Summary: What is our motivation to resist temptation?
When the circulation of the Pravada (formerly the official mouthpiece of the Communist party) fell, it was the “church” of the Communist party. The editors remarked wistfully that Christianity and Communism have many of the same ideals: equality, sharing, justice and racial harmony. Yet they would have to admit the Marxist pursuit of that vision had produced the worst nightmares the world has ever seen? Why? Goodness could not legislated and enforced at the point of the gun. The Temptation of Jesus should show us that goodness cannot be imposed externally, from the top down, it must grow internally, from the bottom up.
In the temptation, Satan tries to get Jesus to take short cuts, exert and prove his power. But this is not only seen in the temptation we can see it with Jesus’ brothers. (John 7:3ff) 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world."
The Pharisees show this same attitude; MT 16:1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
MK 8:11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it."
LK 11:14 Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. 15 But some of them said, "By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.
In the Temptation, Satan asks, If you are the Son of God then give me a sign. Did Satan not know? Philip Yancey in his book “The Jesus I never knew” tells us that Satan was using this opportunity to coerce Jesus is displaying his power and using it to manipulate the crowds. But this is not just a standoff of two powers of the universe, rather it was a to show a profound difference between the power of Satan and the power of God. Satan wishes to dazzle, to coerce, and force obedience. Much like people would use power today. An AK-47, a bull whip, a billy club or other use of force. Satan’s power is external and coercive.
The Power of Jesus is internal, it has us follow him out of Love for him. His power is not to enslave us, but to free us. His power is that he, the Master of the Universe, would rather become the victim. He would rather become object of wrath rather than pour out his wrath. God made himself weak for one purpose: to let humans choose him freely for themselves. He would rather we choose for ourselves what we would do with Him.
Soren Kierkegaard wrote about God’s light touch. He confesses that he would rather see God use a heavier touch. Our faith suffers from so much freedom. Yet it was God’s light touch, his loving touch that has moved us so to follow Him. Why do we think it would be any different for others.
We want God to take a more active role in humanity. We think, how nice would it be if God just reached down and flicked Sadaam Hussein off the face of the earth. How many lives would have been saved? How about Adolf Hitler? Idi Amin? How would that display of Power convince the doubter of God existence? When we think like this, we are acting out what Satan did in the desert. George MacDonald once said: Instead of crushing the power of evil by divine force; instead of compelling justice and destroying the wicked; instead of making peace on earth by the rule of a perfect prince instead of gathering the children of Jerusalem under His wings whether they would or not, and saving them from the horrors that anguished His prophetic soul He let evil work its will while it lived; He contented Himself with the slow encouraging ways of help essential; making men good; casting out, not merely controlling Satan.
Instead of calling down fire from heaven, Jesus cried out “If only” God does not force himself on those who are unwilling.
In the temptation Jesus showed remarkable restraint. He does not work to remind of us our commitment to Him. The Holy Spirit comes to convict us. The Spirit reminds us of what we had promised. The Spirit reminds us of whose we are. Not by force, not by might, but by my Spirit says the Lord. (Zech. 4:6). Why does God act like this? That is how Love acts. While others throughout history tried to use force and power to achieve their will, Jesus used the power of Love, and there has been no other in history who had such an impact on humans as Jesus does.