Last week I started to talk about Jesus's temptation in the wilderness and we thought about his forty days without food and how hungry he must have been. We considered the temptation to turn the stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. The real temptation here was to defy God's command in order to prove himself - to give in to his pride.
This week we are looking at the second of the temptations.
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. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
So Jesus is led to a high place and is shown all the kingdoms of the world. I have a feeling that this was not actually Jesus climbing a mountain for a good view, but being incorporeally high up in his mind's eye. It's not that one can't see "all the kingdoms of the world" from a physical mountain, that makes me say this, but because in a dream or a daydream you can look at something and just know what it is or what it represents without actually having ever seen it before. It doesn't actually matter; what is important here is that Jesus understands that the Devil is offering him Kingship the easy way. Jesus won his Kingship through obedience, suffering, death and resurrection. What a great temptation to take the short cut.
I love this picture from the Sudan, because it is a reminder to me not to fall into the trap of thinking Jesus looked just like me.
Now here is an interesting question. Surely the world is God's, so wasn't the Devil offering Jesus something that he hadn't got? Well, yes and no. You may recall that God gave the world as a gift to mankind in Genesis Chapter 1 at the beginning of all things. (At some stage mankind will have to answer for what we have done with this precious gift, but that's a thought for another time.)
But in fact Jesus is shown the kingdoms of man, which is a physical kingship - a rule over the bodies only, not the hearts and minds, not the souls or spirits. So the offer was in fact a hollow one. The Devil can say he has been given authority because it is mankind that has given it to him.
Once again Jesus rebuffs the temptation by quoting scripture,
"It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’"
What do we say when the Devil takes us to a high place in our minds eye and shows us all the different areas of our lives - our work, our relationships, our finances, our leisure, our writing, our health - and says I will make you master (in a non gender-specific sense of course!) of all these areas, if you turn your back on Jesus and live for yourself. That is what it means to worship the Devil - to take God off the throne and to put yourself on it.
There are no short-cuts in following Jesus. We gain a full rich life, an eternal life, when we surrender it to Jesus. I for one would rather have Jesus with authority over my life than to make a complete mess of it myself!