Today, part 3 of 3 in "Overcoming with Jesus." Our passage is Matthew 4:8-11:
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, 'All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Go, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only."' Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.
Let us consider together Jesus' third wilderness temptation, as always, with attention focused on how Jesus' experience demonstrates the way for us to overcome.
Lucifer in the Open--Visual Deception
After Jesus' victory at the second temptation, Satan presents himself. He understands he has been detected. He appears to present himself now in a straightforward manner. He abandons most of his disguise.
There is of course no literal high mountain from which one can view all the kingdoms of the world, their temples, spires, and glory. And yet Satan is described as literally transporting Jesus to such a place. Possibly, Satan physically transported Jesus to a very high place and then displayed before Him in something like a 3D video presentation.
Notice closely here what Ellen White was shown in The Desire of Ages (DA):
Placing Jesus upon a high mountain, Satan caused the kingdoms of the world, in all their glory, to pass in panoramic view before Him. The sunlight lay on templed cities, marble palaces, fertile fields, and fruit-laden vineyards. The traces of evil were hidden. The eyes of Jesus, so lately greeted by gloom and desolation, now gazed upon a scene of unsurpassed loveliness and prosperity (DA 129).
So Jesus is visually subjected to a false presentation of reality, one He sees by physical human eyes. We might think He would be preserved from such demonstrations, that, because of His consecration, false imagery might be spared Him. It is not. Exactly as the Bible says, Satan "showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" (Matthew 4:8).
Christians are often taught a view of Jesus that is built up from a set of expectations which is not from the Bible. They are taught to think that Jesus experienced temptation in a different way than they do, that, Jesus somehow is addressing temptations by a very different set of rules than they are. That is an erroneous expectation. The way you and I experience and the way Jesus experienced temptation is in most respects identical.
When Jesus came, Satan thought he could take advantage of the situation of humanity that Jesus had assumed. Satan knew from his early success in Eden that he could use human sensory stimulation as a weapon against humans. What we choose to do is often very closely related to values we attach to what we see and experience.
Satan hoped to provoke our Lord to think that He might attain His (Jesus') goals without suffering. He hoped to bribe Jesus. He wanted Jesus to think that there was a shortcut, a way around the cross, that a compromise position was available. He hoped to represent to Jesus a world which while ruled by Satan might be benefitted by Jesus softening and blessing the human experience; he sought to suggest his vision of a possible world with Satan himself as its leader and Jesus' its benefactor under Satan's ultimate rulership. And so, "the traces of evil were hidden," even from Jesus.
Why did the Father permit this? Because it was Jesus' duty to trust the Scriptures. It was His duty to know and understand divine truth from the Bible and to apply it to all that He saw and to which He was subject.
But could Jesus do that? Would He trust God or His human eyes?
Seeing through the Bribe
Jesus saw through the bribe. Being a student of Scripture, He knew:
Christ’s mission could be fulfilled only through suffering (DA 129).
Is this what the Bible teaches? Isaiah 53. Jesus is the suffering servant:
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to His own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken. And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto
death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (KJV).
Jesus knew Isaiah 53. He saw His life and death and His mission there. Satan's best Powerpoint and Keynote presentations were useless against Jesus' uncompromised, unshakable acceptance of God's Word. And so Jesus absolutely knew that the mission His Father had assigned Him could be accomplished only through suffering.
Jesus discerned that Satan was lying to Him. In The Desire of Ages we are given a clear explanation of the facts:
When Satan declared to Christ, The kingdom and glory of the world are delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it, he stated what was true only in part, and he declared it to serve his own purpose of deception. Satan’s dominion was that wrested from Adam, but Adam was the vicegerent of the Creator. His was not an independent rule. The earth is God’s, and He has committed all things to His Son. Adam was to reign subject to Christ. When Adam betrayed his sovereignty into Satan’s hands, Christ still remained the rightful King. Thus the Lord had said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” Daniel 4:17. Satan can exercise his usurped authority only as God permits.
When the tempter offered to Christ the kingdom and glory of the world, he was proposing that Christ should yield up the real kingship of the world, and hold dominion subject to Satan. This was the same dominion upon which the hopes of the Jews were set. They desired the kingdom of this world. If Christ had consented to offer them such a kingdom, they would gladly have received Him (DA 129-130).
I mentioned that Satan had dropped most his disguise, but not all. He presented himself as having an authority he never had. His authority was usurped. God remained King. Satan was lying to Jesus. In the Luke 4:6 description of the saying, Luke includes Satan saying to Jesus, "I will give you and this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish."
It had NOT been delivered to him. This was a bald faced lie. Satan's plan was to lead Jesus to accept the possibility of a way around the cross--a way to attain the results Jesus wanted but more speedily and with minimization of suffering.
Satan was offering Jesus a bribe.
Jesus' Response to the Bribe
Ellen White describes this ploy thus:
By the one who had revolted in heaven the kingdoms of this world were offered Christ, to buy His homage to the principles of evil; but He would not be bought; He had come to establish a kingdom of righteousness, and He would not abandon His purpose (DA 130).
Jesus saw through the lies and the bribery. He understood something we often do not understand. And here is the chief point we should absorb today. Again from The Desire of Ages, p. 130:
To men he [Satan] offers the kingdom of this world on condition that they will acknowledge his supremacy. He requires that they sacrifice integrity, disregard conscience, indulge selfishness.
As we previously noticed, there is no way around the cross; there is no shortcut. There is no way around suffering. To follow Jesus is to choose to suffer in this life. In other words, there is no trade-off, nothing negotiable. It is all or nothing: righteousness or wickedness.
To compromise with Satan can mean only that one will sacrifice integrity, one will disregard conscience, one will indulge selfishness. That is, one will destroy one's character by embracing Satanic attributes of character. Jesus understood that to compromise with Satan would not only mean this for every human being in due course, but also for Himself. Had Jesus accepted the deal, Jesus Himself would have, in the passage of time, been led to pay all this price. Satan would have turned Jesus from righteousness to sin.
Jesus absolutely refused.
What was Jesus' response to this bid? Satan had not quoted Scripture this time. This was no appeal to the word of God. Satan had appealed to human experience, and presented a fake painting of the future. For the third time, Jesus responds according to the Bible promise.
Satan's claim seen in Matthew 4:9, was, "All these things I will give you, if You will fall down and worship me."
Go Satan, for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only."
For those of you with margin references, from where does Jesus draw His reply? Deuteronomy 6:13.
We found this in our previous look at the second temptation. Satan had tried to get Jesus to misapply the promises of Psalm 91. He wanted Jesus to leap and trust the angels to catch Him, to trick Jesus into destroying His example pattern for human overcoming. Jesus refused. Jesus knew that would have been a misapplication of Scripture.
Jesus made a correct response from Deuteronomy six. Jesus knew that Psalm 91 was not applicable because God had commanded Him into His wilderness experience and had not released Him. The proper response was found in Deuteronomy six and the experience of Israel in the wilderness. Jesus identified with that. And what again was that?
Hear the warning Jesus quotes from which starts at 6:10:
Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 6:10-15).
Jesus' response in Matthew four, you may have noticed, is repeated from verse 13. Satan had sought to bribe Jesus with His "you don't have to suffer, there is a way around the cross" offer, but Jesus continues to find His position in Deuteronomy six.
Jesus is still identifying with Israel in the wilderness. Where, in the third temptation Satan sought to bribe Jesus, Jesus rejects any kind of bribe. Instead He lives God's warning to Israel. If they are faithful and obey God, God's blessings will be upon them. Then they face another risk of in their prosperity forgetting Him.
Christianity has an offer of salvation for all, but not of salvation for all apart from choosing right and forsaking wrong. There is good and evil and God is not inclusive of good and evil. He does not embrace a diversity of good and evil. He is a God of righteousness and He rejects evil. Evil is incompatible with righteousness. He temporarily permits evil for what in the end will be only the tiniest fraction of eternity. God is a jealous God. He will not open a space for the continued existence of evil because evil is self-destructive and cannot co-exist with good. The co-exist bumper sticker is ill-informed and extremely temporary.
Help for a Laodicean Church
Jesus' Deuteronomy six warning is the very warning the Laodicean church needs to hear. The church in our last portion of the Great Controversy timeline, feels itself rich and increased with goods and not needing anything. It has, it thinks, enough, but has abandoned God's truth until it is only a superficial sidebar in its life. The result will be destruction.
Laodiceanism is a lot like Satan's offer to Jesus. "If you just bow down to me," Satan said, "then you, Jesus, can run everything else under my command and do it your way. All I require is for you to bow down to me." But the only possible end-result of accepting that compromise would be for all people and even Jesus in due course, to
. . .sacrifice integrity, disregard conscience, indulge selfishness. . .
The Laodicean church at time's end has done all three. It is a people claiming to be spiritually full, who have no integrity, no conscience, and who are deeply in captivity to self-indulgence.
But Jesus has an extremely powerful lesson for us at the third temptation. It is the lesson of refusal to be bribed, refusal to become self-deceived by misunderstanding God's motives for blessing us. It is the lesson of determined resistance, and, as you might expect from this series of three sermons, success in overcoming with Jesus.
Is Victory Possible for Adventists in the Last Generation?
Jesus overcomes Satan completely in the third temptation. Is His victory for us? The Desire of Ages, pp. 130-131.
Satan had questioned whether Jesus was the Son of God. In his summary dismissal he had proof that he could not gainsay. Divinity flashed through suffering humanity. Satan had no power to resist the command. Writhing with humiliation and rage, he was forced to withdraw from the presence of the world's Redeemer. Christ's victory was as complete as had been the failure of Adam. So we may resist temptation, and force Satan to depart from us.
Question: Was for divinity to flash through humanity something Jesus was able to do because He is God? Or, is it a phenomenon that happens when humans cooperate with God?
Those who would overcome must put to the tax every power of their being. They must agonize on their knees before God for divine power. Christ came to be our example, and to make known to us that we may be partakers of the divine nature. How?--By having escaped the corruptions that are in the world through lust. Satan did not gain the victory over Christ. He did not put his foot upon the soul of the Redeemer. He did not touch the head though he bruised the heel. Christ, by His own example, made it evident that man may stand in integrity. Men may have a power to resist evil--a power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master; a power that will place them where they may overcome as Christ overcame. Divinity and humanity may be combined in them (Review and Herald, February 18, 1890). 5BC 1082.3
But until men see their defects in the mirror of God's law, until they realize that they must meet that law in character, they can not truly serve God. They will manifest a spirit that is opposed to the way of the Lord. They will not feel it essential to be free from sin. Such can not offer to God acceptable service. The Son of God came to our world in human form to show man that divinity and humanity combined can obtain the victory over sin. Through Him we may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 'Whosoever abideth in Him, sinneth not; whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him.' (Signs of the Times, February 1, 1899).
Christ lived a human life that He might be man's example in all things. He endured temptation even as every human being must endure. He believed God, as we must believe. He learned obedience, even as we are required to learn obedience. And He overcame, as we must overcome. His path lay through manifold temptations; therefore He knows how to succor those who are tempted (Signs of the Times, October 17, 1900).
Christ's victory in our humanity gives us certainty that we may experience overcoming when He is in us. Ellen White moves directly from Jesus' victory to "so we may resist."
In the Jesus' third temptation there are important lessons for us. Bribery has gross and also very finessed forms. Satan is so expert in bribery he even attempted to bribe Jesus. He was able to put in front of Jesus' human eyeballs his satanic, spectacular multi-media presentation. But Jesus refused to abandon His trust in His Father. Jesus said no, and trusting in the Father's power, divine energy shone forth and repelled Satan.
Christ's victory is for us. To repeat:
Divinity flashed through suffering humanity. Satan had no power to resist the command. Writhing with humiliation and rage, he was forced to withdraw from the presence of the world's Redeemer. Christ's victory was as complete as had been the failure of Adam. So we may resist temptation, and force Satan to depart from us.
Jesus has just exactly what you and I need. His victory makes absolutely clear that we may resist temptation in the identical manner, and "force Satan to depart from us."
In other words--other very simple words--Because of Jesus' victory, you and I may be victorious Christians in Him and through Him. He endured temptation even as every human being must endure. He believed God, as we must believe. He learned obedience, even as we are required to learn obedience. And all our salvation is through Him. We never save ourselves. We never earn anything for ourselves. Jesus' merits alone save us. We may rejoice that Jesus is Lord.
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