Reflecting on Matthew for the First Sunday of Lent

From The Gospel of Matthew, by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on Matthew 4:1-11


The third temptation brings Jesus to the summit of a very high mountain. The purpose is to give him a panoramic vision of all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence. This time the devil’s mask comes off. Insinuation has proven ineffective, as has quoting from Scripture. Now the foul ambitions of the demon are laid open to view.

Peering out at the great empires of the world, the devil says: “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” In essence, Jesus is being offered a shortcut to achieving his messianic objectives. Kingly power and international glory can be his without any humiliation or torment. In exchange, Satan wants nothing less from Jesus than a brazen act of apostasy and idolatry. Jesus has refused the offer to serve himself rather than his mission from the Father and has declined the challenge to test the Father’s goodwill. Now he is asked to repudiate the Father altogether by surrendering himself to the lordship of Satan, the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31).

Still, Jesus remains unmoved. He responds, “Get away, Satan!” and drives the devil off with the words of Deut 6:13: “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” The context of the quotation is instructive, for it prohibits the worship of “other gods” (Deut 6:14). Bowing before Satan would be just such an act of idolatry, and Jesus will have no part of it.

In the end, Jesus has proven himself the loyal Son of God. Neither the pangs of hunger nor the prospect of worldwide kingship have been able to bend his will away from the Father’s.

© 2010 Curtis Mitch, Edward Sri, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.