Bow Down And Worship Me- Matthew 4:8-10
In these verses, we have come to the third temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness. As we will recall, these three temptations can be interpreted in light of the temptations which John tells us are common to all humanity in 1 John 2:16, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life. In verse 8, we find that this temptation takes place on a very high mountain, from which Jesus can see “the kingdoms of the world and their splendor”. This is obviously not a literal mountain here (for there is no such mountain from which “all” the kingdoms of the earth can be seen), but is used as a metaphor for a place which is “above” all the kingdoms of the world. This is actually Jesus rightful place as the Son of God, above all the kingdoms of the earth. It is in this manner that the temptation to the pride of life is introduced, for the temptation to the pride of life is ultimately a temptation to the ego, to self-exaltation. This is a temptation with which Satan is very familiar, for it is the very one to which he succumbed, for Isaiah 14:12-14 tell us that Lucifer desired to “exalt his throne above the stars of God”, to “sit enthroned on the mount of the assembly”. This is offered to Jesus if He will bow down and worship Satan (verse 9), and this offer points out to us the connection between the exaltation of Satan and the exaltation of self, for worship of Satan ultimately equates to the worship of self. So, if as we have already seen, Jesus rightful place is as Lord over all the “kingdoms of the earth”, how is this offer of Satan a temptation for Jesus to do wrong? The temptation comes not in the place which is offered, but in the timing and means through which this place is obtained, which is further clarified by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2. In this passage, we find that Jesus does ultimately occupy the position in which “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10), but what we also learn in that passage is that the path to this position leads only through the cross. Philippians 2:5 tells us that Jesus “humbled himself and become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. So, for Jesus, the path to the place of exaltation went through the cross, the means to the exaltation of the self came through the humbling of the self. This is the place in which this offer becomes a temptation for Jesus to do wrong, for it is the offer of the crown without the cross, the offer of the exaltation of the self without the humbling of the self. We can then see how this particular temptation is common to all of humanity, for much teaching in the modern church focuses on precisely this “offer”, the offer of the crown without the cross. Satan here offers Jesus a shortcut, an easy way out, a path to exaltation without humility. Jesus, however, refuses to fall for the enemy’s temptation here, and He does so because he knows and is committed to the truth of what God says, quoting Dt 6:13, in which God tells us to worship Him alone and no other. Jesus knew the path which the Father had laid out for Him to walk, and knew this path led to the cross, and because He knew and was committed to living by the truth of the Word of God, He refused to take any shortcuts which the devil offered Him, refused to take the path which led to the crown without the cross. Every one of His followers should therefore also keep ever foremost in their minds the truth that Jesus clearly told us, that all who would come after Him must “take up his cross and follow Me” (Mt. 16:24), choosing to reject any of Satan’s offers of a shortcut, of the crown without the cross, of the exalting of the self without the humbling of the self which Jesus demonstrates for us, without the worshipping of God and Him alone which we find demonstrated here. May we be ever aware that Jesus also calls all who would follow Him to a cross as well, and that this acceptance of the cross is the primary witness of a life lived devoted to the worship of God and Him alone, and the primary means through which we resist the temptation to get the crown without first going to the cross.