The Third Temptation – Matthew 4:8-11

 

We have been considering the third temptation.  In this temptation, the devil is seeking to lure (the lure being the earthly kingdoms and their glory) Jesus into his trap (the trap is Jesus bowing down and worshipping the devil, thus turning Jesus from the path to the cross).  Today, we study Jesus’ answer to Satan.

In His answer to the serpent, Jesus looked past the lure to see the trap, and immediately identified the heart of the temptation: worshipping Satan – “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (vs. 10).

Already at this point, we can learn three things from Jesus’ answer to the devil’s temptation.  First, it is brief.  We do well not to linger at the source of our temptation, contemplating how to reject it – we must quickly, and briefly, see the temptation for what it is, and immediately run.

Second, Jesus’ answer is concise.  He locates the heart of the temptation – worship.  We must do the same.  We should pray to God that we have wisdom not to be distracted by the attractive lure the temptation offers, but to see the trap, the sin, the root, of the temptation.  Satan will always clothe sin in attractive garb.  We must see past the smokescreen.

Third, we must, as Jesus did, command Satan to depart from us.  When we willingly expose ourselves to these tests of the devil, we are inviting his presence, not demanding that he flee.  But when we reject sin and pray to God, the devil will run.

Fourth, essentially, all temptations are a matter of worship.  When we fall to any temptation, we are placing our trust in and submitting to Satan, and not God.  This is the seriousness of sin.  This is the frightening nature of temptation.

What else does Jesus’ answer to the devil’s temptation tell us?  Negatively, our Savior would not be deceived by the devil.  But especially this, positively: He would submit to and obey His Father, only.

First, Jesus understood that the Father’s will for Him was to be king over all only by the way of the cross.  It was only after He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” that God would highly exalt Him, giving Him a name which is above every name (Phil. 2:8, 9).  The Father’s will was the cross.

Second, that Jesus worshipped God, and not the devil, means that He would follow the path to the cross to establish His spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom.  This was Jesus’ message throughout His ministry: My kingdom is not of this earth – it is a spiritual kingdom!  This was the issue, for instance, at the feeding of the five thousand in John 6: the people wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him their king.  In response, Jesus departed into a mountain, alone (vs. 15).  He was not their earthly king.

The Father sent His Son not to establish an earthly kingdom, to reign over the kingdoms of the world, but to lay the foundation of the spiritual kingdom, by His shed blood, a kingdom of “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).  It is true – Jesus would, exalted at His Father’s right hand, rule over all things – He would certainly rule and govern the institutions of this world, governments, and all lands (Matt. 28:18).  But all things would be subservient to the spiritual kingdom.  Over this spiritual kingdom, sitting at the Father’s right hand, the exalted Christ would rule by His grace.

This Man, young people, is our merciful high priest!  He rejected Satan’s temptation, and worshipped only His Father.  And now, having died on the cross, and sitting at the Father’s right hand, He runs to our aid in the most grievous temptations of life.  Surely, He helps us in our times of need!

RB

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