When you’ve been fasting longer than a day, food becomes a temptation. When you’re trying to get nationally known, popularity becomes a temptation.
Likewise, when Jesus was fasting in the wilderness, Satan’s first two temptations would have been tempting. Jesus was hungry, so it made sense that Satan would tempt him with the “stones into bread” idea. Jesus was embarking on a public ministry to his nation, so it made sense that Satan would tempt him with the “jump from the temple and let angels catch you” idea.
But the third idea? What an anticlimax.
It sounds as appealing as a Jim Gaffigan camping routine: “Hey! Want to burn a couple of vacation days sleeping on the ground outside?” Uh, no.
Satan’s third temptation was lame: Bow down to Satan, and Satan hands Jesus the keys to all the kingdoms of the world. We think, Why would Jesus even want the kingdoms down here? He’s got heaven! And bow down to Satan? As if it would be tempting for Jesus to swallow the pill all at once with a grimace.
Nice try, Satan, but it looks to us like neither the means nor the end of that bargain sounds very appealing. No thanks. Satan backs off. Jesus starts his ministry.
“No thanks. Satan backs off. Jesus starts his ministry.”
Meanwhile, we learn that at least half of the temptation wasn’t completely unappealing. Jesus’ ministry ends up being long, tiring, and often disappointing. Slandered by enemies, deserted by followers, rejected by his own. Maybe there was some merit in Satan’s get-it-over-with-all-at-once idea.
But no, Jesus chose a path of sorrow. It got so bad toward the end that you could tell where Jesus had walked by the blotches of blood. The trail ended at a cross where Jesus, pierced through at various points, could be seen crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Maybe Jesus was rethinking the wisdom of the path he had taken.
“My God, my God, why?” Let’s think for a moment. We’ve heard those words before. Where?
“My God, my God, why?” Let’s think for a moment. We’ve heard those words before.
It was in the Psalms. The first verse of Psalm 22. The psalmist is David, which is no surprise. There is a surprise, however, in that some of the events David is singing about have no apparent resemblance to anything David went through. Here are some of the verses:
- Verse 1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
- Verses 7-8: “All who see me mock me . . . ‘He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’”
- Verses 14-15: “I am poured out like water, and my bones are out of joint . . . my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws.”
- Verse 16: “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.”
- Verse 18: “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
It’s as if Jesus was accomplishing two things when he quoted the first verse of Psalm 22 from the cross:
- First, He was crying out in agony. No verse could have better captured the horror Jesus felt as God made “him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
- Second, He was reminding the crowd of what was written in Psalm 22. Prophecy was being fulfilled that day.
“For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.”
Actually, there might also have been a third. You get to the end of Psalm 22 and, like so many psalms, this one doesn’t stay sad. Verses that sound like crucifixion crescendo to this declaration of victory:
“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” (Ps. 22:27-28)
In other words, when Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms in the world, it’s not as though Jesus said, “Why in the world would I want those?” No, it’s as if Jesus’ response was, “I’ll get there, but not by doing it your way.”
“It’s as if Jesus’ response was, ‘I’ll get there, but not by doing it your way.'”
It was always Jesus’ intention to be King. Thank God.
And when you find yourself tempted to get something good by doing something bad, respond to the enemy as Jesus did: “I’ll get there, but not by doing it your way.”