Scripture: Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,” ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:8-11 ESV
Observation: Satan, having failed to seduce Jesus to sin by breaking his fast and by making a spectacle of his divine nature, attempts one more time to appeal to Jesus’ human nature, appealing to his ego. So, in this last temptation in the wilderness, the devil takes him to a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms (see yesterday’s Daily Focus for a full explanation of why Christ more likely encountered Satan in a vision rather than a bodily event). There, Satan extends to Jesus an offer to claim authority over all the kingdoms of the earth if Jesus will worship him. Without hesitation, Jesus commands the devil to leave, quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 (God’s people must worship and serve him alone). Matthew then provides a brief epilogue that the devil parted company as commanded, and angels came and ministered to Christ.
Of note, Luke’s parallel account records that Satan thinks he has authority over the world’s kingdoms and can give it to whomever he wishes (Luke 4:5–6). On the contrary, while he can influence people (see 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians. 2:1–2, and Revelation 13:1–2), his leverage is notably limited. Thus, as theologian Michael Wilkins contends, the devil’s offer to Jesus reveals his “diabolical self-delusion” (NIV Application Commentary: Matthew). Indeed, Satan’s defeat is at hand once Christ completes his inaugural mission. Still, the devil will be permitted to carry on with spiritual skirmishes but curtailed in power (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) until the consummation of Christ’s kingdom when he will banish Satan, death, and Hades from our presence (Revelation 20:3, 14).
Takeaway: Theologian D.A. Carson notes that Jesus passed this third test by staying on course with his twofold mission revealed at his baptism: royal kingship and suffering servanthood. And both characterize his dual titles as the Son of God and the Son of man. Regarding the outcome of the temptations, Wilkins observes two essential elements that would prepare Christ to navigate resistance and hostility over the next three-plus years of his mission:
- Regarding continued onslaughts of evil, he will stay fixed on the Father’s will, resisting the devil’s machinations by standing firm on his Father’s promises.
- Angels will continue to attend to Jesus after this monumental victory and will comfort and worship him.
Regarding worship, Hebrews 1:6 tells us, “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him” (ESV). Indeed, angels worshipped the Christ-child before shepherds at his birth (Luke 2:10-13) and worshipfully pronounced the resurrected Christ to his mother and Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:2-5). As for comfort, they attended to him in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest (Luke 22:43).
So how do these two points apply to us? First, we, too, must give our undivided attention to our Father’s will. And the first step, as the author of Hebrews tells us (12:2), is to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, remembering that he endured the cross motivated by his love for us. Thus, we rely on his ascended position of authority over all creation (including Satan) and the refining work of the Holy Spirit to stay focused on his commands. And the grace of God will keep us firm in the faith, enabling us to rise above our suffering and resist the devil (1 Peter 5:9-10).
Secondly, our Bible tells us angels attend to the needs of God’s children, whether to:
- protect (Daniel 6:20-23; 2 Kings 6:13-17),
- reveal information (Acts 7:52-53; Luke 1:11-20),
- guide (Matthew 1:20-21; Acts 8:26),
- provide for (Genesis 21:17-20; 1 Kings 19:5-7), or
- minister to believers in general (Hebrews 1:14).
While these verses provide solace, more importantly, Jesus assures us that he is with us (Matthew 28:20) and in us (John 15:4), and John tells us that Christ who dwells in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Thus, when we focus on the Son, seeking the Father’s will, we can press on with our life and mission confident that Satan will flee (James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:9) and that we will find full-orbed soul care.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who provided us full-orbed soul care in his death, resurrection, and ascension. And we thank you for your Holy Spirit and angels who also attend to our needs. Still, we continue to succumb to temptations and stress during tough times. So would you please help us stay focused on your Son and your will and cooperate with your Holy Spirit to keep us on track so that we might live abundant lives for your glory? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling