Another swift shift of the scene. Swiftness is a feature now. In a moment of time, all the kingdoms, and all the glory of all the earth. Rapid work! This is an appeal to the eye. First the palate, then the emotions, now the eye. First the appetites, then the religious sense, now the ambition. The tempter comes now to the real thing he is after. He would be a god. It is well to sift his proposition pretty keenly, on general principles. His reputation for truthfulness is not very good, which means that it is very bad. Who wants to try a suspicious egg? He could have quite a number of capitals after his name on the score of mixing lies and the truth. He has a distinct preference for the flavor of mixed
Here are the three statements in his proposal. All these things have been delivered unto me. I may give them to whom I will. I will give them to you. The first of these is true. He is |the prince of this world.| The second is not true, because through breach of trust he has forfeited his rule, though still holding to it against the Sovereign's wish. The third is not true. Clearly he hadn't any idea of relinquishing his hold, but only of swamping Jesus. Two parts lie: one part truth -- a favorite formula of his. The lie gets the vote. A bit of truth sandwiched in between two lies.
He asks for worship. Did he really think that possibly Jesus would actually worship him? The first flush answer is, surely not. Yet he is putting the thing in a way that has secured actual worship from many a'one who would be horrified at such a blunt putting of his conduct. We must shake off the caricature of a devil with pointed horns, and split hoof, and forked tail, and see the real, to understand better. From all accounts he must be a being of splendor and beauty, of majestic bearing, and dignity. His appeal in effect is this: -- These things are all mine. You have in you the ingrained idea of a world-wide dominion over nature, and of ruling all men as God's King. Now, can't we fix this thing up between us? Let's be friendly. Don't let's quarrel over this matter of world dominion.
You acknowledge me as your sovereign. You rule over all this under me. I'll stand next to God, and you stand next to me. It's a mere technical distinction, after all. It'll make no real change in your being a world-wide ruler, and it will make none with me either. Each will have a fair share and place. Let's pull together. -- The thing sounds a bit familiar. It seems to me I have heard it since somewhere, if I can jog up my memory. It has raised a cloud of dust in many a man's road, and blurred the clear outlines of the true plan -- has raised? -- is raising.
Jesus' answer is imperative. It is the word of an imperative. He is the King already in His Father's plan. He replies with the sharp, imperial brevity of an emperor, a king of kings, |Get thee hence!| Begone! The tempter obeys. He knows his master. He goes. Biting his teeth upon his hot spittle, utterly cowed, he slinks away. Only one Sovereign, Jesus says. All dominion held properly only by direct dependence upon Him, direct touch with Him, full obedience to Him. No compromise here. No mixing of issues. Simple, direct relation to God, and every other relation through that. No short cuts for Jesus. They do but cut with deep gashes the man who cuts. The |short| describes the term of his power, a short shrift.
When the devil has used up all his ammunition -- . That's a comfort. There is an end to the devil if we will but quietly hold on. Every arrow shot. Not a cartridge left. Yet he is not entirely through with Jesus. He has retired to reform the broken lines. He'll melt up the old bullets into different shape. They have been badly battered out of all shape by striking on this hard rock. He's a bit shaken himself. This Jesus is something new. When he can get his wind he will come back. He came back many times. Once through ignorant Peter with the loaf temptation in new shape, once through His mother's loving fears with the emotional temptation, and through the earnest, hungry Greeks, and the bread-full thousands with the kingdom temptation. Yet the edge of His sword is badly nicked, and never regains its old edge.
But now he goes. He obeys Jesus. The tempter resisted goes, weakened. He is a coward now. He fights only with those weaker than himself. He doesn't take a man of his own size. Temptation resisted strengthens the man. There is a new resisting power. There is the fine fettle that victory gives. Jesus is Victor. The Jordan experience has left its impress. Every act of obedience is to the tempter's disadvantage. In Jesus we are victors, too. But only in Him.
Through Jesus we meet a fangless serpent. The old glare is in the eye, the rattles are noisy, but the sting's out. He is still there. He still can scare; but can do not even that to the man arm-in-arm with Jesus. Jesus keeps true the relationship to all men and to nature by keeping true the relationship to His Father.
Our Father, lead us not into temptation as Jesus was led. We're no match for the tempter. Help us to keep arm-in-arm with Jesus, and live ever in the power of His victory.