Matthew 4:8-11 (NIV)
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
For the final test, satan took Jesus to a mountain top and showed Him all of the kingdoms of the world, and all of their glory. Satan boasted that all of those kingdoms had been given to him, and that he could, in effect, sign them over to anyone he wanted (cf. Luke 4:6). This was not a pure lie. By giving themselves over to the worship of idols and created things, these nations actually had enslaved themselves to satan, in effect ceding to him authority over them and over their kingdoms.
Satan probably had in mind offering Jesus a shortcut to His intended goal. He knew that Jesus had come to save the world, and to be recognized as the true Lord of all humanity. If satan merely gave Jesus his own title to the kingdoms of the world, then Jesus could reach His goal of being king of the world much more quickly and without the need of suffering and dying on a cross.
All Jesus needed to do to receive this benefit was to do what those nations had already done before Him: bow down and submit to satan. And, of course, that was something that Jesus would never do.
Jesus didn’t even have to think about this offer. He knew a few things that made His decision to reject the temptation not only easy, but natural. First, He knew that satan was a liar, and had been since before the creation of the world (cf. John 8:44). There was no way that He would listen to or believe a single promise that he made.
Second, He knew that ultimately God Himself was the ruler of every kingdom in the world. The people of those kingdoms might surrender themselves to satan by rejecting the true God and worshiping idols, but they could never sell away God’s divine authority over them. Satan might have the souls of those people chained and enslaved, but he himself was under the authority of God, and was limited by God as to what he could and couldn’t do. (See Job 1:12 and 2:6.)
And finally, Jesus knew that His destiny was not to rule over the kingdoms of the world as some sort of benevolent dictator. Instead it was to suffer and die for the sins of the world, so that all of those people who were enslaved to satan could switch sides and be reconciled to the God who loved them. That ultimate goal of freeing the captives and those doomed to sin and death could never be accomplished by Jesus enslaving Himself to the same overlord that had taken them captive. It could only be done by one who kept Himself holy and righteous, so that He had no sins of His own to pay for; one who was completely devoted to the Father and His plan.
Jesus’ rebuke from the Scriptures, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only,” was enough to stop satan in his tracks. Jesus was 100% sold out to God and His agenda, so there was no place for this temptation to even stick. Jesus had passed the final test. Now began the ministry that would end in the fulfillment of all that God had sent Him to do.
Father, sometimes we get so focused on the negative activity of resisting temptation. How much easier it would be for us if, instead, we engaged in the positive state of simply being 100% devoted to You and Your agenda, just like Jesus was. Then we wouldn’t have to fight temptations; they simply would not be able to find any place to lodge in our hearts. And we could simply banish the tempter and, like Jesus, gain the victory! Amen.