Looking back at the story of Jesus being tempted, we see Satan grasping for straws with one final attempt at throwing Jesus off track. He takes Jesus to “very high mountain”, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Then he offers to give Jesus all these things if he will “fall down and worship me”. This is crazy. You know how crazy this is, right? It’s incredibly hard to understand, and yet at the same time reveals something important about this ‘being’ known as “the deceiver”. He’s apparently so good at painting his deceptions, he has deceived even himself here. God, who has created all things and to whom all things are subject – especially any earthly powers or splendor. God himself comes in human form, as the Son. He’s already been declared such at His baptism, just in case any of us wonders if he really knew. And yet here is Satan, promising to give something to Christ that was not quite His to give in the first place. His desire to deceive Jesus runs so deep, he has deceived even himself to think that in this moment, Jesus might look at him and say, “Well actually that sounds quite nice. I’d love to have all of that, and worshiping you is a fairly small price to pay.”
So how does Satan justify even making such an offer? I don’t know.
Perhaps it has something to do with knowing how powerful a draw that offer might be. He knows the hearts of humans. He knows we love to be in power, we love to receive praise. We love to be in control. His offer to Jesus sounds a lot like a promise of power, praise, and control over these Kingdoms. These are all healthy things to appreciate, in the context of serving God. But the tempter was trying to see if, even for a moment, He could catch Jesus in a moment of weakness. If he would turn toward Satan as the source of power and control, turning away from God for these things. Doing so, would have given far more than just a foothold.
Such temptation works its’ way into our lives as well. We’re tempted on a daily basis to think there are other sources of power, and other sources of control. The world screams at us to be anxious about this or that happening in other parts of the world, or even events happening in our own country, state, or community. Tempting us to think that we need to serve the powers that be over listening to the voice of God that desires to free us to live in peace. Jesus has become Lord of all, not by bowing to Satan, but by sacrificing Himself out of love, allowing these “powers” to do their worst…yet being revealed as powerless against God.
Jesus responds to Satan one more time, but 3 times is enough. He commands Satan to go away from him. It’s easy to wonder why He didn’t use this response the first time, but maybe it was so that we would have these specific interactions to wrestle with, and connect with our lives. It must be because each of these 3 interactions has something different to offer us, and reveal about God. Again, just another reason I found myself unable to escape a sort of “3 point message” on this one.
So Jesus responds again with words from Deuteronomy, words that every follower of God would be familiar with, and a phrase that appears multiple times throughout the Old Testament, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.” Above any powers of this world, above any glory this world has to offer, we are called to worship and serve God.
The words come as a challenge to us as well, as we begin our season of preparing for Easter. What are we serving? What are we “working toward”? What do we hope to gain each day as we leave the house, and what do we dream about as we head to sleep each night? Are they the things of God, or are they offerings of the world?
The honest answer is this: None of us can stand above the rest and claim to not have desired the things of this world. Scripture tells us that none of us is without sin. That the only person who met with these temptations and remained faithful is Christ. And even He didn’t do so for His own sake, but for ours. That through his obedience and standing before God…we might have access to the throne. That through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are actually enabled to celebrate Easter! Not as the arrival of our judge, but as the arrival of New Life even NOW!
Will you receive the reminder, to repent and turn toward God? Can we confess together, we’ve not responded as Jesus did in these moments. That we’ve given in, accepted the lies and offerings of power, control, and fulfillment. If not with significant things, then in small ways. Tiny footholds where we’ve bought into the ways of this world, instead of living as citizens of the Kingdom. This morning, Jesus stands as the one we’re to follow, and proclaims to Satan, “GO AWAY!” Can we join together in proclaiming that today? Declaring God as the only Lord we have, and the only One we will serve….no matter what?
If so, look out….transformation is going to happen…come back for the final “Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 4″…