The dessert sun baked the white hot sand which stretched across the eastern plains of Judea. Jeshua trudged on, neither knowing his destination, nor caring. After forty days of walking through endless miles of sand, without food, and without human company, he was starving, exhausted, and beginning to grow despondent.
As the sand steeped abruptly, he stumbled. To tired to move, he simply lay where he’d fallen. His eyes closed, and he tried not to think of his mother’s home cooked meals. His feet throbbed, his stomach ached with hunger, and his water supply was almost gone. Yet he still had not heard from his Father.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” The words formed between dry, chapped lips. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.”
But there are no green pastures here. There’s nothing here.
Jeshua opened his eyes and stared around. There was nothing but sand, a few scattered rocks, and the occasional scorpion. No sign of the dove that had led him here. No voice from heaven telling him he could leave. Nothing in the distance but the vast spread of sand melting into the horizon.
If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread. Surely, you’re Father doesn’t want you to die of starvation.
Still stretched out on the sand, Jeshua picked up one of the rocks and studied it. “He makes me to lie down beside still waters.”
Fool, there is no water here. Your father has forsaken you!
Jeshua’s body stiffened and he bolted to his feet. “Show yourself!”
A sly grin creased Satan’s handsome face as he materialized into the natural world.
Jeshua stared at him. “It is written, ‘Man shall not eat by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
The smile momentarily froze as Satan’s eyes flashed, but he quickly regained his composure. “Come with me,” he said.
In an instant, they were transported out of the dessert and stood on the pinnacle of Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. The courtyard below brimmed with excitement as the priests began the morning ritual of sacrifices.
“If you are the Son of God,” Satan said, “cast yourself down. You will not get hurt, for it is written, ‘He shall give His angels charge over you’ and elsewhere ‘In their hands they shall bear up, lest you dash your foot against a stone’. If you were to make such a grand entrance as this, all would have to believe in you.”
Jeshua stared down at the courtyard, breathing in the aroma of incense that wafted through the air.
Satan leaned in closer, his voice almost a whisper. “Even Caiaphas would have no choice but to hail you as the Messiah.”
Blood from the lambs began to fill the basins around the altar. Without looking up, Jeshua spoke. “It is also written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord, your God.”
Satan mused at the display of stalwart dedication, but then the sly smile returned. Again, he transported them both, but this time onto one of the highest mountain peaks in Israel.
“Behold, the kingdoms of this world,” Satan said, his arm encompassing the expansive view. “Observe its opulence, its resplendence. All this which you have come to reclaim, I will freely give to you. Forsake the path your Father has chosen for you to walk - forsake the cross, forsake the cup of suffering. You need not be abandoned, for I will relinquish it all to you. Just kneel before me and worship me.”
“Depart from me, Satan!” Jeshua said. “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’.”
To often we glaze over the temptation in the gospels due to its brevity and its seeming lack of sincere enticement on Jesus’ part to sin. Yet, by its very definition, temptation is to desire or crave something. Jesus had to have wanted what Satan offered. The desire for His needs to be met must have been genuine - the physical need of hunger, the emotional need of avoiding the brutality of torture and death, and the spiritual need of not being abandoned by His Father and feeling the wrath of sins which He didn’t even commit.
Satan attacks where it hurts the most. His fate rested on getting Jesus to sin. The devices he employed would have been ruthless.
Jesus asks no man to walk a path which He has not already walked.
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