I’ve been trying to be better about getting into my Bible and reading every day. Of course, with two little kids and a million things to do every day, it’s easier said than done. Even when I’m tied up nursing, I forget to read. Sometimes I peruse facebook instead or just spend time connecting with Patrick. Sometimes, though, I manage to remember to pop open my Bible app and start reading.
I’ve been reading Matthew recently and this verse really popped out to me for the first time in a long time. I remember reflecting on it years ago, too, but I’ve been reminded of it.
Again, the devil took him [Jesus] 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.”
The context is the devil is taking Jesus around and tempting him. The first temptation is turning stones into bread after not eating for over a month. If I didn’t eat for a day, I’d be tempted to eat absolutely everything in sight! And yet Jesus finds Scripture to help him through.
The second temptation is the devil taking Jesus up to the highest point of the temple and telling him to jump because the angels will catch him. Again, Jesus turns to Scripture to rebuke the devil.
Then we come to this last temptation – the one referenced above. It particularly strikes me as lately I’ve been reflecting on the reason Jesus came at all. Jesus came to provide a way for humanity to be in direct relationship with God. Before then, the relationship was dictated through rabbis and sacrifices – it was a mediated relationship. Jesus provides a way for HIM to be the mediator, to eliminate sacrifices by being the last sacrifice, so that we can commune directly with God.
It’s also interesting because satan offers to GIVE Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in all their splendor. For a long time, I breezed over this thinking, “He was God, no big deal.” I needed to really stop, though, and think this through. How could the devil offer to give the world to Jesus? You can only give what you possess, right?
This took me to other passages in John (12:31, 14:30) and 2 Corinthians (4:4) which all proclaim satan to be in power on Earth through various titles. God has given satan power over the Earth for a short time, and therefore, over the people of the Earth. It’s why we don’t need to proclaim belief in satan to be separated from God – it is our natural state. If we are not living with the power of God, we are living under the yoke of satan.
Let’s go back to Matthew. “All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.” Can you even begin to imagine the temptation? To have what you traveled, endured, suffered for given to you without the need to die in a horrific way? ‘All these people will love you’ satan whispers to Jesus. ‘You will not be hated by the world.’ Jesus knows full well that when he enters his ministry, he will be hated because the world loves its own and he is not of this world. He does not belong, Christians do not belong, but this is his chance to have every person proclaim him.
However, Jesus also knows that should he bow his knee, he condemns the entire world to eternal separation from God, including himself. The ultimate logic vs. emotion struggle. I can just picture Jesus standing there, looking at all the faces of the people he loves, the people he came for as satan presents them, his heart longing for all of them to know him, to love him, to want to be in communion with him, to know that without him they are condemned to hell. His heart yearns for all of them and then logic steps in and rules the day. Jesus is angry. He is irritated at satan and snaps “Away from me!” The vision of the people of the world vanish. “It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Jesus is hungry, he is being mocked by the devil, and then has what his heart longs for dangled in front of him with an impossible catch. Yet, he always responds with Scripture.
How about us? Are we so equipped that we can repel temptation with Scripture? Do we as Christians know the Bible enough to do that? Are we convicted enough of our sins and convinced enough of our desperate need for a Savior to spend the time learning the heart of God?
I am struck anew by this passage, by the magnitude of the temptations, by really feeling the heart of Jesus as he contemplates the devil’s offers. By his anguish after.
Then, in verse 11, “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” He was not left alone after his temptations. He was attended to by angels, by the very ones who would catch him off the highest point of the temple, who know who he is. I imagine they brought him the most delicious food, cold, wet water and sat with him in silence as he processed his ordeal. I imagine they had a conversation after about how he did the right thing, that Jesus talked about how his heart ached for the peoples of the world. I imagine they talked about his upcoming ministry and helped him to gather emotional strength for what would be a very difficult road.
Too often, I’m too busy to really process and reflect and think through what the Bible is saying. Too often, I can dismiss what Jesus experienced as “Well, he was God too,” and move on. It’s important to slow down, to imagine the experiences he had, to imagine emotions he may have felt, to accept his heart for people and his longing for us to know him, to be in relationship with him, to enjoy all he has to offer in eternity. It’s too easy to make Christianity about us when, really, it’s about God. It’s about what he did, and not about the fact that he did it for us. We are to accept what he did and live in light of that awesome sacrifice. To honor him, to live according to his words, to encourage others along the same path, to share by living our lives and using our words only when completely necessary.
As you reflect on these verses, on Jesus’ temptations, what stands out to you?