Luke 4:5-8 (NIV) The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'”
The focus of this test was Jesus’ mission. Jesus knew that the Father had sent Him to inaugurate the kingdom of God on earth, and to be its first and only ruler. In effect, satan was offering Jesus a shortcut to this goal, an easier path. Instead of three years of serving, sacrificing, and fruitless striving with recalcitrant Jewish leaders, capped off with the pain and horror of crucifixion, Jesus could become king of the world right away. All He had to do was to become a vassal of satan.
Some have questioned whether satan really had been given all of the authority and splendor of the world’s kingdoms. He actually had. God never gave those things to him, but the rulers and people of those kingdoms had long before turned away from the true God, and had begun to worship other gods, satan under his many aliases. And by doing so, they had enslaved themselves to him, and ceded their authority and splendor to him.
In order for Jesus to have said yes to this test, He would have had to believe that satan could really enable him to fulfill the goal of becoming king, supreme ruler of the world. But in reality, He would just end up becoming another vassal of satan. Perhaps He would have been at the top of the pile, handed authority that He could lord over the other rulers of the world, but He would still have been a mere vassal Himself, subservient to satan.
Jesus knew this as well as He knew that there was no shortcut to His real mission’s goal, which was not to become king of the world, but to rescue mankind from sin, from death, and from the clutches of satan. The only path to that lay in complete submission to the Father and His will, complete obedience to the Father’s commandments, and complete willingness to suffer and die on the cross. There was no shorter, safer, or better way. And His “no” was a clear Scripture from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord you God, and serve Him only.” (Deuteronomy 6:13 NIV) Jesus had won round two!
Father, satan continued to throw red herrings at Jesus, trying to take His focus off His true mission, and thus making the temptations seem like great ideas. But Jesus was not about to be thrown off the trail He was on and allow Himself to be steered away from Your mission and Your path to accomplishing it. Help me to be as steadfast and strong in my own calling and mission, so that I can stand just as firmly against the enemy and his temptations. Amen.