THEN the devil taketh Him up into the holy
city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son
of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written,-- "He shall give His angels charge
concerning Thee: And in their hands they shall bear Thee up, Lest at any time Thou dash
Thy foot against a stone."
Satan now supposes that he
has met Jesus on His own ground. The wily foe himself presents words that proceeded from
the mouth of God. He still appears as an angel of light, and he makes it evident that he
is acquainted with the Scriptures, and understands the import of what is written. As Jesus
before used the word of God to sustain His faith, the tempter now uses it to countenance
his deception. He claims that he has been only testing the fidelity of Jesus, and he now
commends His steadfastness. As the Saviour has manifested trust in God, Satan urges Him to
give still another evidence of His faith.
But again the temptation is
prefaced with the insinuation of distrust, "If Thou be the Son of God." Christ
was tempted to answer the "if;" but He refrained from the slightest acceptance
of the doubt. He would not imperil His life in order to give evidence to Satan.
The tempter thought to take
advantage of Christ's humanity, and urge Him to presumption. But while Satan can solicit,
he cannot compel to sin. He said to Jesus, "Cast Thyself down," knowing that he
could not cast Him down; for God would interpose to deliver Him. Nor could Satan force
Jesus to cast Himself down. Unless Christ should consent to temptation, He could not be
overcome. Not all the power of earth or hell could force Him in the slightest degree to
depart from the will of His Father.
The tempter can never compel
us to do evil. He cannot control minds unless they are yielded to his control. The will
must consent, faith must let go its hold upon Christ, before Satan can exercise his power
upon us. But every sinful desire we cherish affords him a foothold. Every point in which
we fail of meeting the divine standard is an open door by which he can enter to tempt and
destroy us. And every failure or defeat on our part gives occasion for him to reproach
When Satan quoted the
promise, "He shall give His angels charge over Thee," he omitted the words,
"to keep Thee in all Thy ways;" that is, in all the ways of God's choosing.
Jesus refused to go outside the path of obedience. While manifesting perfect trust in His
Father, He would not place Himself, unbidden, in a position that would necessitate the
interposition of His Father to save Him from death. He would not force Providence to come
to His rescue, and thus fail of giving man an example of trust and submission.
Jesus declared to Satan,
"It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." These words were
spoken by Moses to the children of Israel when they thirsted in the desert, and demanded
that Moses should give them water, exclaiming, "Is the Lord among
us, or not?"
Exodus 17:7. God had wrought marvelously for them; yet in trouble they doubted Him, and
demanded evidence that He was with them. In their unbelief they sought to put Him to the
test. And Satan was urging Christ to do the same thing. God had already testified that
Jesus was His Son; and now to ask for proof that He was the Son of God would be putting
God's word to the test,--tempting Him. And the same would be true of asking for that which
God had not promised. It would manifest distrust, and be really proving, or tempting, Him.
We should not present our petitions to God to prove whether He will fulfill His word, but
because He will fulfill it; not to prove that He loves us, but because He loves us.
"Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe
that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Heb. 11:6.
But faith is in no sense
allied to presumption. Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For
presumption is Satan's counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God's promises, and brings forth
fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims the promises, but uses them as Satan did, to
excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God, and
to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great
love would save them from the consequence of their sin. It is not faith that claims the
favor of Heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted.
Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of the Scriptures.
Often when Satan has failed
of exciting distrust, he succeeds in leading us to presumption. If he can cause us to
place ourselves unnecessarily in the way of temptation, he knows that the victory is his.
God will preserve all who walk in the path of obedience; but to depart from it is to
venture on Satan's ground. There we are sure to fall. The Saviour has bidden us,
"Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." Mark 14:38. Meditation and
prayer would keep us from rushing unbidden into the way of danger, and thus we should be
saved from many a defeat.
Yet we should not lose
courage when assailed by temptation. Often when placed in a trying situation we doubt that
the Spirit of God has been leading us. But it was the Spirit's leading that brought Jesus
into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. When God brings us into trial, He has a
purpose to accomplish for our good. Jesus did not presume on God's promises by going
unbidden into temptation, neither did He give
up to despondency when temptation came upon
Him. Nor should we. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above
that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be
able to bear it." He says, "Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto
the Most High: and call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt
glorify Me." 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 50:14, 15.
Jesus was victor in the
second temptation, and now Satan manifests himself in his true character. But he does not
appear as a hideous monster, with cloven feet and bat's wings. He is a mighty angel,
though fallen. He avows himself the leader of rebellion and the god of this world.
Placing Jesus upon a high
mountain, Satan caused the kingdoms of the world, in all their glory, to pass in panoramic
view before Him. The sunlight lay on templed cities, marble palaces, fertile fields, and
fruit-laden vineyards. The traces of evil were hidden. The eyes of Jesus, so lately
greeted by gloom and desolation, now gazed upon a scene of unsurpassed loveliness and
prosperity. Then the tempter's voice was heard: "All this power will I give Thee, and
the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If
Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine."
Christ's mission could be
fulfilled only through suffering. Before Him was a life of sorrow, hardship, and conflict,
and an ignominious death. He must bear the sins of the whole world. He must endure
separation from His Father's love. Now the tempter offered to yield up the power he had
usurped. Christ might deliver Himself from the dreadful future by acknowledging the
supremacy of Satan. But to do this was to yield the victory in the great controversy. It
was in seeking to exalt himself above the Son of God that Satan had sinned in heaven.
Should he prevail now, it would be the triumph of rebellion.
When Satan declared to
Christ, The kingdom and glory of the world are delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will
I give it, he stated what was true only in part, and he declared it to serve his own
purpose of deception. Satan's dominion was that wrested from Adam, but Adam was the
vicegerent of the Creator. His was not an independent rule. The earth is God's, and He has
committed all things to His Son. Adam was to reign subject to Christ. When Adam betrayed
his sovereignty into Satan's hands, Christ still remained the rightful King. Thus the Lord
had said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "The Most High ruleth in the
kingdom of men, and
giveth it to whomsoever He will." Dan. 4:17. Satan can exercise his usurped authority
only as God permits.
When the tempter offered to
Christ the kingdom and glory of the world, he was proposing that Christ should yield up
the real kingship of the world, and hold dominion subject to Satan. This was the same
dominion upon which the hopes of the Jews were set. They desired the kingdom of this
world. If Christ had consented to offer them such a kingdom, they would gladly have
received Him. But the curse of sin, with all its woe, rested upon it. Christ declared to
the tempter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the
Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
By the one who had revolted
in heaven the kingdoms of this world were offered Christ, to buy His homage to the
principles of evil; but He would not be bought; He had come to establish a kingdom of
righteousness, and He would not abandon His purpose. With the same temptation Satan
approaches men, and here he has better success than with Christ. To men he offers the
kingdom of this world on condition that they will acknowledge his supremacy. He requires
that they sacrifice integrity, disregard conscience, indulge selfishness. Christ bids them
seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; but Satan walks by their side and
says: Whatever may be true in regard to life eternal, in order to make a success in this
world you must serve me. I hold your welfare in my hands. I can give you riches,
pleasures, honor, and happiness. Hearken to my counsel. Do not allow yourselves to be
carried away with whimsical notions of honesty or self-sacrifice. I will prepare the way
before you. Thus multitudes are deceived. They consent to live for the service of self,
and Satan is satisfied. While he allures them with the hope of worldly dominion, he gains
dominion over the soul. But he offers that which is not his to bestow, and which is soon
to be wrested from him. In return he beguiles them of their title to the inheritance of
the sons of God.
Satan had questioned whether
Jesus was the Son of God. In his summary dismissal he had proof that he could not gainsay.
Divinity flashed through suffering humanity. Satan had no power to resist the command.
Writhing with humiliation and rage, he was forced to withdraw from the presence of the
world's Redeemer. Christ's victory was as complete as had been the failure of Adam.
So we may resist temptation,
and force Satan to depart from us. Jesus gained the victory through submission and faith
in God, and by
the apostle He says to us, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist
the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to
you." James 4:7, 8. We cannot save ourselves from the tempter's power; he has
conquered humanity, and when we try to stand in our own strength, we shall become a prey
to his devices; but "the name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth
into it, and is safe." Prov. 18:10. Satan trembles and flees before the weakest soul
who finds refuge in that mighty name.
After the foe had departed,
Jesus fell exhausted to the earth, with the pallor of death upon His face. The angels of
heaven had watched the conflict, beholding their loved Commander as He passed through
inexpressible suffering to make a way of escape for us. He had endured the test, greater
than we shall ever be called to endure. The angels now ministered to the Son of God as He
lay like one dying. He was strengthened with food, comforted with the message of His
Father's love and the assurance that all heaven triumphed in His victory. Warming to life
again, His great heart goes out in sympathy for man, and He goes forth to complete the
work He has begun; to rest not until the foe is vanquished, and our fallen race redeemed.
Never can the cost of our
redemption be realized until the redeemed shall stand with the Redeemer before the throne
of God. Then as the glories of the eternal home burst upon our enraptured senses we shall
remember that Jesus left all this for us, that He not only became an exile from the
heavenly courts, but for us took the risk of failure and eternal loss. Then we shall cast
our crowns at His feet, and raise the song, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to
receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and
blessing." Rev. 5:12.