The temptation in the wilderness…of Jesus Christ…as recorded in Matthew 4:8-10 and in Luke 4:5-8…was a seemingly misdirected approach by Satan that appeared to miss the mark…regarding Jesus…in this one particular temptation of the offer of worldly power.
The temptation of the “power and the glory of the kingdoms of the world”…was not anywhere near to what we think would be appealing to Jesus Christ the Son of God…apparent to anyone who actually knew Him well at the time…and clearly apparent to Spirit-born Christians today reading the New Testament gospel accounts of His ministry and teaching.
This temptation of the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world…appears to us today to be almost a “throw-away” temptation…not at all a serious attempt…easy for Jesus to make the correct choice.
Of course Jesus would reject the materialistic aspects contained within the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world…these things potentially being peripheral distractions to the mandate of His unique and narrowly defined calling to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…aside from the fact that as the Son of God and Creator of the universe…Jesus literally owns everything already anyway.
To us…this particular temptation appears on the surface to be a complete misreading of Jesus Christ…an off-hand, out-of-character appeal to Jesus of two aspects of the American Dream…power and glory…on steroids.
It demonstrates either a misconception of the higher ways and thoughts of God through an under-estimation of the character of Jesus Christ the Son of God…or it is a very clever, right-on-point probing in the opening sparring contest between the deceptive, competing narratives of spiritual darkness…contrasted with divine light and pure truth…in one of the key future components that formed the basis of the final condemnation and rejection of Jesus that places Him on the cross on Calvary Hill…in Jerusalem sometime around the years 30-33 A.D.
The offer of Satan to Jesus of the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world…may have been a very clever temptation to Jesus of an alternate and more appealing approach to fixing our world through entirely worldly means…coming from the direction of wielding worldly political power and prestige…rather than the more difficult approach of procuring salvation for mankind through the humiliation and suffering of the cross.
In the temptation in the wilderness…the mind of Satan…which I do not claim to understand…reveals a depth of cleverly disguised malice and destructive intent…that would have undermined the ability of Jesus to qualify as the blemish-free Passover sacrifice…and in the process destroyed our one hope for deliverance from sin through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God (Isa. 61:1-3)…a politically conventional approach mistakenly chosen by Jesus to fix our world…in the process replacing the cross on Calvary Hill out of the equation.
Satan is a created being…and therefore does not possess divine foresight and foreknowledge.
Yet in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness…Satan manages to come up with a temptation that hits close to home in the difficulty of the atoning sacrifice for the mass of human sins…through the cross…that challenges Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He says: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Lk. 22:42).
If Jesus would not disqualify Himself by accepting the deceptively disguised offer of the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world…introducing an alternate worldly course of action totally outside of His eternal mandate to be the Passover Lamb of God…then in Satan’s back-up Plan-B…the religious elites and some of the general populace in Jerusalem would later condemn Jesus…at Calvary…over this very issue of refusing to use worldly power (Jn. 6:15; Mk. 15:31-32)…to fulfill His calling.
The mission of Jesus Christ was not to successfully demonstrate and validate the autonomous individualism that is a central component of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…by leisurely sailing the Greek Isles in the Mediterranean Sea in a carefree manner…for example…for His own personal enjoyment.
Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind…”slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8).
His unique life-script mission transcends above any worldly conventional goals, dreams, or aspirations…however commendable.
What is insightful on an eternally historic level…about the cross at Calvary…far above the earlier chess-move by Satan in either wisely or unwisely testing the character of Jesus Christ during the temptation in the wilderness…is that at the cross on Calvary…God perfectly took-the-measure of the low character of Satan…and exposed it openly for all the world of men and angels to see…yet not without great cost to Himself.
The massive take-away from the cross of Christ is that God can brilliantly maneuver the course of events in the most unexpected way…to openly expose the primary end-point outcome of sin…which is rebellious self-sovereignty…and powerfully address it for all time…through the blood shed on the cross by Jesus…all within the very same event…of the cross that day on Calvary Hill.
The Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers standing around the cross…are in complete ignorance in mocking Jesus…in part…for the very thing Jesus divinely rejected in the temptation in the wilderness…of not accepting Satan’s offer of the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world…which resurfaces again in the humiliation of Jesus on the cross in not fulfilling the expectations of a King David version of the Messiah…militarily ushering-in world peace (Lk. 23:34).
The Jews standing around the cross mocking Jesus (Mt. 27:39-43)…were not following their Jewish religious heritage of God-sovereignty expressed through journeys of faith…recorded throughout the Hebrew Bible…our Old Testament.
Abraham is the “father of faith” achieved through a God-composed journey of faith within the novel, innovative, and unconventional worldview of God-sovereignty (Prov. 3:5-6)…unique to Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity.
Abraham is not the father of self-salvation through the self-righteous performance of good works and “following the law”…through the worldview of going our own way (Isa. 53:6)…apart from God.
The surgical separation between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty at the cross of Christ…is divinely brilliant…magical in its orchestration of events…and sublime in its humble presentation of the deepest of truths.
Jesus…up on the cross…is the epitome of worldly failure.
Yet Jesus on the cross is fulfilling to perfection His God-composed life-script…written long ago by God the Father, Himself, and the Holy Spirit…to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world…in blemish-free, non-rebellious, and perfect God-sovereignty…in a consistent unity-of-purpose that could only be achieved by the God/man Jesus Christ…in total rejection of the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world…as is imaginable.
When Jesus says out of the depths of Godly consistent character: “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42) in the Garden of Gethsemane…Jesus is committing Himself to the worldview of God-sovereignty in following His God-composed life-script…having eternal benefits to countless numbers of other people… no matter how difficult and how high is the cost to Himself (Lk. 22:41-44).
God-composed journey of faith life-scripts patterned after the biblical narrative stories of faith…were designed to create the context of events and circumstances to invite us into this same unity-of-purpose that Jesus exemplified on the cross…absent the cultural constraints of worldly expectations that would attempt to offer counterfeit goals and aspirations…like the offer of the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world presented to Jesus in the temptation in the wilderness…which He rejected in order to fulfill His higher calling to be our eternal Redeemer, Savior, and King.
In contrast, when pushed to the edge of having to make a choice (Jn. 11:47-48)…instead of repenting and admitting they were wrong about their pride-filled, self-righteous religious practices…the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers end-up murdering the Son of God…the worst crime in all of human history.
The people who deserved to be expelled from Israel where not the Roman soldiers occupying Jerusalem at that time…but these religious hypocrites who instigated the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
When we look up at Jesus on the cross…we have the choice of seeing the Passover Lamb of God in the power and the glory of perfectly demonstrated love…permeating consistently throughout the Godhead of the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in their novel and innovative plan for our salvation.
This opened-up the potential for new human lives…lived free of the bondage to sin…walking with God in journeys of faith designed to lead us into the knowledge of the all truth of John 16:13.
Or alternately…we can freely choose to see Jesus Christ as a total failure to usher-in the universal justice and peace promised surrounding the Messiah…as prophesied in Isaiah 9:6-7, 11:1-10, 25:9, and 40:9-11…and as interpreted and understood by many of the Jews of the first-century and today…to occur at the first advent of the Messiah…rather than at the second coming of Christ.