Luke 4:5

Of course, literal exactness is necessarily excluded here; we must look for, and shall have no difficulty in finding, the sense and spirit of the words. We will look at -

I. THE APPEAL THAT WAS MADE TO OUR LORD, and the corresponding attack that is made on ourselves. Christ was tempted to seize "power and glory" for himself by an act of unholy submission. These were the prize which the worldly minded Jews of his age imagined to be within reach of their Messiah. To one of his humble circumstances but limitless capacity, and also of rightful and honorable ambition, there might very easily be presented a most powerful temptation to aim at a great and glorious supremacy - a throne like that of the Caesar himself, on which imperial power might be exercised and human glory at its topmost height be enjoyed. And the force of this temptation would be very greatly intensified by the fact that such a throne as this would be gained by very different measures from those Jesus had been contemplating in his solitude. The collecting of multitudes by appealing to their national passions, the leading of armies and gaining of victories, the command of great bodies of men, the excitements of political strife, - all this is full of enjoyment to the ambitious soul. A vastly different experience this (and to all that was human in the mind of Jesus Christ immensely more attractive) from that of speaking unappreciated truth, living a life too noble to be understood, suffering from keen and malignant persecution, dying in the pangs and shame of martyrdom! The price to be paid for surrendering the higher for the lower aim, and the distressing for the delightful means, was "worshipping" Satan; in other words, declining the course which he most disliked, and adopting the course which he most desired. The attack which is now made on us, corresponding to this, is the suggestion that we should turn aside from the higher aspiration (whatever it may be) to the lower ambition. It may come to the Christian minister in his study, to the statesman in his cabinet, to the doctor in his consultingroom, to the author or editor at his table: it is a suggestion to leave the straight line of duty, of faithfulness, of service, of truth, of loyalty to conviction, of moral and spiritual integrity, and take the lower path of popularity, of honor, of temporal success. To do this is to take a course which we may dignify by some fair name, but which, in Scripture language, is worshipping the devil.

II. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH IT WAS REPELLED BY HIM, and in which it should be defeated by us. This was one of holy indignation: "Get thee behind me," etc. Our Lord indignantly refused to entertain a suggestion so utterly opposed to his spirit of consecration, so subversive of all his high purposes and lofty hopes. He met it by the quotation of a word which demanded entire obedience to the will of God and full devotedness to his service. In this spirit of holy indignation let us repel the first advances of a temptation to leave the higher and the heavenly road of truth and service for the lower and the earthly one of mere temporal success. To take that lower course would be to play into the hands of the evil one; to lose the commendation of our conscience and to live under the shadow of its rebuke; to lower ourselves and to degrade our life in the estimate of all the true and wise on earth and in heaven; to lose our true and high reward; to break the word and depart from the will of the Lord our God. - C.

And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, showed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
1. The importunity of Satan: he is upon our Saviour again: "Again the devil taketh Him up."

2. The variety of his shifts: from the pinacle of the Temple "he taketh Him up to an exceeding high mountain."

3. Note by what gate or passage he would enter his temptation: by the eye; he shows a goodly object unto Him.

4. The dignity of the object: he shows Him kingdoms.

5. For the amplitude and generality: "All the kingdoms of the world."

6. In their most amiable and desirable shape he showed them in their glory.

7. Satan showed himself to be an arch juggler, or prestidigitator, as artists call it, for St. Luke adds, that he showed all this "in a moment of time." A close solicitor, and a diligence worthy to be commended, if it had been in a good cause; but they that are in a wrong way are most zealous in their course, and negotiate for hell more urgently than we do for heaven.

(Bishop Hacker.)

But that tyranny is uncessant, the hatred of the devil hath no stint; expect it, be ready for it, and let it not sting your conscience with horror if you find somewhat within you always warring against the Spirit; temptations are not like some diseases, which are not incident to a man above once in his life, escape once and secure for ever, but like hereditary infirmities which are ever recurring to torment the flesh. A quotidian is more like to be cured, if it be well looked to, than an ague whose paroxysms keep longer distance.

(Bishop Hacker.)

But it is not the shifting to this place or that place that breeds contrary affections in a good man. Where there is an inward principle of goodness, firm and sure under every cope of heaven the mind is unalterable.

(Bishop Hacker.)

His mouth was stopped, and he was set non plus in the former temptation, yet how soon doth he begin to open his mouth again? He was repulsed, yet he comes to fight again. He hath many strings to his bow, and many arrows in his quiver. When one way takes not he tries forth with another; yea, he will make proof of all ere he leaves.

(Bishop Hacker.)

There is nothing so soon enticed and led away as the eye; it .is the broker between the heart and all wicked lusts that be in the world. And therefore it was great folly in Hezekiah to show his robes and treasure (Isaiah 39:2), as he was told by the prophet; it stirred up such coals of desire in them that saw them, as could not be quenched till they had fetched away all that he had, and all that his ancestors had laid up, even till that day. It is the wisdom that is used nowadays, when men would have one thing for another, to show the thing they would so exchange; as the buyer showeth his money, and the seller his wares in the best manner that he can, each to entice the ether (by the eye) to the desire of the heart.

(Bishop Andrewes.)

His power and work upon the fancies of men is none of the least of his ways whereby he advanceth the pleasures of sin. That he hath such a power, hath been discoursed before, and that a fancy raised to a great expectation makes things appear otherwise than what they are, is evident from common experience. The value of most things depends rather upon fancy than the internal worth of them, and men are more engaged to a pursuit of things by the estimation which fancy hath begat in their minds, than by certain principles of knowledge. Children by fancy have a value of their toys, and are so powerfully swayed by it, that things of far greater price cannot stay their designs, nor divert their course. Satan knows that the best of men are sometimes childish, apt to be led about by their conceits, and apt in their conceits to apprehend things far otherwise than what they are in truth.

(R. Gilpin.)

We, knowing this craft, must labour in these temptations to see that which the devil hides, and to apprehend the fearful after-claps. Let us labour to see Jael's nail as well as her milk; Delilah's scissors as well as her bosom; the snake's poison as well as her embrace; and the bee's sting as well as her honey.

(D. Dyke.)

The devil blinds us so that we see not till afterward, as Genesis 3., "Then were their eyes opened."

(D. Dyke.)

Put a bit of broken glass, or a shred of worthless mica, in a ploughed field, and let the sun shine upon it, and it sparkles as vividly as that gem which "spills its drop of light" on the finger of beauty. "Afar off," it is a glory: near, just a bit of broken glass, or shred of mica. My dear friends, beware of the "glory," the "splendour" that seems to show very substantially at a distance, but which needs only to be approached to prove unreal. I remember very well how, up in the Italian and Styrian Alps, many an apparent sky-kissing range of yet mightier Alps seemed to tower, white and lustrous, over what we had deemed the loftiest peaks. They were but vanishing clouds, climbing higher than the peaks, but with no base — showing fair, glitteringly, astonishingly, unutterably beautiful, but carrying within them the rain that drenches, and the lightning that smites and the blast that loosens the roaring avalanche. "Take heed" to this artifice of the world's "show" at a distance and from the mountain. top. There is delusion and peril in the "splendour."

(A. B. Grosart.)

Here the temptation seems eminently gross. Yet devil-worship can assume many forms, and some of these may be most refined. Worship is homage, and homage to a person, real or supposed, representative of certain principles, modes of action, and aims. What it here means seems evident enough. Jesus is recognized as seeking a kingdom, as intending, indeed, to found one. His aims are confessed to be more than Jewish, not national, but universal; not an extension of Israel, but a comprehension of the world. It is known that His purpose is to be the Messiah, not of the Jews, but of man. The only question is as to the nature of His kinghood and kingdom. The kingdom here offered is one not of the Spirit, but "of the world." And "world" here means not what it may be to the good, but what it is to the bad. it and its kingdoms may be won at once, and will be, if Jesus worships the devil, i.e., makes evil His good, uses unholy means to accomplish His ends. It is as if the tempter had said, "Survey the world, and mark what succeeds. Away there in Italy lives and rules the emperor of the world, a selfish, sensual man, whose right is might. Over there in Caesarea sits his red-handed, yet vacillating, procurator. In your own Galilee a treacherous and lustful Herod reigns, its deputy lord. Up in Jerusalem are priests and scribes, great in things external, the fierce fanatics of formalism. Everywhere unholy men rule, unholy means prevail. Worldliness holds the world in fee. By it alone can you conquer. Use the means and the men of Caesar, and your success will be swift and sure. Worship me, and the kingdoms of this world are thine." The temptation was subtly adapted to the mood and the moment, and was as evil as subtle. Bad means make bad ends. Good ends do not justify evil means; evil means deprave good ends. So a Messianic kingdom, instituted and established by worldliness, had been a worldly kingdom, no better than the coarse and sensuous empire of Rome. And Jesus, while He felt the force, saw the evil of the temptation, and vanquished it by the truth on which His own spiritual and eternal city was to be founded, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God," &c.

(A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

Could it be other than a temptation to think that He might, if He would, lay a righteous grasp upon the reins of government, leap into the chariot of power, and ride forth conquering and to conquer? Glad visions arose before Him of the prisoner breaking jubilant from the cell of injustice; of the widow lifting up the bowed head before the devouring Pharisee; of weeping children bursting into shouts at the sound of the wheels of the chariot before which oppression and wrong shrunk and withered, behind which sprung the fir-tree instead of the thorn, and the myrtle instead of the briar. Could He not mould the people at His will? Could He not, transfigured in snowy garments, call aloud in the streets of Jerusalem, "Behold your King"? And the fierce warriors of His nation would start at the sound; the ploughshare would be beaten into the sword, and the pruning-hook into the spear. Ah, but when were His garments white as snow? Not when He looked to such a conquest; but when, on a moment like this, He "spake of the decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem." But how would He, thus conquering, be a servant of Satan: I will not inquire whether such an enterprise could be accomplished without the worship of Satan. But I will ask whether to know better and do not so well, is not a serving of Satan? whether to lead men on in the name of God as towards the best, when the end is not the best, is not a serving of Satan? whether to flatter their pride by making them conquerors of the enemies of their nation instead of their own evils, is not a serving of Satan? Nothing but the obedience of the Son, the obedience unto death, the absolute doing of the will of God because it was the truth, could redeem the prisoner, the widow, the orphan. But it would redeem them by redeeming the conquest-ridden conqueror too, the strife-giving jailor, the unjust judge, the devouring Pharisee. He would not pluck the spreading branches of the tree; He would lay the axe to its root. It would take time; but the tree would be dead at last — dead, and cast into the lake of fire. It would take time; but His Father had time enough and to spare. It would take courage and strength and self-denial and endurance; but His Father could give Him all. The will of God should be done. Man should be free — not merely man as he thinks of himself, but man as God thinks of him. He shall grow into the likeness of the Divine thought, free not in his own fancy, but in absolute Divine fact of being, as in God's idea. The great and beautiful and perfect will of God must be done.

(George Macdonald, LL. D.)This was a temptation which every worker for God, weary with the slow progress of goodness, must often feel, and to which even good and earnest men have sometimes given way — to begin at the outside instead of within, to get first a great shell of external conformity to religion, and afterwards fill it with the reality. It was the temptation to which Mahomet yielded when he used the sword to subdue those whom he was afterwards to make religious, and to which the Jesuits yielded when they baptized the heathen first, and evangelized them afterwards.

(J. Stalker, M. A.)This was of all the temptations the most awful and searching. It was the only one of the three in which Satan suggests no doubt of the Divine Sonship and Divine glory of Christ. Could a Divine Son rightly refuse the houour and glory of a son? Could it be anything but a sin to turn His back on the only way that seemed to lead straight up to His throne? Was not this a "tempting" of God? How solemn and heart-searching are the lessons it may teach all those who profess to be servants of God among men; lessons which, perhaps, were never more needed than in the present day.

1. The conversion to Christ of the unconverted, and the evangelization of the masses, absorb the energies and the efforts of the Church. But the intensity of this passion for saving men may itself become a peril to the Church. In its zeal to save souls it may become indifferent to the means by which they are saved.

2. To resort to worldly and carnal methods for the extension of Christ's kingdom; to lose faith in the power of the gospel of Christ to do its own work, and to win its own way in the world is treason to Christ and to God; it is the worship of the devil.

(G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

There can be little doubt that in one sense Satan would have fulfilled his promise. No cross would have stood at the end of Christ's earthly life. There would have been louder Hosannas than Jerusalem ever offered Him as its King; there would have been vaster throngs of people proclaiming Him their Messiah and Lord; a more splendid homage from the rich and great, from rulers and Pharisees, would have been laid at His feet; in a word, Christ would have received the crown of worldly dominion and glory. But at what a cost! The great burden of human guilt would have been left still resting on the world; the heart of man would have been still weary and heavy-laden; the hope of immortal life would have been left a yearning and a longing, unsatisfied and unfulfilled; and the kingdom of God among men would have been unfounded and unknown. Christ would have lost the kingdom by appearing to gain it. The promise of the devil, like all his promises, would have turned out a black and terrible lie. He would have given the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them to our Lord, but only alter Christ had given Himself to the devil. Satan would have lost nothing of his kingdom, for he would have been king of the world's King. Appearing to resign his sovereignty for a moment he would have secured it for ever.

(G. S. Barrett, B. A. .)

1. The vision was a splendid one, well fitted to appeal even to a mind that was actuated by no vulgar ambition.

2. The desire for power here appealed to is one of which the noblest natures are susceptible.

3. It was not a wrong thing, nor at variance with His mission, that Christ should contemplate the prospect of becoming universal King.

4. The prospect held out to Him was well-fitted to stir the loftiest and holiest ambition.

5. It may well, then, foster our reverence for His character, while it teaches us lessons of the greatest practical importance, that although His universal dominion would lead to such blessed results, He would not procure or hasten it by entering into compromise with, or doing the slightest homage to, wrong.

6. Paying homage to evil with a view to the easier and speedier accomplishment of good is a sin to which the Church has always been powerfully tempted.

7. Christ's kingdom is not of this world. It is neither formed on worldly principles nor furthered by worldly measures.

(W. Landels, D. D.)

The "high mountain" is most probably Abarim, with its three peaks of Pisgah, Peer, and Nebo. From the western point, Peer, Balaam overlooked the tents of Israel and blessed them, when brought there by Balak to curse the people. From the northernmost peak, Nebo, above Baal Maon, a complete panorama of the Dead Sea is obtained. Thence it was that She Lord God showed Moses "all the land of Gilead unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and all the land of Judah... unto Zion" (Deuteronomy 34:1-4). Now Satan takes Christ to the point where Moses stood to view the Promised Land which he was not to enter. And here again we notice a covert sneer. "O Thou Prophet of the Most High, like unto Moses, who comest to lead the people of God out of bondage into liberty, to restore again the kingdom to Israel! Thou wilt, may be, do what Thou undertakest. But what will be the result to Thyself?. Wilt Thou profit in any way by it? God gave to Moses a hard forty years in the wilderness, and instead of rewarding him with rest at the end, let him see the Promised Land from afar, even from this spot, and let him die without allowing him to set foot on it. That is how God deals with His prophets, and that is how He will deal with Thee! "And as he spake may be the eye of the Son of Man rested on far-off Calvary, which is visible from this spot. Then Satan went on with the contrast: But! — I reward my servants at once. Come, bend the knee to me, and I will give Thee glory, and power, and dominion in the present." And there rose a mirage of the desert, and in that mirage was a vision of palaces and palm trees, and glittering sheets of water, on which gay barges sailed, apparently very real, but it was only a phantom scene painted in the unwholesome vapours that rose from the Dead Sea, and from the hot bituminous desert sands and rocks. A phantom splendour over desolation and death. That was what Satan offered. And observe likewise the difference between his offers and those of God, offers which he makes quite unabashed, and emphasizes. God gives present pain and future glory; Satan gives present satisfaction and future wretchedness. Only note how he pitches on one half of each offer, and contrasts only the present, say. ing nothing of the future. God gives present sadness, Satan present satisfaction; and he utters not a word about the future. The vision was but for a moment. Satan "showed unto Him, in a moment of time, all the kingdoms of the world"; the desert mirage does not last long, but while it lasts it is thoroughly deceptive. So it is with the gifts of Satan; they are but for a moment, and then they vanish away, and leave dust, and ashes, and barrenness, and death behind.

(S. Baring. Gould, M. A.)

The devil fits his temptation nicely to his purpose. Christ is about to begin His mission, and to found His kingdom, which is to be universal, to extend throughout the world. Satan shows Him how to make the kingdoms of earth His own instantaneously, by doing homage to himself. No need then for Calvary, no laborious preachings, no persecutions, no martyrdoms, no sowing in tears, no casting of the bread on the waters and patient expectance of the result after many days. The kingdoms of the world will become the kingdoms of Christ at once, if He will conform to the world, and acknowledge the Evil One as supreme — if He will allow the presence of evil, legislate for it, accept it, and not fight against it. But this offer of Satan is an usurpation of power — of God's power. No compromise with evil. "Get thee behind Me, Satan."

(S. Baring. Gould, M. A. .)

An illustration of Satan's method of beguiling to destroy, was one day witnessed by the writer when rambling near Scawfell. His guide said he thought he could find a trout, and stooping down over the grassy bank of a small mountain-stream, remained for a few minutes perfectly quiet, excepting a slight motion of the arm. Presently he brought up a large fish. He knew where it was likely to be; he gently touched its back, drew his hand lightly backwards and for. wards, soothed and charmed his victim, then grasped and captured it. So "the devil's policy is to tickle his victims to death, and damn them with delights"

(Newman Hall, LL.B.)

The temper had tried the Son of Man through the power of depression; he now tries him by me power of exaltation. He had sought to vanquish Him by the scourge of poverty; he now seeks to overcome Him by the vision of plenty. He had brought Him down into the valley, and had tempted Him by the dangers of humiliation; he now carries Him up to the mountain and tempts Him by the dangers of elevation. Why was the Son of Man superior to all circumstances? Only because He was superior to all sin. The sinless heart will be free from temptation everywhere. It will neither be reduced by the exigencies of the valley of humiliation, nor by the allurements of the mountain of elevation; it will not turn the stones into bread to avoid the famine; it will not bow the knee to Baal to purchase a crown.

(G. Matheson, M. A. , D. D.)

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