate ourselves. In what ways are we tempted by what we see? The eyes are often the avenue the devil uses to reach our heart. Jesus saw the kingdoms of the world. What we take in with our eyes is not an inconsequential matter, as the world would have us think. Through the eyes Satan pollutes our hearts and minds.
We must know that Satan holds before the leaders in the church the prospect for more power. Take a minister, for example. He is a pastor in a small, faithful church in the country. He is a capable man, and a good leader. Satan takes him to the top of the mountain, so to speak, and shows him all the glory and honor to be had by going to a much larger and much more liberal church. Satan tempts him this way. Or, a Christian school teacher is tempted by the great power and authority he could possess by accepting an offer to teach at a public university where he would be forced to give up his Christian beliefs. Satan can tempt our leaders in this way. But, whether we are leaders in the church or not, Satan can tempt us with the same prospect of more power, whether that be at school, or on the job. We must be aware of the subtle ways he works.
Not only were the kingdoms of the world, and the power and glory associated with them, part of Satan’s temptation, but also what it would take to obtain those kingdoms. The devil set before Jesus’ eyes all the power and glory of the world. In order to have those kingdoms, all Jesus would have to do is bow down for a moment, and worship Satan. The Great Deceiver minimized the cost (worship), and magnified the result (having the kingdoms). No suffering would be needed for these kingdoms. Little would be the price Jesus would have to pay – or so the devil wanted Him to think.
What truly made this temptation so grievous was not first of all the allurement of what Satan offered. But what made the temptation so trying, a real test, was that Satan laid this path to earthly kingship alongside the path to the cross.
The road to the cross was difficult, ugly, and full of suffering. Only by the cross would the foundation of Christ’s spiritual kingdom be laid. Without the cross, without the inexpressible suffering of Calvary, Christ would not be king. Apart from the cross, He would not be Messiah. Only by the cross would he crush the head of Satan, vanquish all His foes, and realize His rule of providence over all things, and His rule of grace in the church (Heb. 10:12; Acts 2:33; Phi. 2:5ff). The cross was a necessary way. But the cross was an exceedingly difficult way. Jesus suffered, being tempted, for He saw the horrors of the cross.
This, compared with the path the devil proposed: an easy, glamorous, and quick way. Jesus could rule the world with a bow of the knee! Heeding the devil, he would not have to shed His blood. He would not have to suffer the reproach of men. He would not have to lie in the grave. He must be king – yes. But He could have this kingship in another way than the cross. So was the devil’s lie. A grievous temptation!
Next time we will briefly consider the “trap” of Satan’s temptation.