Wednesday March 15, 2023
ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD
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.
All gain, no pain. That is often the enemy’s play. Watch for it and resist the temptation to believe it is possible. No eternal gain comes without some sacrifice, some pain, in the present. We must lose our life in order to find it (Matt. 16:25). With the click of a button, Jesus is taken to a high place and is shown, instantly all the kingdoms of the world. Impressive. A kingdom is a sphere of influence, a non-locational space where someone exerts their rule and reign over people, land, and more. (Note: the greatest kings, queens, presidents, and politicians of history have never been able to exert lordship over the weather—a visual sign of God’s inexorable kingdom ruling overall.)
The devil, the satan, using the only tools in his arsenal to un-name, un-seat, and dis-order Jesus’s desires pulls out a big one—all the impressive arenas of control exerted in the world.
I like to see kingdoms, in this case, metaphorically rather than as geopolitical cities, states, countries, and alliances. For example, the kingdom of education. The kingdom of entertainment. The kingdom of finance and economy. The kingdom of science and technology. The kingdom of government and leadership. The kingdom of animals and creation. The kingdom of home and family. The kingdom of the human heart. The kingdom of inner and outer space. We could go on.
As these are revealed to Jesus, in an instant, Jesus hears the future whisper of this song, this word, spoken in a time to come. It may have been spoken into his heart at his baptism, but who knows: “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever’” (Rev. 11:15).
Imagine the devil saying, “Jesus, you can have now what you’ll have to wait to get through deep suffering (the “in an instant” temptation is leveraged again). This cup could pass from you.” (The enemy may have been with him in the garden later; again, we can’t know in what way, but the tone of the garden of Gethsemane text feels similar to the tone of the wild text—only with greater intensity of spiritual labor evidenced on Jesus’s part.)
Jesus will receive the kingdoms of this world; the un-namer’s play is to offer it all sooner, instantaneously, and without suffering. All gain, no pain. Now there’s a temptation.
That is often the enemy’s play. We may have opportunities to get great things through shortcuts, and the enemy will convince us our time has come, our ship has come in, and our big break has arrived.
But the Holy Spirit within us will whisper: “There is a greater kingdom coming your way than this; don’t fall for short-term gain and long-term loss—choose the better way of long-term gain and short-term loss. It is the way of the cross.”
Most of us are pain resistant, in some way, shape, or form. Is there pain in your life right now that you know is yielding in you a greater glory—a greater Christlikeness—than you could achieve without it?
Lord of the Wild, we don’t usually want entire kingdoms to be under our rule and reign—but we do want great gain with little cost. Spirit of God, our calling in Christ, the sound of our name being spoken by you and an invitation to partner with you in a great healing in someone’s life, is of greater value to us than our comfort. Help our hearts to own this, to become convinced, that the eternal gain being achieved is more beautiful than the short-term glories with which we are tempted. 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.
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