Friday, June 29, 2012

Tempting Jesus

During a VBS lesson this week, the teacher gave a lesson on the temptation of Jesus found in Matthew 4. While speaking about the 3rd temptation, an astute 4th or 5th grader asked a very insightful question.
If Jesus is God and is already in control of all things, then how could Satan tempt him to be king? Wasn't he already king?
Here is the text of Matthew 4:8-9:

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 I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Satan's Offer

Satan probably doesn't know quite what this temptation means to the God-man; he can only think of himself. There is some sense in which Satan has dominion over the earth, though it is ordained and limited by God's absolute sovereignty.

Satan's Dominion: 2 Cor 4:4, Eph 2:2
Christ's Victory: Luke 10:17-18, Col 2:14-15, John 12:31

He is asking Jesus to commit the very same sin that brought his fall. Satan wants to be exalted above God, and that is the essence of Satan's offer: he will trade his hollow scepter for the golden crown.

Jesus' Temptation

How could this actually be a temptation for Jesus? Jesus knows he will be king over all:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high [Hebrews 1:1-3].

But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” [Hebrews 1:8-9].

But the glory that leads the Son of God to that eternal kingship is through the cross. The reality of the crucifixion, of bearing God's wrath, of dying for the sins of world had a deep impact on the soul of Jesus. He asked the Father if there was any other way [Matt 26:39]. The Son of God and the Son of Man would truly be crushed.

And so the real temptation before Jesus was a short-cut. He could claim dominion over what God was giving him without taking the path of pain, reproach and death. If he made a simple concession, he could be king now.

Jesus knew God's Word, God's will and lived to fulfill his Father's will. And because Jesus worshiped and served the Lord our God only, he could be our substitute and offer God's kingdom to his followers.

I am thankful for VBS and the thoughtful children we've been blessed with. I pray that God would grant and grow a child-like faith in all of them.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with this assessment.

    Acknowledge me and I will give you the kingdoms of the earth, without the need for the Cross.

    Where would we be if Jesus had said, "yes." Thank you, thank you, Jesus!