The devil then took Jesus up and showed him, in an instant, all the kingdoms of the world. “I will give you authority over all of this,” said the devil, “and all the prestige that goes with it. It’s been given to me, you see, and I give it to anyone I like. So it can all be yours, if you will just worship me.” ~Luke 4:5-6
After his baptism and before he started his ministry, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days. At the end of this time, he was tired and hungry, and Satan showed up with a series of temptations. Each one spoke to Jesus’ identity as God’s Son and challenged the Father’s care, provision, and promise.
Elsewhere, the Bible calls Jesus the King of kings. In Philippians 2, Paul wrote that because of Jesus’ obedience, even to death on the cross, the Father gave him authority over all the world so that every knee would bow to him. When standing toe to toe with the devil at the end of those forty days, Jesus heard the offer of the same promise given without the hardship of the cross.
Satan was never meant to be the ruler of the world. In the beginning, God made humanity in his image to exercise dominion over the world and under his authority. When Satan came along and tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God’s voice and they chose rebellion over obedience, something changed.
The Bible doesn’t tell us the moment it occurred, but because of our first parents’ rebellion, Satan was granted dominion. This is why Paul spoke of Satan being “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). But this wouldn’t last. The world, by nature, had been gifted by God to mankind. So, the Perfect Man (both fully God and fully man) came and gained back the world through living a perfect life and dying as a perfect sacrifice.
It wasn’t an easy act. In his humanity, Jesus even sweat drops of blood as he prayed in great anguish of the cross to come and asked, “Father, if there is any other way? Yet, your will be done.”
Three years before that prayer, Satan offered Jesus another way. He could have the kingdoms of the world as a gift, and it would only cost an act of worship.
In truth, this would have cost much more. Had Jesus said Yes then God would have sinned and lost his perfect goodness and righteousness across his being. He would have dishonored his own deity if the Creator would have worshiped a creature. Then, no longer perfect, Jesus would have sacrificed his ability to save us from our sins. Yes, he could have had the kingdoms of the world without the torment of the cross, but the end result would have been cosmically devastating.
So Jesus, knowing the pain that would come, chose to gain the Kingdom through his own sacrifice. He replied to Satan, “It is written, ‘The Lord your God is the one you must worship; he is the only one you must serve’” (Luke 4:8). And thanks be to God for the Son’s perfect obedience.
But we should ask the question of ourselves: What will we bow to?
Jesus said that following him would prove difficult at times and cost us everything (Luke 9:23, 57-62; 14:25-33). Yet, when it is all said and done, the eternal gain will vastly outweigh what we lost (Luke 9:24-25, 18:24-30).
We also face the temptations to have now what we are promised then, but if we must bow ourselves to people or possessions to have power, fame, or riches, then the cost isn’t worth it even if it seems easier in the moment. We gain nothing in the end if we possess all the wealth and power in the world yet lose our souls.
So let us walk the path of Jesus, difficult though it might be, and bow ourselves to no one but the True and Living God.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.