9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.Luke 4:9-12, ESV
The conflict had finally ended, and the dust began to settle. The two waring kingdoms watched, and the collapsed Goliath was unresponsive on the battlefield. David made his way toward the giant and took that Philistine’s terrible sword in his hands to cut the head off the snake. That scene foreshadows the struggle between our King and Satan, the tyrant king over the fallen world. The difference is found in our Lord’s victory over the enemy in this wilderness temptation was not yet the final fight. Christ will eventually slay that old serpent with his terrible sword in the shape of a cross.
Our current scene is of Jesus engaged in spiritual warfare with the devil. The Son of God is equipped with the whole armor of God; truth, righteousness, gospel readiness, faith, and the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6). The King of kings has engaged the unrighteous tyrant of the post-Edenic world. This epic struggle is mostly unseen. Satan has tempted Christ twice already with the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. This third temptation is often called the pride of life. The narrative is straightforward, but the spiritual war happening in these temptations is profound.
What if? Hypothetically, if Christ was to yield to temptation and commit sin, what would the fallout be? The enormous implications are deep and terrible, but most assuredly hypotheticals because our Saviour was tempted like us, but He overcame all temptations and remained sinless. There would be at least two hypothetical consequences if Jesus fell. First, we would utterly lose all our hope for justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. Second, if Jesus sinned, then God would have sinned. Is it possible for God to sin? Of course not, and that is why theologians have historically formulated the doctrine of the impeccability of Christ. At this point, we are getting a bit out of our intended depth, but for the curious reader, I would recommend this helpful article.
The Pride of Life.
The devil’s last trick was to try and manipulate the Son of God to reveal Himself as the divine Son through trying to force the Father’s hand, as it were. Atop the pinnacle of the Temple, Satan quoted Psalm 91:11. That Satanic logic was to presume upon the Words of God and leap in the sight of all. Why? The twisted logic was essentially this; if you are the Christ the Son of the living God, your Father’s promise to you is that the angels would save you and preserve your life from this sudden death. Show us. Demonstrate your identity. Act independently and assert your true identity through such a glorious miracle that would surely cause all Temple worshipers to bow before your glorious majesty.
The thought of Satan quoting the scriptures is sobering. Holy words filled that perverse mouth, but do they remain holy when their meaning is twisted beyond recognition? Satan is the archetypal hypocrite, fraud, and deceiver. That old serpent has been twisting the meaning of God’s words in the ears of humanity since the beginning of time. He is no ignorant fool. No, he is a sly one. He is a mischievous Bible expositor with a golden tongue. His favorite game is to ignore the biblical text’s intent and fool you into following his satanic logic.
Jesus wouldn’t yield. His foe’s trickery does not sway his mind. His path is straight, and Christ will not swerve to the right or the left. The Son of God always does the thing that pleases the Father. He is not self-exalting or impetuous. Our King is wisdom incarnate, and he sees right through the lies of Satan. His response to that wicked tyrant king was a quote from the fifth book of Moses, “It is said, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Satan’s scheme failed him for the first time in all of human history. For the first time, his every temptation was utterly powerless against his foe. This tyrant king had ruled over men for thousands of years without serious challenge from the sons of men. But this son of man was not like every other one. This was the last Adam. This was God incarnate. This was the promised King who would rule an everlasting kingdom. This was the serpent killer promised to our first parents in the garden. He is here. And Satan, like a whipped dog, ran with his tail between his legs. Undoubtedly he thought he had escaped, but the truth is, Jesus, let him go. Satan still had a treacherous part to play in redeeming His people from the kingdom of darkness. Jesus’ mercy toward that Devil will not be everlasting. He would eventually crush the head of that wicked enemy of all good, but that day had not yet come. So Satan is allowed to escape, for now.
That old devil is still roaming our land like a lion who roars, seeking to devour the weakest of the pack. Christian, you and I are not able to overcome Satan’s schemes so easily as Christ. He was alone. The battle was mano-a-mano. But He is Jesus. If you and I will overcome that scheming Satan, we must stick together. We must not allow ourselves or our brothers and sisters to become isolated and lag far behind. That is how the lion hunts. He looks for the pack’s weakest to become separated from the herd, and then he devours that one. Christian, we need the community of our congregation. We need one another to keep the pace up and stay the course. The devil is a lion who is scared stiff of our Great Shepherd. Stay together and stay with the Good Shepherd.