Pain-free glory?

Read Matthew 3:13- 4:11

What the Devil offers is alluring and enticing. Whether the Devil has the right or authority to make the offer of "all the kingdoms of this world", he puts himself in the position of having this gift in his possession. He is, indeed, very powerful; but it is power mixed with deceit. Still, what he offers is extremely attractive and at such reasonable cost! It is beyond what one could normally expect to have. That is at the root of so much temptation: the attractiveness of having something that is beyond our normal expectation or experience. It is the lure of power we could only imagine or experience we have only dreamt of. This certainly lies at the heart of the sexual temptation that has tripped up some of my friends. And I'm not stupid enough to believe myself immune from the same loss of footing.

For Jesus, he is offered something that is rightfully his. This exacerbates the temptation. It's all very well being offered something beyond our wildest dreams. Perhaps even worse to be offered something that is actually ours but has been stolen or usurped from us. Like seeing the beautiful pot you designed, moulded, glazed, fired and painted at a car boot sale and the thief suggesting you can have it at a bargain price! As in the other temptations, Jesus is being asked to take a route contrary to his Father's will and purpose. He is asked to call into question his father's word at his baptism but also to call into question what the act of his baptism signified. The baptism points to Jesus as the Messiah, but what kind of Messiah? The words the father speaks are drawn from Isaiah, pointing to a Messiah who comes as a suffering servant.

His is the way of glory through suffering. There is no other way. John the Baptist's reaction to the baptism is to question who should be baptising who (Matthew 3:14). It seemed entirely incongruous that one as great as Jesus (3:11) should undergo a baptism signifying repentance (3:11). But this is a humble Messiah, willing to identify fully with sinners. Glory will come through humiliation. This test revolves around Jesus willingness to be that suffering servant who willingly and completely submits to his Father's purpose. He is tempted to circumvent the Father's purpose by worshipping the Devil. Why would he do that? It would avoid suffering and servitude. He could take control of the kingdoms of this world without agony and humiliation. That has an attractive ring to it. No one enjoys suffering. The problem is, once you have worshipped someone else you are denying your claim to Lordship by acknowledging a superior. And Jesus cannot do that, whatever the immediate benefits.

Jesus does not want the fading splendour of the kingdoms of this world but he does want to will win people from them, transforming them by love and becoming their Lord and Saviour.

Andy Bathgate

Andy has been CEO of SU Scotland since 2001. When he's not busy with us, you'll find him playing with his grandsons or in an art gallery with his wife.