It’s amazing sometimes how we miss the pieces of the puzzle coming together. It’s all the more amazing to us when we have our eyes opened and can now see what we’ve always missed before. I’ve been reading N.T. Wright’s book “The Day the Revolution Began; Reconsidering the meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion”, and it’s bringing a lot of different things into clarity. I will probably have read it a couple more times to understand that which I still do not, but I just got through a chapter in which the author ties together some of the stories from Jesus’s temptation in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 with some of the stories from His passion at the end of Jesus’s life.
We tend to see the temptation of Jesus out in the wilderness as an isolated event. In a strict sense it was, Jesus was only fasting in the wilderness once, but as for his temptations, the Satan manifested these in his battle with Jesus many ways at different points throughout Jesus’s life and ministry.
The evil of man came up against the goodness of God at the cross, and lucky for all of us, Jesus had already faced the temptations accompanying his passion during his wilderness temptation, and already knew how to handle it. For instance, after he was crucified, he was mocked and tempted by passers-by gawking at his suffering. “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”” Matthew 27:39-40 ESV. That phrase, If you are the Son of God, where did we (and Jesus) hear that before? We saw this much earlier in Matthew’s gospel, during that wilderness temptation. “And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Also…“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”” Matthew 4:3, 6 ESV. If you are the Son of God…prove it!!! We see here the Satan, the accuser, appearing just as prominently at the cross as he did in the wilderness, tempting, poking and prodding the Son of God to show himself. Yet Jesus, during his moment of greatest duress and tribulation, stayed true to the purpose of the Father and in doing so gives us, finally, the clearest revelation of who God is. “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Satan had offered Jesus power over all the kingdoms of the world. We see this in both Matthew and Luke’s account of the wilderness temptation. “And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”” Matthew 4:9 ESV. And from Luke “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.” Luke 4:6 ESV. Jesus could have taken his power and authority through the means of man. He could have conformed to the systems of this world. It was right there for him to take. But instead he responded by trusting in God the Father – “And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”” Luke 4:8 ESV
Don’t miss what happens during Jesus’s passion, in the garden as Jesus is arrested. “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”” Luke 22:53 ESV. The Satan had offered Jesus power and dominion over the very forces which arrayed against him both during his passion and at the cross. But it would have been through the power of darkness. The soldiers in the garden arresting Jesus, the high priest Caiaphas, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, Satan offered Jesus power and dominion over all these forces. Jesus never had to go to the cross. All of these men who played such a large role in his suffering and death would have been under his power, if only he had given in to the temptation of the devil in the wilderness. But, it would have been through the power of darkness.
Lucky for us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 ESV. It certainly appeared in the darkness that the light was being snuffed out by the darkness. Peter was having none of it – “And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” Matthew 26:51-53 ESV. We, like Peter, will have none of it. We believe in and follow the powers of darkness. Instead of the cross, we grab our swords every time. But, as Jesus told Peter, we should Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
We’ve been taking, and perishing by, our swords ever since. Until we can all accept the sacrifice of the Son of God, which he made willingly for each one of us, we will continue to sacrifice our own sons and daughters on the bloody battlefield of the world. A battlefield which gets closer and closer to our own backyards every day.
It appeared the darkness was overcoming the light, but as John told us, the darkness has not overcome it. Jesus was raised on the third day. And notice what he tells his disciples the last time he sits with them after his resurrection. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18 ESV. He had the satanic temptation to take his power through the force of man. But He was the light that could not be overcome by the darkness. He overcame those temptations all the way through the cross, was vindicated in resurrection, and has been given All authority in heaven and on earth. Why do we claim allegiance to Him and not follow the teachings and example he gave us?
“…If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.””
Matthew 27:40 ESV
“And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'””
Matthew 4:3, 6 ESV
“When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.””
Luke 22:53 ESV
“And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.””
Matthew 4:9 ESV
“To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.”
Luke 4:6 ESV
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Matthew 28:18 ESV