Matthew 4:1-11 - The Temptations Of Jesus
vv. 8-10 - The final temptation of this encounter comes. Jesus is taken to a very high mountain. Whatever the mountain was, it certainly had a panoramic view. The devil gives Jesus a view of two things: “all the kingdoms of the world” and “the glory of them.” This is not a static view. It isn’t clear if it is a supernatural vision or not. If taken at face value it would have to be. There is no place on earth where all the kingdoms of the earth can be seen at once.
A key to the temptation is that Jesus is only shown the “glory of them.” He is shown the magnificence of the kingdoms of the earth from a distance, not from close in. Many things look appealing and serene and beautiful from a distance. It is only close in where their sin, inability to satisfy and general evil are seen. A man hansom from a distance or a woman beautiful from a distance only stays so as long as the distance remains. From in close, spots and wrinkles appear even in the physical realm. Coming closer still reveals the attitudes, motives, activities and sinfulness of every person. Their “glory” is quickly lost in close, as is everything this world and its kingdoms have to offer.
It is important to note the absence of the phrase, “If you are the Son of God” in this temptation. It is not that Satan doesn’t believe he is, or that there is no appeal to Jesus based on his rightful identity as Son of God. It is that in the first two cases he appeals to Jesus’ pride to demonstrate by illegitimate means that he is the Son of God. When he doesn’t do it Satan shifts tactics to avoid appealing to the identity, thus inferring that he isn’t the Son of God because he “couldn’t” vs. “wouldn’t” go through with a demonstration of his power as Son of God. Thus the last temptation strikes right at the core of that identity because the Son of God is already the Creator, Sustainer and Inheritor of all these kingdoms. The call to receive them through submission to Satan implies that since “You have no power to show you are the Son of God, you must not be. So I have authority to offer you these things, since apparently the Son of God has no power or authority here to assume them.” The implied accusation of powerlessness and lack of authority is evident. Satan may want Jesus to bow. But it is just as likely he wants him to react and assert his divinity. Either reaction is the loss of the kingdom. Satan knows it.
Jesus’ response is perfect. He doesn’t bow. And he doesn’t grasp at divinity. He simply quotes a counterpoint that is at the core of the devil’s deception - the temptation to serve oneself instead of to take a position of humility in worship of God and serving him alone. It is the final straw. Satan can find no place to gain access to Jesus’ heart, mind or flesh. So he leaves.