The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” – Luke 4:5-8
Power is enticing. Our world would not have governments, politicians, or monarchs if humans were disinterested in power. But power is appealing because it allows us to control our own destiny. It is a bright neon sign saying, “I depend on no one.” This is precisely why Satan attempts to lure Jesus with the promise of power.
Jesus understands his mission is one that will involve suffering, pain, and utter commitment to God’s way. As humans, every cell in our bodies works to avoid such things. But for Jesus, the salvation of the world is at stake. Satan however, offers Jesus a shortcut to kingship. He is basically saying to Jesus, “you can avoid the mess of the cross, and achieve your goal of ultimate authority, the catch is, you must worship me.” It’s astounding how much Satan attempts to tug at the human nature of Jesus, and should also point to just how human Jesus is. He’s not some lofty ethereal being that floats six inches above the ground, but as much as he is God, he is now intrinsically human, capable of giving into temptation.
Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, which reads, “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only.” Now we often overlook the dark reality of this interaction. We often ignore Jesus’ humanity, and simply say, “of course he’s going to reject worshipping Satan, he’s the son of God,” as though Jesus turned off his humanity switch. But this is Biblically inconsistent, Jesus was fully tempted as a human. Place yourself in his shoes, being offered the chance of a lifetime: bypass death to gain power, or walk the road of suffering to free humanity? Don’t be so quick to say you’d reject Satan’s offer. Lots of Christians bypass their cross for the easy way of the Devil. It happens everyday.
Jesus however, rejects Satan’s offer of power, insisting on the Father’s way. You see, Jesus demonstrates that power achieved through corruptible means is wrong. True power is gained through acknowledging God’s way and his authority, and living according to it. To shun power is to prove the heart to rule.
Christians are called to denounce power. Instead they are called to serve and sacrifice. In laying aside power, we prove that only God has real power. In avoiding shortcuts, we come to a genuine fulfillment in our lives that could not be bought through power and prestige.
Lent is reminder that we cannot make it on our own, that our attempts to do things apart from God’s will often lead to our destruction, or the destruction of others. The church is called to be a place of servitude and self-giving; in this way we reflect Jesus. Are there times in your life where you attempted to take an ungodly shortcut to power? There is no greater time to ask God’s forgiveness so he might teach you humility.