@johnvinod | March 13, 2021
The third temptation of Jesus recorded in the three gospels is quite subtly deceptive. Let us see it according to Matthew:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him” (Matthew 4: 8-10 CSB).
It appears that the entire world with its diversity, rich cultures, wealth, and splendor were flashed before Jesus’ eyes in a panoramic view or vision. All the absolute best that you can imagine from all cultures, peoples, philosophies, throughout the history, …all of this and more was offered to Jesus with this suggestion: “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me.”
You would think that Satan offered it to Jesus for self-aggrandizement. No, he had already done that and miserably failed twice. Therefore, he attempts his final yet very subtle suggestion: Jesus, you know you have a ministry ahead of you. You want to be the Savior of the world. Great! But no one knows you yet. You have no followers and no disciples. Even your own family does not believe who you claim to be. You have so many needs for your forthcoming ministry as your mission encompasses the universe, but you have no resources. The vicious resentment, suffering, and persecution await you in the days to come. If you really want to accomplish all of this and usher in your Kingdom, here is your key: Just worship me, and you will have everything you have come to accomplish on earth. Just make this little compromise and you will be set for “Your Best Life Now”!
The offer is very appealing as it provides an easy short cut to the incredible name, fame, wealth, and absolute power. Also, it is effortless: fall and worship me and receive everything possible as a reward for whatever you want to be and wish to accomplish in your life. A little compromise is incredibly rewarding. And it will ultimately provide the means to accomplish the mission of Jesus.
Nevertheless, Jesus immediately found it so repulsive that he rebuked Satan and ordered him to “Go away!” He was able to see through its subtlety that Satan is asking him to do ministry and missions as per the world’s expectations of a Savior. A Messiah who works for the name, fame, and is accepted by everyone without challenging their traditions, cultures, religions, and assumptions.
Not only that day, but Jesus faced such temptations throughout his ministry. He was desired as the king that the Jewish people wished he would be. And every time Jesus walked away from them. Instead, he continued to expose their hypocrisy and denounce their moral bankruptcy. He continued to invite people to his Kingdom on his own terms. He literally ran away from popularity. He refused to be crowned without the cross. He went on to build his Kingdom of truth and righteousness with his suffering, toils, and even death on the cross. He resigned all power and superiority of all sorts and went on to win people’s hearts rather than their land, cities, or cultures! And that is how Jesus Christ wrests the Kingdom from Satan’s hand, although it was already his, but Satan had falsely presumed as his own.
Today, we have similar temptations as Jesus did. Many of us want, on the pretext of doing his ministry and missions, what Satan offers us…popularity and having all resources for our missions and no pain or suffering. If we face these challenges and temptations today that have the potential of driving us away from Jesus’ Kingdom and its values, may we press the pause button now. The missions/ministry can wait! But we must withdraw, evaluate our motives, and recommit to follow the example of Jesus. Amen.