Jesus came to die and rise before reigning as Lord of all. The devil invited Jesus to skip straight to reigning over creation. But Jesus wouldn't take the short cut--as a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus who died and rose--I for one am grateful that He didn't take the shortcuts the devil offered.
A quick reading of Matthew 4:1-11 introduces the two main characters. Jesus, the once and future king of the universe who came to earth. And the great accuser who comes at him with 3 tempting offers. Sounds a little like the ring announcer at a fight. "In this corner the once and future king of all creation who exists today as a weak mortal and in this corner the father of all lies the final enemy of all creation."
It is the fight for the ages. Jesus came humble. He put aside His power to live as a man. The Devil came ready with years of experience destroying what God had made good. The enemy could entice mortals--he'd done it countless times before. He never had any power to create--but he's repeatedly convinced creatures to destroy what God has made good. And as he looked at Jesus he saw an opening for temptation and destruction.
Some readers of scripture take this story as a simple moral example. It's easy to miss the point and give direction to other people to "Just be like Jesus when you face temptation." But that interpretation misses the whole cosmic battle that's taking place there in the wilderness right at the start of Jesus ministry.
I sometimes think the Devil understood from day one who Jesus was, is, and will be. That means the day Jesus came to earth the enemy knew clearly who Jesus was and who he was going to ultimately be for all time. I think that they both were looking at the end of all things the whole time. I think that both understood that at the end of all things Jesus will reign over all--even the devil understands that coming reality. And He invited Jesus to skip the pain of the cross and go right to final glory.
The temptation was right in front of Jesus. Right then Jesus, not at some future moment, right at that point in history the Devil invited Jesus to take full advantage of his power. Come on, Jesus if you are king just start to reign. Forget about everything else. If you are king just start to show it right now. But along the way to that final culmination of all time comes a question: If Jesus is king what does He plan to reign over?
- Does He plan to reign over a creation that's been broken by the fall into sin and death?
- Does He plan to reign over a creation that's been redeemed finally from the power of sin, death, and the devil?
Peace and thanks for reading, John