Read Luke 4:5-8
5-7 Then the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of mankind in a sudden vision, and said to him, “I will give you all this power and magnificence, for it belongs to me and I can give it to anyone I please. It shall all be yours if you will fall down and worship me.”
8 To this Jesus replied, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve’.” (JBP)
Many of us who have studied church history believe that the church lost much of its spiritual power when it became more materially powerful. The despised and marginalised group of people who were attacked by the earthly powers managed to turn the world upside down.
Then they became an earthly power after the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to the faith. It became fashionable and desirable to be a Christian. And so the church gained wealth and power and status it had never dreamed of, and in doing so became part of the world’s problems rather than a solution to them.
Jesus is similarly tempted. He is offered material, political, military power. The appeal of the temptation is that Jesus can do a lot of good with such power. There is nothing essentially evil about this power. But he is going to rescue humankind his way, not Satan’s way. He is going to endure weakness and suffering. He is not coming to save Israel from Roman or Herodian oppression. He is coming to save them from their captivity to sin.
And of course it is a counterfeit offer in any case. Jesus reminds Satan that he is not going to make some bleak and dangerous bargain with him. Wielding power in the service of Satan is not the way of God. Jesus will indeed wield power, but it will be through weakness and suffering, not through the usually understood means.
Jesus’ power to save comes about from his refusal to exercise the wrong sort of power. His people need to repeatedly learn that lesson: beware the seduction of seeking to be powerful.
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