The Temptations of Christ-Conclusion

 

1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

Go here to read part one of our Lenten examination of the temptation of Christ by Satan, here to read part two, here to read part three and here to read part four.  Satan had now issued his final temptation to Christ, all Earthly, power and waited for a reply.

As Mohammed demonstrated five centuries later, a religion that establishes secular rule over a kingdom at the inception of the religion can spread very fast and very far.  Reestablish the Davidic kingdom under Christ and Christianity might have spread just as rapidly, especially if Christ called upon the ten legions of angels he referred to at the beginning of His Passion.  Instead of just teaching, the Way taught by Christ would become the laws of the Earthly kingdom He would establish.  His mercy and justice would become statutes, and not just teachings passed slowly by word of mouth and in writings.  His mission could be accomplished without the pain and ignominy of the death on the Cross, a death Jesus would pray that he might not experience.  A throne or the Cross, in terms of His human nature this may have been the most compelling temptation.  Christ would be depicted throughout Christian history as Christ the King.  Why not be a King while He lived? What good He could accomplish here on Earth, ushering mankind into a utopia under His all wise rule.

It is instructive to recall that throughout his forthcoming three year ministry, everyone except Christ expected him to do this.  Certainly the Apostles did, constantly asking Him when the Kingdom would begin and arguing among themselves for positions of power in this new polity.  The Sadducees did, viewing His entrance into Palm Sunday as setting the stage for His revolt, and their fears that His attempt, or the attempt of His followers, to crown him as King, would lead to war with Rome.  As for the Romans, Christ died on a Roman Cross under a sign accusing him of being, or pretending to be, the King of the Jews.  Everyone seemed to expect that Christ would attempt to be a King here on Earth.  Why not fulfill these expectations?

Christ’s answer to the last temptation is quite interesting:   Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

It is simple enough that Christ could not adore Satan, violating the First Commandment, and leading to the manifest absurdity of the Creator adoring one of His creations.  However, what is especially intriguing in the answer is His statement that God alone was to be served.  An Earthly Kingdom for Christ would take away the concept of free will.  God wants us to be His servants, but we cannot be true servants if our service is coerced.  Even in the best of human states, there is much coercion, human law always being backed up by it.

Christ of course constantly said that His kingdom is not of this world and fled when the mob was going to crown him King.  Coming to win remission of our sins and to give us a path to Heaven, Christ was simply not concerned with the mundane matters of Earthly kingdoms.  When he was asked by one man to tell the man’s brother to hand over his share in an inheritance, he asked who had appointed Him arbiter in the man’s case.  At a time when every patriotic Jew rightfully hated the Roman yoke, Christ said not a word regarding that struggle.  He was so far beyond such concerns that Pilate was genuinely puzzled when Christ was brought before him, an alleged rebel against Rome, and would not speak a word in His defense.

Christ came to do the will of God, and as Lincoln noted just a bit over one hundred and fifty years ago, the Almighty has his own purposes.  By dying on the Cross and rising from the dead, Christ brought more good into this world than any benevolent ruler could ever hope to accomplish.  He did it by following the will of the Father, and gave us His great example to do likewise.

Satan, when it comes to the love that was the essence of Christ’s mission, is like a man blind from birth trying to grasp the concept of the color green.  CS Lewis nicely states this:

The truth is I slipped by mere carelessness into saying that the Enemy really loves the humans. That, of course, is an impossibility. He is one being, they are distinct from Him. Their good cannot be His. All His talk about Love must be a disguise for something else—He must have some real motive for creating them and taking so much trouble about them. The reason one comes to talk as if He really had this impossible Love is our utter failure to out that real motive. What does He stand to make out of them? That is the insoluble question. I do not see that it can do any harm to tell you that this very problem was a chief cause of Our Father’s quarrel with the Enemy.

All of Satan’s temptations seemingly offered Christ an easier way to accomplish His mission.  However, the love of the Son for the Father, meant that Christ would reject these temptations and follow the course set by the Father before time began.  Lent is all about us turning away from sin and accepting God’s love, and living our lives in accordance with His will and not ours, and that is the great lesson of the temptations of Christ.

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