Test #2 – Immediate Glory Without Suffering
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:5-6 ESV)
The temple described here is known as Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. It was a large complex. It was very tall by the standards of the day. What better way to quickly unveil your true identity than to jump from where everyone could see you and as you hurtle to the ground suddenly be caught by angels and gently set down in the temple courtyard for all to see? Talk about a stunt! Do that without a parachute. Without wires. No tricks. Just gravity, speed, and angelic deliverance. What would the Pharisees say then? He would be crowned King of Israel on the spot. What better way to fast track the kingdom of God than a public miracle and immediate coronation? Satan accurately quotes the verse in Psalms. There’s no problem with translation. Where’s the problem? Application.
“Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7) A stunt to force God’s hand in delivering him would be arrogance. This is what Moses did when he decided to show himself a deliverer of Israel by killing the Egyptian. In a sense it is what Peter did when he tried to convince Jesus away from a path of crucifixion. Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Satan’s goal isn’t really a wrong goal but a right goal by a wrong path. A shortcut will do just fine. Jesus doesn’t give in to the quick gratification and refuses to put his heavenly Father to the test.
Jesus passed the test.
What Does This Mean?
This whole temptation passage is incredibly helpful on dealing with temptation and understanding our enemy. But we are in a series on the kingdom of God and I want us to see this through that lens. In what way?
The Kingdom of God is more desirable than all the kingdoms of man
We will see this more in the parables where Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a pearl of great price and a field with a buried treasure.
Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of man in exchange for the kingdom of God. He offers him glory without a cross. Authority without suffering. He offers the whole world as a trade for a kingdom established with a cross of suffering. A kingdom requiring him to give his life for it. A kingdom requiring him to obey to the point of death on the cross. We easily make that trade every time we choose to live by the values of this world over the priorities of God. Every sin makes that trade.
But in Jesus’ estimation, even with it requiring his death, the kingdom of God is worth it. The delayed gratification was worth it. So when he says, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 6:33) he isn’t saying idle words. He models it by denying himself all the glory of all the kingdoms of the world for the one eternal kingdom of God.
Which kingdom do you value? Which one are you seeking? Would you trade the kingdom of God for anything else? In the words of the hymn, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”
Jesus’ weakness is greater than Satan’s strength
Aren’t you glad Jesus at his weakest is stronger than Satan at his best? We begin by admiring our King on the verge of weakness, even consciousness. Forty days of no food. Can you imagine?
Satan on the other hand, had never been better. He had prepared for this moment since God hinted at it in the curse in Genesis 3. For all those centuries he perceived God’s plan of salvation. If the Magi knew something from the stars and Scripture, imagine what Satan understood ever since the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) Even at his best, doing what he does best, he could not persuade Jesus to leave the will of the Father; to take a shortcut to glory; to even use one stone or pebble in a way out of God’s will.
The rest of us would be putty in Satan’s hands and we are on a daily basis. But not Jesus. He is the King and our King at his weakest is stronger than Satan at his best.
He won where others failed. Israel went into the desert and failed. Moses went into the desert and failed. Jesus went into the wilderness and took Satan’s best shot and won.
He is a King worthy of our allegiance. He rules a kingdom more valuable and more wonderful and more eternal than any kingdom in this world.
To which kingdom do you belong to? Which king has your allegiance? Which kingdom are you seeking?
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2016 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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