In one of his temptations of our Lord, “the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me’” (Matthew 4:8-9).
Think for a moment about what Satan was offering Jesus — all the nations of the world and their glory. Apparently, this was something that Satan could give Jesus. The Lord calls Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Satan rules the world in that he has the loyalty of those who refuse to follow God. He could have given this loyalty to Jesus.
This temptation could have had a special appeal to Jesus. The Jews were looking for the Christ to be a political leader; a champion who would cast off the oppression of Rome and restore Israel to a position of prominence. If Jesus had accepted Satan’s offer, He would’ve been the deliverer the Jews were wanting.
The Messiah was going to be given dominion over the entire world. “I will declare the decree: the Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (Psalm 2:7-8). Satan was offering Jesus a version of what He stood to receive as the Messiah. However, he was offering it at a much cheaper price. The way Jesus was to receive this dominion from the Father was through obedience, suffering, and death. Satan offered the nations of the world to Jesus if He would just “fall down and worship me.”
Jesus rejected Satan’s offer. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve”’” (Matthew 4:10). Jesus refused to take the easy way. Jesus took the path of humility, service, obedience, suffering, and death. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus took the path that cost Him the most, but it was the path that glorified God and secured our salvation.
When Jesus calls on us to enter the narrow gate and walk the difficult path (Matthew 7:13-14), He’s simply calling on us to make the same choice He made. When He insists that true disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23), He’s simply asking us to follow the example He has already set. God’s true blessings are never obtained by taking the easy path.
Jesus also refused to settle for a cheap imitation of God’s promised blessing. Psalm two said the nations would be given to the Messiah as an inheritance from the Father. Isn’t it better to get our blessings from God than from Satan? Satan offered Jesus the loyalty of the nations of the earth. (This loyalty would be temporary at best, and one doubts that Satan would have even keep his word and made good on his offer.) The Father was going to give the Messiah dominion over these nations. “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
Because Jesus was willing to suffer and die on the cross in obedience to the Father, “therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). That’s something Satan couldn’t have given Jesus. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to take one of Satan’s shortcuts. Don’t turn down the real thing for a cheap imitation.