The Temptation of Christ - Part II (Continued)

by Rev. Sterling M. Durgy

Parts and Contents

Part II concludes with this page. Click below to view:

Part I - Overview and Background:

Introduction to Part I

Jesus as High Priest

Temptation as Trial

Jesus as the Second Adam

Jesus' Use of Scripture

Jesus as Representative of Israel

Footnotes for Part I

Part II - The Temptations:

Introduction to Part II

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Footnotes for Part II

The Temptation to Glory and Power (this page)

Conclusion and Summary(this page)

Bibliography (this page)

Copyright and reprint information. (this page)

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The Temptation of Christ

A Bible Study of: Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13

by Rev. Sterling M. Durgy

The Temptation of Christ: Part II. The Temptations (Continued)

The Temptation to Glory and Power

The third temptation described in Matthew and the second described in Luke is the temptation to worship Satan to become ruler of the world. Satan showed Jesus the glory of all of the kingdoms that existed in the world and offered to make Jesus the ruler of them. We can imagine Satan giving a vision of life in many places around the world: Rome, Greece, Africa, Europe, India, China, the Americas - in some way the beauty and power of these places was brought before Jesus eyes. All the wealth of these societies, the sensual gratification they represented, and the heady feeling of being in charge of it all, was being offered to Jesus.

This is the crudest and most obvious of Satan's temptations. Instead of being King of the Jews, a conquered and scattered people, Jesus was offered the combined glory of the world's civilizations. Many men had schemed and conspired and fought and killed for far less. The Roman empire itself had a history beset with the wiles and turmoil of those who sought control. Were Jesus to settle for this, He would have been greater than any ruler of the ancient world - for He would have held more territory than even Alexander the Great had been able to conquer - He would have had riches and pleasures to rival those of Solomon.

However crude the temptation might have been, there was also a "logic" to the temptation. Who but Jesus deserved to rule all of this? Was it not proper for Jesus both to be in authority and to receive the level of honor that stemmed from His position as the Son of God? And if He refused, was He not rejecting His identity? Had not Saul been reluctant to take on the position of King of Israel, even when Saul knew he had been chosen for that position by God - and was not his reluctance a flaw in his personality that related strongly in the sins that brought about his ruin?

No doubt Satan was able to provide a true vision of the world's glory - showing things to Jesus that Jesus had never seen before, for the man Jesus had never journeyed far from home. True as well, Satan "rules" the world in the sense that all who refuse to serve God belong to the kingdom of darkness (I John 5:19, II Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2, 6:19). All who are outside the Kingdom of God serve Satan, wittingly or unwittingly. Past this, there was much deception in Satan's offer.

We should question whether these things were Satan's to give. True, Satan can claim separation from God for those who follow him, and those who follow him are not part of the Kingdom of God. But the Scriptures clearly teach that it is God, not Satan, who is sovereign over the nations and history. On Mars Hill Paul said of God, "He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation" (Acts 17:26, Deuteronomy 32:8, Psalm 2:1-12, 47:2-3, Job 12:23). Isaiah gives a powerful description of the sovereignty of God over all the world. This description is all the more noteworthy because the gods of the pagans were believed to rule over areas of the earth, not the entire earth, while the true God rules everywhere - a lesson emphasized by the book of Jonah, which deals largely with Assyrian city of Ninevah, not Israel. Isaiah writes that God is so much greater than the nations that in terms of size, "all the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless" (Isaiah 40:17, Psalm 139:7-12). When it comes to provision for physical needs, Isaiah makes clear that if God had physical needs, all the wealth of the earth is insufficient for Him (Isaiah 40:16). In Psalm 50 God says, "If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains" (v. 12). When it comes to decision making, God can force His will on human beings and change history whenever He chooses (Proverbs 21:1, Ezra 6:22). The offer of Satan was clearly blasphemous, since God alone is the Creator and the ruler of all that He has created, and He will not share His glory with others (Isaiah 42:5, 8, Psalm 115:3).

Further, Satan himself is fully under the authority of God. This is made clear in the book of Job as well as in Jesus' words to Peter in Luke 22:31-32. Satan can only do what God permits Satan to do.

More importantly, Satan's offer was conditional upon Jesus' worship of Satan. If Jesus had succumbed to Satan's offer and Satan had actually given Jesus what Satan promised, Satan would still have been the ruler of sinful men, not Jesus. Once Jesus had accepted such an offer, Satan would have thwarted the effort to depose Satan by preventing Jesus from continuing with a mission of redemption - a mission that would result in transferring men from Satan's kingdom into God's (Colossians 1:13).

Jesus responded to the temptation by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only." The Greek word used for "serve" in this passage (latreuseis) carries a strong connotation of worship and spiritual service. It is the same word that is used by Paul in the last part of Romans 12:1, "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." In both cases, what is done in all of life, including "secular" activities, is considered part of the worship of God (I Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17). There are not two realms of life, one of earth, and another, the spiritual, to be devoted to God. Both the physical and the spiritual parts of life are to be lived in a manner that honors the only true Deity.

In fact, the passage Jesus quoted here, Deuteronomy 6:13, closely follows Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shema, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." It was these words that Jesus would later teach formed the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). Satan's temptation was an attack upon the very foundation of Israel's faith. Had Jesus rationalized, He might have reasoned that by giving in He could have gained control of the world (which He had the right to anyway, as God), and that He could then have used that position to turn the world toward God. For the price of pretending to worship Satan, according to this scheme, Christ easily wins the world for God. But neither the character of God nor the character of mankind allows for such an easy solution. Jesus rightly rejected a course of action that suggested that "the end justifies the means." Deceit is the method of Satan, not God (John 8:44). You do not bring men to pure character by demonstrating warped character. Only the redemptive power that flowed from Christ's ministry, death, and resurrection would suffice to transfer sinners into the Kingdom of God. This shortcut was not a shortcut at all, but a dead end.

Further, the office of Messiah was preparing Jesus not only to be the Savior of the world, but to be the Judge of the world as well (Acts 10:42, 17:31, Romans 2:16, II Timothy 4:1, Matthew 16:27-28, 25:31-34). How could Jesus bring men to judgment when He Himself had succumbed to the ways of darkness to achieve His goals?

For Jesus to be the "Christ," the "Messiah," the "Anointed One," He would have to be completely faithful to the One who gave Him His mission, the One who anointed Him. Otherwise, He placed Himself outside the blessing of God and surrendered all He was chosen to do (John 5:19-20, 30, 8:46).

The passage Jesus chose to use in His response had deep significance for the specific temptation Satan brought for still another reason. While Jesus was refusing a temptation that the Israelites had succumbed to - that of wanting to escape trial in the wilderness in order to return to the material prosperity and security of Egypt (Exodus 14:11-12, 16:3, Numbers 11:4-5, 14:1-4) - He was also obeying a charge given just previous to this passage from Deuteronomy. Just before the words Jesus quotes, God warned the Israelites that when they entered the promised land and prospered, they were not to forget that God was the source of their prosperity and, as a result, forget to worship Him. Here, in the wilderness, Jesus is presented with an opportunity for great comfort and prosperity - something made even more desirable at the time given Jesus' deprivation of physical needs and security. But material prosperity would not cause Him to forget His devotion to God.

How different was Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus! Judas was treasurer for the followers of Jesus. He also stole from the money box for his own benefit (John 12:1-6). When he betrayed Jesus, he did so for a cash payment and for the gratitude of the Jewish authorities. Having seen Jesus work many miracles, He may have believed that He was forcing Jesus' hand, that Jesus would respond to arrest by overthrowing the Roman empire and establishing God's rule on earth for the benefit of the Jews. Even if he thought this way, he was surely thinking of material benefits and of personal gain, not the spiritual Kingdom Christ came to establish.

But before Judas committed this crime, Judas experienced the difference of a Kingdom built upon the character of true Deity rather than the character of men. For just before the Last Supper, Jesus took a towel and basin and washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:3-17). He then instructed His disciples to follow His example. John is clear that Jesus does this with the full knowledge of who He is. This is not, however, the final repudiation of pride, greed, and selfishness. At Calvary, Jesus dies to cleanse mankind from their sins - not His - theirs.

Jesus told Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). If it were, Jesus explained, His followers would be fighting to free Him. By this Jesus went on to explain that His kingdom involved the inward man before it found expression in outward actions. This was not a repudiation of Christian involvement in politics, anymore than Jesus' statement to Pilate was a repudiation of Christ's second coming to rule the world. The apostle Paul would later explain to the Romans that even secular rulers were "ministers of God" (Romans 13:1-7). Jesus was maintaining here, as He had before Satan in the wilderness, that everything must be done in a manner consistent with God's plan and character.

The Jesus who rejected Satan's shortcut to becoming ruler of the world found that Satan's servants would punish Him dearly for His decicion. During the trial, punishment, and crucifixion of Christ, Jesus was continually mocked for His claim to be King. Herod dressed Jesus in a "gorgeous robe" and sent Him back to Pilate (Luke 23:11-12). Pilate's soldiers also put a robe on Jesus, gathered the entire guard together, put a crown of thorns on Jesus' head, and mocked Him (Matthew 27:27-31). Pilate continued the "joke" by having a sign made that was placed on the cross that said, "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews." To make sure everyone could "enjoy" the joke, Pilate had this inscription written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (John 19:19-20). No doubt this was to taunt all Jews, as well as Jesus Himself, with the fact that the Jewish nation was a conquered nation. The chief priests complained to Pilate about the sign, wanting it to apply to Jesus alone, but Pilate refused to change it (John 19:21-22). Still, it was Jesus who endured the taunts of passers-by in addition to the agony of crucifixion.

At the cross Jesus triumphed over Satan and rose from the dead to sit at God's right hand in heaven, and the time will come when He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to rule the earth. But in God's time in God's way. The path to victory first led to the cross.

Conclusion and Summary

Satan is defeated in this important confrontation with Jesus. It is important to note that while at Calvary Christ's victory is one of both character and the supernatural work of God (Colossians 1:13-23, 2:9-15, Ephesians 1:19ff.), in the wilderness Jesus' victory is one of character, prevailing over the supernatural forces of darkness through trust in God. It is because Jesus won this kind of victory in the wilderness that we can follow His ways in our trials and temptations (Hebrews 12:1-2) while only Jesus could have triumphed at Calvary.

It was also a victory that resulted from a deep knowedge of God's Word. This should motivate us to a regular and persistent effort to discover the teachings of God's Word, and prayer that God, through the Holy Spirit, would help us to apply it to our lives correctly and beneficially. As the Psalmist said, "Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:11).

But Satan did not learn from the conflict. Instead, in the twisted logic of the author of evil, He departed to try other forms of temptation and, eventually, to seek to defeat Jesus by bringing out Jesus' betrayal and crucifixion (John 13:2, 18-30). This, then, led to Satan's ultimate defeat and Christ's ultimate triumph (Hebrews 2:14, Matthew 28:18-20).

We learn at least the following from the temptation of Christ:


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"The Temptation of Christ" is Copyright 1999 Sterling M. Durgy. All Rights Reserved.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Permission is granted to reprint "The Temptation of Christ" or any portion as long as all copyrights are included, this statement is included, the text is not altered in any way, and the text or reprint is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 23, 1999.