Jesus is the only
One of whom we are told that He was led up to be tempted
. He was the leader of the race for the regaining of the blurred image, the lost mastery and dominion. He Himself bade us pray not to be so tempted. He out-matched the tempter. Any one of us, alone, is clearly out-matched by that tempter. But we may always rest secure in the victory He achieved that day. Only so are we safe.
It is noteworthy that the place of the temptation was chosen by the Spirit, and what place it is He chooses. Mark keenly, the tempter did not choose it. He was obliged to start in there, but he seized the first chance to get away to scenes more congenial to himself.
The wilderness is one of the most marked spots on the earth's crust. That remarkable stretch of land going by swift, steep descents almost from Jerusalem's very door down to the Dead Sea. It was once described as |the garden of God,| that is, as Eden, for beauty and fertility, like the fertile Egyptian bottoms. For long centuries no ghastlier bit of land can be found, haggard, stripped bare, its strata twisted out of all shape, blistering peeling rocks, scorching furnace-heat reflected from its rocks, swept by hot desert winds, it is the land of death, an awful death; no life save crawling scorpions and vipers, with an occasional hyena and jackal. Here sin had a free line and ran riot. It ran to its logical conclusion, till a surgical operation -- a cauterization -- was necessary to save the rest. Earth's fairest became earth's ugliest. It is the one spot where sin's free swing seamed its mark deepest in. The story of sin's worst is burned into the crust of the earth with letters over a thousand feet deep. This is sin's scar: earth's hell-scar.
There is no talk of the glory of the kingdom here. Yet there had been once. This is the very spot where that proposition on smaller scale was made to a man in a crisis of his life, and where, lured by the attractive outlook, he had chosen selfishly. This is the wilderness, sin's wilderness, whither the Holy Spirit led Jesus for the tempter's assault. No man does great service for God till he gets sin into its proportion in his perspective.
Jesus was tempted. Temptation, the suggestion to wrong, must find some point of contact within. Therein consists the temptation to the man. Without doubt there was a response within to the temptations that came to Jesus. Satan always throws his line to catch on a hook inside. The physical sense of hunger responded to the suggestion of getting hold of a loaf. The unfailing breath of Jesus' life was trusting His Father. For the way a thing should be done, as well as for getting the result, He trusted His Father. This trust, underlying and permeating His whole life, furnishes the point of contact for the second temptation.
The ruling of a world righteously -- not for the glory of reigning, ingrained in us, but for the world's good and betterment -- was ingrained in Jesus by His birth, and fostered by His study of the Hebrew scriptures, and by the consciousness of His mission. Here is the point of contact with the third temptation. At once it is plain that there is nothing wrong here in the inward response. For instantly it was clear that a response of His will to these outer propositions would not be right, would be wrong, and so these points of contact were instantly held in check by His will.
|Every temptation| was brought, we are told: |tempted in all points.| This does not mean that every particular temptation came to Jesus, but the heart, the essential, of every temptation. Every temptation that comes to us is along the line of the three that came to Him. By rejecting the first of each line He shut out its successors. By accepting the first of a series of temptations a man opens the way for the next, and so on. Temptations come on a scale descending. There are the first, the initial temptations, and then all that follow in their train. Rejecting the first stops the whole line. Not only that, but stops also the momentum, terrific, downward momentum of the whole line.
The first temptation is the door through which must pass all other temptations of that sort. If that door be opened these other temptations have a chance. If that door be kept shut, all these others are kept waiting. Temptation is always standing with its pointed toe at the crack of the door, waiting the slightest suggestion of an opening. This first temptation is always the likeliest of its class to get in. It is not always the same, of course. It is subtly chosen to suit the man. Jesus kept these doors rigidly shut, key turned, bolts pushed, bar up, chain hooked. So may we.
The tempting is to be done by |the devil.| That is his strong point, tempting people. It is one way of recognizing some of his kin. It is a mean, contemptible sort of thing. He had fallen into a hole of his own digging, and would pull in everybody else. He is never constructive in his work, always destructive. Best at tearing down. Never builds up. His allies can often be told by their resemblance to him here. Jesus is to be tempted by this master-tempter. He is going to prove to all his brothers that the tempter has no power without the consent of the tempted. The door into a man has only the one knob. And that's on the inside.