Matthew 4:8-11; Luke 4:5-8
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
The third temptation of Jesus is also the most mysterious, in my opinion, for somehow Satan was able to transport Jesus up to a high mountain and show him all of the kingdoms of the world in one moment. The devil told Jesus that he would give it all to him, all of these kingdoms with their power and glory, if Jesus would only fall down and worship him. But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”(Luke 4:5-8)
I used to wonder how the Lord could ever really be tempted by this offer. Some have suggested that the devil was tempting him with a way to sidestep the cross, but even if that were true, I don’t see how such an offer could produce anything other than immediate revulsion on the part of Jesus. But then it occurred to me that, perhaps, I had been giving the devil too much credit. Why would I assume that the devil could ever possess any insight into the heart of the sinless Lamb of God?
However, the devil does possess insight into the hearts of men, for he has been deceiving, entrapping, and enslaving mankind for centuries. And he always uses the same “playbook” – namely, the lust of the flesh1, the lust of the eyes2, and the pride of life3. (1 John 2:16) The book of Genesis provides us with a perfect example of this three-pronged strategy in the story of Eve’s temptation by the serpent.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was 1good for food and 2pleasing to the eye, and also 3desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1-6 [emphasis added])
This strategy was successful in causing the fall of Adam who, up until that point, was sinless. It was not successful, however, with Jesus, whom the Apostle Paul refers to as “the last Adam.” (1 Corinthians 15:45) For although Jesus was fully man, he was also perfectly submitted to the will of his Father; he did not harbor any independent desires of his own.
Jesus is the only one who has ever truly and perfectly obeyed the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) He came into this world as a baby, weak and helpless, and he grew up under the authority of godly, yet imperfect, parents. As he matured, he grew in wisdom. He lived the life of a man, but he never wavered in his love for his heavenly Father. That is why the writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)