Thursday March 16, 2023
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.
Ever wish you had control—of people and situations and outcomes? Ever wish you had resources—of money and influence and power? Or have you ever had a position of influence, and you controlled people and situations with it? Or have you ever had a platform, and you fed on praise from others to meet a hole within your heart?
Each time we add a new word or phrase from the passage, we are leaving the previous parts of the passage there. Why? The Hebrew word for meditation (“who meditates on his law day and night,” Ps. 1:2) is the word hagah and carries in it the idea that it is by mulling over, repeating continually, chewing on (like a dog with a bone), and lingering in passages in the Word of God that the riches of the meditation literature that is the Scriptures can be fully savored and their flavor extracted.
That is what we are doing with this passage, and the Holy Spirit will continue to give us insights as we read it over and over, now with new light shining on it given during the time and space we have set aside for taking in the mysteries of God’s Word.
Today, the words of the devil to Jesus, in the second temptation, weigh heavy on us—because we see our desires laid bare in them. “I will give you all their authority and splendor.”
Authority, when the devil is talking about it, means something different than when God is talking about it. The satanic version of authority is authoritarian—it means sole oversight; control; the power to do what you want, when you want, any way you want; arrogant and self-serving leadership; and a lack of accountability.
Splendor, when the devil is talking about it, means something different than when God is talking about it. The satanic version of splendor is self-focused remarkability and self-glory. It means attractive, desirous, above the less beautiful, shiny, and impressive.
The devil is seeking to unseat and unsettle Jesus from his core vocation as the humble and self-giving Son of God who will take on the character of the Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appear- ance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (vv. 2b–3).
Jesus’s vision of the worldly authority of earthly kingdoms contrasted with his view of holy kingship; he didn’t need human authority to get his work of loving, serving, dying, and rising done. He did not need, nor want, a president’s title, a prime minister’s power, nor a prince’s purview. Jesus’s vision of the worldly splendor of earthly kingdoms contrasted with his view of the kingdom of God; he didn’t need remarkable cities, opulent palaces, or exciting entertainment to get his work done of loving, serving, dying, and raising up a movement of covenant people operating within his unseen rule and reign.
The same temptations come to us. Would you like absolute control, so no one can hurt you, and people will simply do what you want without pushing back? Would you like wealth and beauty, and all that the kingdoms of this world have to offer without needing to follow God or have any parameters on your freedom?
Jesus rejects the enemy’s vision of authority and splendor, and the attraction of the kingdoms of this world. We stand with Jesus, in seeing and promoting a kingdom that is not of this world—and subverts the values of these earthly kingdoms in every aspect. Humbly, we walk forward, in the authority and splendor only a child of God can be robed in.
What areas of control and splendor have most tempted you in the world’s kingdoms? How and where have you found strength to overcome their draw?
Lord of the Wild, this temptation tugs on our hearts as those who live in this world, often with struggle and heartache, following you in a foreign territory. Fill our inward imaginations with a vision of a kingdom that endures forever and, ultimately, heals the human heart—including our own. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Songs for the Wilderness
First 15 through the season of Lent is adapted from Jesus in the Wild: Lessons of Calling for Life in the World available through Seedbed. If you or your small group are interested in using this resource for your Lenten study, you can find more information here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The First 15
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