I’m a true crime junkie. Whether I’m on a road trip or working in the yard, there’s a good chance that I’m listening to the latest episode of a podcast, soaking in all the grisly details. And one theme that surfaces often in the true crime genre is the delusion of wealth or happiness, if only the one person standing in the way can be eradicated. The motive may be an insurance policy, a secret relationship, or a coveted inheritance. People will go to great and heartbreaking lengths to find a shortcut to what their lustful hearts have been desiring.

The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).

Like an infomercial huckster, the great deceiver and adversary stands next to the One through whom and for whom all things were created (Colossians 1:15-17), offering to hand it all over immediately—if only the rightful owner and heir would worship the illegitimate and ill-fated tenant.

To be fair, Satan’s claim to the kingdoms had a modicum of credibility, as Paul refers to him as “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Because the prized created ones believed the lie and trusted the slimy words of the serpent rather than their Creator, they conceded their stewardship to the evil one who would lord it over them and their descendants.

In Matthew 4, we find ourselves on a mountain top, observing the interaction between the snake and the Seed (see Genesis 3:15). An offer is made that would shortcut the Servant’s suffering and circumvent the cruel cross. Jesus receives the kingdoms and the glory that he seeks without facing the horrible road to Golgotha that lies before him.

But that wicked snake has grossly miscalculated the very reason for Jesus’ incarnation. Jesus is wholly unlike Satan in that he isn’t at all motivated by the glory of kingdoms or prominence. He has been led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, not to find a shortcut to glory, but so that he might deliver those destined to the perpetual wilderness of sin and rebellion.

Unlike our first parents, the true and better Adam will not be tricked into a tradeoff that would supposedly save him that day of suffering, but would cost his beloved creation any chance of eternity. Undoubtedly, Jesus would have been more welcomed by his Jewish contemporaries if he had taken the bait and then ruled as any other earthly ruler. But he knew the result and, rather than even entertain the offer, responded abruptly, “Be gone, Satan!”

Unlike Adam and Eve, who believed the word of the “father of lies,” the better and final Adam clung to the Word of his Father, spoken through Moses: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10).

Rather than hurriedly cutting corners or taking extreme measures, Jesus found resolve in his knowledge of the Father’s goodness. He resisted the tempter with great assurance that his inheritance was certain.

The fraudulent opportunity presented to the Son of God by the devil was woven into what has become Jesus’ most famous parable: The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The son demands now what is promised for him to receive later. Similar to the subjects of true crime documentaries, the son wishes his father dead, that he might experience immediately what had been promised for later by his loving father. He wants a shortcut to glory and freedom without the long-suffering faithfulness of a rightful heir. Unlike the glory-motivated son in the parable, God’s Son was not tempted by quick riches and ill-gotten glory.

What value does that life insurance policy have, when the other shoe drops and everyone learns of the sordid shortcut to riches? What value is there in temporary gain and comfort if it means that those you love dearly are lost forever? Jesus would not have it. While Satan tried to intoxicate him with the kingdoms and their glory, Jesus’ eyes were fixed intently on Calvary, where he would suffer all for sinners’ gain.

Rather than bowing down on that mountain, assuring eternal death for those he cherished, Jesus “taste[d] death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9) on another mountain, securing absolute victory and the assurance that all who believe will receive a full and complete inheritance as co-heirs with him (Romans 8:17).

Rather than take the shortcut to the kingdoms of the world and their glory, Jesus perfectly fulfilled his Father’s will, dying in the place of his rebellious creation, and, through his suffering, succeeded in “bringing many sons and daughters to glory…” (Hebrews 2:10).

Jesus’ kingdom is not like all the rest. There is no room for inflated egos or glory-seeking. We enter through infant-like faith, rather than through merit or success. Prominence is not achieved through climbing a ladder, but through bowing a knee. The meek are blessed and the exalted are humbled. His power is made perfect through weakness, not upheld through brute strength. And, perhaps most beautiful of all, every right and benefit of citizenship is received rather than earned.

Jesus did not take a shortcut. He didn’t look for an easy way to gain the kingdoms and their glory. He walked the hard road. His blood purchased the forgiveness, freedom, and life of all who will believe. And, thanks be to God, his death and resurrection knocked the confident devil off that high mountain and ensured his eternal demise. His time is short (Revelation 12:12).

So we await the day when our Lord Jesus Christ will return to bring an unconditional end to both temptation and the tempter. And his glory will be complete as we join our voices with “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! (Revelation 5:13).

Pastor Scott Skones serves Living Word Fellowship in Dickinson, North Dakota. He serves on the Church of the Lutheran Brethren’s Council of Directors and is chair of the Western Region.

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