Paths To Power - The Winning Of Power Through Temptation
( Originally Published 1905 )
"Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." Luke iv. 14.
IN our studies of the paths to power, we are come at length to the Christ of God, Jesus of Galilee, our brother, and, as He will prove Himself, our Master. Shall we not reverently go with Him into the crisis of His experience which inaugurates Him as our true Christ? He returned from the desert "in the power of the Spirit," because He had there victoriously met His trial as our Saviour.
In order to understand the temptation of Christ, we must first look at the immediately preceding event, the baptism of Christ. Nothing could appear more orderly, even to us, than the Father's leading Him in this way, to His becoming our masterful brother. So His baptism was an event in which "the heavens were opened." The heavens were opened then, not only above Jesus, but also above the ordinary humanity that thronged about Him. Jesus so became the Christ of man, as well as the Christ of God, at this moment, that He represented and typified humanity. He was recognizing the divine destiny which He was to fulfil. He had His Father's business to do, and He was ready to bow to any rite which would help to make His career entirely sacred. Jesus could not have missed the involved prophecies of His own stormful life, and, perhaps, the tragic end of it all, as He thought of Himself as Messiah and of His baptism. He must have discerned by this time that this act was the beginning of a public ministry which might end only at some Calvary, since He had felt the experience of brotherhood unto all men. In all this He was realizing in His own Sonship the Father hood of the Universal Goodness. He had read and re-read the prophecies concerning the Jews' expected Messiah, and whether He had fully accepted Himself as all men's Messiah, or no, He saw that His baptism was an act like other acts which must come in His life; but they were running straight in opposition to all the conceptions of Messiah held by the priests. But then, a greater realm must have opened before Him, for what was salvation to the Jew, in His thought, would be salvation to all humanity. He had just been called "The Lamb of God," and He accepted a designation which certainly foretold suffering. The Lamb must be sacrificed some day. The voice at the baptism spoke most clearly through the sober intimations previously spoken by Him that "He must be about His Father's business," when that voice now said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
This was one baptism and of water. Another baptism must come. Every baptism of water compels one to anticipate the larger privilege of the baptism of fire, in any serious life. Purification at the hands of John, the Baptizer, was not enough to make a Christ. Jesus, even though He has been led so loftily into the presence of God's power, must not lose the privilege of allying it with that positive righteousness which mere purification cannot give. The Angel of the Annunciation had spoken of Him to Mary as "that Holy Thing that shall be born of thee." Later, He was to be spoken of as "The Holy Child Jesus," and the apostles, long years after, were to see wonderful things done "in the name of the Holy Child Jesus." But He must prove His holiness. The sinlessness of Jesus was the incident of His holiness. Sinlessness alone is negative; holiness is positive. Sinlessness means that all weeds have been kept from growing on the soil; holiness means that fair and wholesome grain has germinated and grown up, occupying and exhausting the soil itself so completely that no weeds may grow. To change the figure, one has the purity of snow, the other of flame. Jesus, if He is to be the Messiah of sinful humanity, must come to a baptism which accomplishes a purification whose highest result is not sinlessness, but holiness. There was now to be a baptism, not of water, but of fire; and it was to be experienced in the temptation in the desert. This is a critical hour in any human life. Broadly speaking, man is always on his way from a simple Garden of Eden, a place of innocence, to an organized City which is the City of holiness. Jesus had doubtless been often tempted. Yet, here, after the demonstrations of approval from heaven at His baptism here, in the wake of these unique and glorious experiences, shared partly by the excited multitude about Him which had followed John, whom they would call Christ, while John was insistently pointing out Jesus as Christ here, Jesus Himself saw before Him a greater crisis than He had ever experienced.
What others thought or said was an incidental thing. He had been living on the faith and experience of being God's Son. Now, the question was this: Can this which He has already realized from His actual Sonship unto the Divine Father endure? There is no escape from the necessity of answering this question. In His life it must be answered now. He who is to lead men to a manhood which is godlike "the Captain of their salvation must be made perfect through sufferings." He must know the baptism of fire before He can honorably propose it to His brethren. Where shall He find out about this?
Let Him go to the wilderness and inquire in its desolate solitudes. But He cannot escape trial even there. He does not ask to escape it. The Son of God, just because He is God's Son, must be tempted of the devil. "Immediately," says Mark, "the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness." Let every man remember that masterful men, like their Master, are not devil-driven, but Spirit-driven, "to be tempted," not of the Spirit, but "of the devil." The higher his destiny, the more certainly do the forces of goodness lift any man, born for mastery, up to a height which flings correspondingly vast shadows into the vale below. Luke says that "Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan. " Nothing but the wilderness was before Him; nothing but the assault of Satan awaited Him, for Jesus had accepted Himself as the Holy One of God, and evil now denied the validity of the claim.
My tempted brother, it is well for you and me, when we are troubled at the fact that we are tempted, to reflect, that not even the Christ of God certainly not the Christ of Man could fall, being already down. Jesus was now at a point of moral enthusiasm, the loftiest He had ever known. His faculties were all aglow, and His powers eager for achievement. "Then," as Matthew tells us, He was led to the trial of His rank and quality. Then, and only then, He approached the empire of contesting possibilities. Satanic power has little interest in those whose unique moral loftiness does not offend it. It is quick to ensnare only the goodness whose presence reveals immortal features. Evil hates good. The ethical consciousness of humanity will always read the account of the way Jesus trod, intellectually and spiritually, to the unique temptation. It is so comprehensive of all we meet in its threefold magnitude of trial as to be rightly called The Temptation of Jesus. And it is not a far-away thing; it is an affair of yours and mine. No eye which has been trained by those experiences that make for holiness on this earth can ever look upon Jesus with aught but fraternal sympathy, and O how we love Him when we are told that He was "led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil." No man is ever tempted until he is led up. There must be a height to fall from, else the otherwise dramatic incident is closed before it begins. Jesus is described by Luke as "full of the Holy Ghost." Expect temptation when you are on the edge of heaven, my brother. Only when He has begun to realize His moral position amidst the things of time, and to illustrate the possibility of man's receiving God, on the one hand, and the possibility of God's entering into man, on the other hand, only then can Christ be so led up as to be tempted of the devil. Do not 'think that it is because you are getting into the bad paths that your power is assailed; it is rather because you are in a good and upward-going path.
Let us carefully consider the situation of Jesus. This obscure townsman of Nazareth has been living upon the conviction that God is His Father. Those around Him do not know that, through this conviction, and in no other way, He has maintained Himself as the sinless and obedient Son. This has made Him feel the fact of human brotherhood so truly, that He now deems Himself the Messiah of Mankind. Other sincere men of genius have missed reaching His level; and their idea of Messiahship was less large than this. Had He said a word in rebuke of John, when John pointed Him out as "the Lamb of God," there might have been some question about His own opinion of His rank, even though mysterious events had occurred, as when the dove lighted upon His forehead and He felt the footfalls of an immeasurable destiny.
He could not resist, at the Jordan, the conviction that He was "The Anointed One." He hurries to the wilderness to examine His credentials. The crowd is likely to confuse everything. He alone has kept in mind the title which His heart was always repeating, "Son of Man." His are not the credentials which the Jewish rabbis expected to be furnished to their Messiah when He came. His credentials are, first, a profound faith in the universal Fatherhood of God, so profound, indeed, that Jesus believes that the Father's true Son will be the "Lamb of God bearing the sin of the world"; and, second, the feeling, in which all His own previous presentiments have their ripening, that He Himself is "the Lamb of God." He is about to take to Himself, not the name, "The Son of God," but the name, "The Son of Man," so deeply has He realized His divine Sonship unto the Universal Father. To Him it means human brother hood in Him. The faith of Jesus in God, as Father, has lifted the race up and into Him, and it has given to humanity a divine destiny. Such a faith is not proof against the attack of evil. It is a war-cry of goodness. It rather invites and challenges the opposition of wrong. Satan knows that his sovereignty is gone, if Jesus Christ succeeds. It is bold and brave, yet this revelation of goodness must be demonstrated as holiness, if it shall win.
Into the wilderness, with the wild beasts, Jesus went. The noblest might doubt the worthiness of a Master-man, who, with the best of intentions and with a fresh experience with God, had, nevertheless, missed the profoundest experience with God and man, and was therefore content to be a Messiah who would lead only a political insurrection against Rome. Already men discovered that the roots of His Messiahship had struck deeper than all this. These roots were now to experience the stress of the tempest.
There could be but one temptation serious enough for Jesus as the Christ. Only one temptation would He deal with, so that, when it was met successfully, these roots of His Messiahship would be stronger in their grasp upon the core of things. This was the temptation to doubt His Father's Fatherhood. The fancy that he might be the Messiah had set this or that other Galilean crazy, and a similar illusion had driven this or that Judean to madness. But it was not insanity that Jesus had to fear. Since John had spoken, He had become the one person whom the crowd might transform into its hero. He might be led to adopt some such superficial and dazzling view, as these other enthusiasts had adopted concerning the true relation of the Messiah to His God. O the peril of the first magnetic success of any life!
Let any of us adhere to the idea that the tempter of Jesus was an external bodily shape, if we must. In so far as possible, however, let us not miss an understanding of those inner processes by which Jesus was led, through this temptation, into a victory, not only for Himself, but for all humanity whose head He became, and whose Messiah He was proving Himself to be. It is useless to argue the question as to whether a sinless being can be tempted.
He was more than a sinless being; He was a holy being, in the human sense. But here was the trial of His holiness, and this was sure to disclose its power. This temptation of the young teacher, Jesus, came from without, not from within. Yet His holiness would not be holy enough for earth, if He could not fall, and if He could not rise, by the experience of temptation. The value of this event unto you and me lies in these things: "He was tempted in all points like as we are," and "He was tempted, yet He was without sin," and He met it as a man, sure of nothing but His divine lineage, relying upon nothing but its truth. "God is My Father" this is his only support. To draw upon the deepest meanings of His Father's Fatherhood this was His wisdom and the secret of His power.
I always thank God that Jesus, my Master, for-bade Himself any extraordinary use of His exclusively divine resources. He disdained His high privilege of being either peculiar or unique. He met the foe of humanity, as a man must meet him. "He emptied Himself." He was most divine, in becoming most human. He had left the inspiring companionship of John and the quick admiration of the wondering throng at the Jordan, and from that perilous excitement He was glad to have escaped. He was now with the prowling beasts in the wilderness. It was a safer place in which to test new experiences in the fire of thought.
Was He to become your and my true Law-giver? Look backward at our picture of Moses, and then at this new Law-giver. Here was another Moses, standing on the verge of the, announcement of a pro-founder code of morality, and He was fasting. There was a deeper contrast between them. The first Moses received the law; and it was a series of prohibitions. It was written on tables of stone and received amidst the manifested glories of Jehovah. This new Legislator and Incarnation of divine legislation was now receiving His law; and it was the law of love's inspiration. It was written in His own loyal will and heart, as Moses foretold it would be on the heart of humanity. It was received in the presence of Satan. As it has been often suggested, Moses came forth, after his forty days' fast, to meet the problem of Israel's sin, and to fail, as he did when he cast the tables of the law of Sinai from him in wrath and indignation. But Jesus came forth, joyous in the absolute confidence that His law of love would rule the world. This is the Master for you and me, my friend!
We may not ascend with Him into that uninhabited region stretching to the north, until it came so near that He could catch a sight of the towers of Jerusalem, and so far to the south that it approached Beersheba, the desert into which the scapegoat was usually carried by the Jews on the Day of Expiation but there Jesus now found Himself. We can go with Him into our own experiences, where He is "With dark shades and rocks environ'd round."
We cannot walk with Him on that arid and stony ground, and shiver near gloomy waters, or stand silent before naked precipices; but we can under-stand something of His condition when we are told that, through the forty days' afterglow from that baptismal splendor at the river's brink, "He did eat nothing," and that afterwards "He hungered." This comes close to our human life, my brother. Utter desolation could not feed Him. The solitude could produce no bread. Over against any rich suggestions which His poetic insight must have discovered, even in the bleak miles around Him, was the urgent and concrete fact the hunger of the body. The son of God was then the famished carpenter. No revelation dazzled Him into blindness as to His human need. A soul fully occupied by God, His body vacant, and with doors open for an infernal visitation this was Jesus. The Messiah in Him was to be assaulted through the Nazarene peasant. Satan could climb up into the radiant and radiating dome of the tower of His being, only by entering and passing slyly up through the dark and vacant stairways beneath it. He must go into the house, if at all, only over the mud-sill. So the first of the three trials which constitute The Temptation of the Son of Man must appeal to the physical man, although its aim was a spiritual overthrow.
Emptied of physical power by hunger, Jesus was trying to feed Himself upon the fact that He was "the Son of God." Adam, "the Son of God" and this is the designation of the evangelist Luke had lost all in his act of eating, forgetting and even distrusting God's Fatherhood. Here was "The Second Adam," famishing in His Father's world! Satan saw the opening, and he said, "If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." Never was logic so brilliantly imitated; never was an insulting hypothesis so craftily intimated. Was it a sneer, or a winsome persuasion? Satan hints that his own doubt about Jesus being God's Son may be swept away, and yet he would insert into the consciousness of Jesus the possibility, perhaps the probability, that He may be sadly wrong in His own estimate of Himself. Other enthusiastic Jews had been wrong; why not He? "If Thou be the Son of God" this is evil incarnate, pretending to be capable of being convinced of the sovereignty of goodness. It is a thing impossible; but the matter is so put that Satan may be permitted to suggest to the tempted One that, as others doubtless have been, so He may be out of balance, from having adopted the same charming and disastrous illusion which has driven other kindly enthusiasts into frenzy. Evil never shows its genius so strongly as in the demonstrations of its ability to take the garments of piety and to bedeck itself with them. Satan often stands on literalism in biblical lore. There was a precedent for the miraculous feeding of God's chosen ones. Had not the whole Hebrew nation been fed once, when it hungered in the wilderness? Did not God see to it, that the widow's cruse of oil failed not, and that her barrel of meal wasted not, for Elijah? Was a faulty human being, such as Moses or Elijah, to receive honors and attentions from God which were now to be denied to the hungry Son of God? Was divine power useless, and if so, was it not contemptible? Could there be a starving Messiah?
Men are tempted, not on the side of their weakness, but on the side of their power. Weakness is but the shadow of power. The poet is tempted to reign only and always in his fancy; the orator, to be too eloquent; the captain, to fight too often; the man who can, to do; and the Omnipotent hand is now challenged to create all His own food. Satan is always saying to the highest sort of man, "Thou cant, if thou wilt" and the primeval liar sometimes speaks the truth. Only the Christ in the wilderness, only the Christ in the Christian, may resist the temptation of power.
The art of the masters has left some of the greatest of canvases as offerings to be laid at the feet of the tempted Jesus. None of them have surpassed the picture of Tintoretto, which one may see in Venice, which Ruskin and Symonds saw only through dust and mildew, and which such minds must remember as one of the most energetic representations ever made of this scene. Tintoretto's Satan is the Satan of The Temptation of Jesus a fallen angel, doubtless; but he gives evidence yet that he was celestially created. He is vital, intellectual, splendid, and almost supreme. It is a picture full of spiritual truthfulness. In that representation, Jesus is broken and drooping, although the moral glory of the Son of Man trembles forth in a soft radiance. Before this tired and fainting form, out of which everything humanly forceful and muscularly resistful has ebbed away, stands the virile, passionate, sinister embodiment of voluptuous energy, Satan's earthly power of enchantment contrasting with the piteous loveliness of yonder famished face, his imperious derision flashing with mock heroics upon the lone and quivering Christ, his gold-circleted arm showing its fullness and force against a gorgeous wing, as he demands of the haggard Galilean, "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." No other artist has made the face of nature so forbiddingly drear, and the majestically luminous sky behind the richly draped Satan and the unadorned Jesus so palpitant with the infinite. The multitudinous stones around fairly wait to hear the word, "Be bread!" No one has so contrasted the aim of Satan glittering in his snake-like eyes with the aim of Jesus still divinely visible upon that wan face. It is not the picture which a Milton might have made, for Milton wrote the lines, so often quoted by the expositors of this account,
"Infernal hosts and hellish furies round
Milton is not so true, or so profound, as Tintoretto; for tempters almost never howl; they charm. Satan is not horrible or disgusting to any but Christ's eyes; he is more often fascinating and superb. He is wellfed, and his lithe and sinewy form, graceful with ripples of vitality that flow into one another like the rings of a sleek serpent, prove how good bread is and what good bread may do. He is the embodiment of the delicious gospel which says: "Use your power; enjoy life; avoid suffering, if you are divine!" The painting is faithful. Jesus was then making such a divine use of His divinity that He fostered it, and restrained it for the later day when He must triumph over this voice again. Then would Jesus say: "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?" Later on, even on Calvary, He would be giving His life, while He put aside the old, coarse Satanic plea, "Save thyself and us!" This is the way to power.
Let us return to His temptation, to see that to any who, at that moment, had depended upon other than the resources of Jesus, the appeal of the tempter would have come with such triumphing persuasiveness as to have extracted a compromising answer, in word or act. This would have satisfied present hunger and Satanic desire. But there was only one answer that Jesus might make. If, as a thinker, He had once vacated His right to leave His destinies in the hands of God, as His Father, He would have destroyed the one working conception of His Messiah-ship which made Him the universal Christ of God and the Christ of Man. He would not do that. How, then, did Jesus answer Satan? He reached up into the conviction that He was God's Son. He lived in the consciousness that divine faculties and divine wants were His, and that only these hungers of His nature were fundamental, central, and inclusive. He must live upon God. Humanity, too, whose head He was, because of the fact that God had made Him Son unto Himself, and therefore the life of God was within Him, must not, because humanity could not, depend upon its own power or the food of earth. He remembered a word of the past which perhaps only feebly expressed His own fresh and strong idea of the essential childhood of all humanity unto God. He would use it now. He said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' " The answer was in Jesus Himself, who was the revelation of man as certainly as He was the revelation of God, and it was at once a streak of light on the pathway of the tempted One. It amounted to this: "Because man is not God's manufactured thing, but God's child, and so he inherits God's nature, God must feed him with God's own word." Jesus did not deny the usefulness of bread for Himself or for the human race; He denied only its supremacy. The strife for bread has laid the mud-sill of civilization; the heroic willingness to do without bread has reared upon it the palace of the soul all this He made clear.
If Satan had already hinted to Jesus that Moses and the children of Israel had been miraculously fed with manna in the wilderness, and that God's Son ought to fare no worse than they, Jesus now answered it by quoting from Moses these great words. This foregleam of truth concerning the Fatherhood of God, of which Moses was the prophet, was now traced back to its source. Just as its early and timorous light had made Moses commandingly strong, so now its full splendor in the heart of Jesus made Him victorious over the Prince of Evil so victorious, indeed, did it make Him, that by and by, when He had the destiny of the world fully on His shoulders, He could hear without a tremor the voice of the same tempter jeering beneath His cross, in the same words, "If Thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross." The entire life of Jesus was the growing development, within Himself, of His early faith in the Fatherhood of His Father, God. This faith of Jesus constituted Him the Messiah and led Him to the cross, and on, by way of the tomb of Joseph, on to Olivet and heaven.
His life was beset, from the beginning to the end, with one temptation only. It came in various forms. It was this, to take a superficial view of His Father's Fatherhood. The first Adam had lost all, by selfishness, which Jesus soon saw was the core of sin; the second Adam regained all by self-sacrifice, which is the core of holiness. The first Adam passed out of the spirit into the senses; the second Adam passed out of the senses into the spirit. Jesus had inaugurated first in Himself the kingdom of the unseen. Thus only could He rule unto the end. He conquered; and His faith in His Father's Fatherhood deepened and heightened to the very last, until, on Calvary, it broadened down into such a sense of human brotherhood that He said of His human brethren who were there killing Him, "Father, for-give them, for they know not what they do." It went still further and showed itself in the form of brotherhood, for, after the tomb of Joseph had borne witness that the Son of His Father, God, could not be holden of death, He told Mary, "Go to My brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father." Even so far, this valorously defended idea of God's Fatherhood unto man and man's child-hood unto God was to lead in the enterprises and achievements of Jesus. Here is power.
How far the victory in this first trial of the Temptation went toward energizing His true Messiahship and preparing it for the greatest of its future triumphs, may be seen in this: He was tottering with hunger; a set of necessities which came out of His bodily constitution clamored for food; He actually confronted death. He said, practically, "Men can live without bread; man is not a physical being living on physical materials, but a spirit-child of the Eternal Spirit; it is not necessary for Me that My body should even survive I can live only on the word of My Father." At that moment, Jesus had conquered death, intellectually and spiritually. Calvary would corne, by and by, and break His heart, but the unpierced hands even then had "the keys of death." Jesus had done the supremely needful thing for human progress. No nation has ever reached greatness which has not refused to agree that the power and willingness to make bread are the chief glory of government. Physical comfort has to go down upon its knees before moral enthusiasm, ere the bodies of men are truly cared for. The idea that if men are well fed they are to be contented is Satanic still; and the presence of two blades of wheat where one has hitherto grown is not so much a proof that the golden day is here, as is one blade of wheat unfolding its spiritual treasure to a man delivered from the tyranny of his senses. Holiness is the only true basis for prosperity. Let our nation never forget that truth.
The first trial of the temptation had come and gone, and Jesus was more than ever the Head of a new kingdom. He had met the proposition "Bread is indispensable" with the proposition "God alone is indispensable to His child, man." He had led the race back, from bread, into the heart of the Creator of bread. He had furnished a solution, the only solution, for the bread question. It is no wonder that again He would be insisting on being known as the "Son of Man"; that is, Son of Humanity. What if the King of the kingdom which had just been proposed, had begun, at that critical moment, to turn stones into bread? No new heavens and no new earth would have ever come unto man through Jesus; Iife would have been uninspired from the higher consciousness of God's Fatherhood, and, instead of making man heroic and blessed, Jesus, our Master, would have made man a magician and an indolent eater of bread. Could anything have been more fatal to moral power? Man would have gone on testing divinity according to its power and willingness to make stupidity happy by supplying merely physical needs. Jesus did not come to lead man down into his lower life, and to inflame the petulant necessity for happiness; that would have been to emphasize the idea that man is only God's manufacture, and physical. He came, on the other hand, to lead man up into his higher nature, and to show him that Calvary furnishes the symbol of divine manliness this is to emphasize the idea that man is God's child and spiritual. Not what a man gets makes him rich, but how he gets it; and the ability to do without it is a greater treasure still.
In the first trial, Jesus won the day, by depending utterly upon the Fatherhood of His Father, by refusing to degrade divinity into satisfying His own immediate desires. It was a sacrifice of Himself. He was even then declining to found "a religion of signs"; He was refusing a "sign" even for Himself. It must ever be remembered that the value of the Per-son of Jesus Christ, in. His influence in the world, lies in the fact that He Himself experienced His own religion and was equal to all its high demands.
The second trial is so managed by the tempter that Jesus, who has refused to take His life and its sustenance out of the hands of God, is urged to fall a victim to His own convictions, and to carry His own faith a little further, and, in an extraordinary act, to depend wholly upon His Father's Fatherhood. "If dependence on God is a good thing, make the most of it" this is the plea He hears. Yonder glows the Temple, rising above terrace and garden and castle in the Holy City. It is the center of the world, in the thought of that nation to whom any Messiah must be most dear. It is the very place which shrewd and brilliant diplomacy, or the manipulator of a great movement which must carry the enthusiasm of the people, would select for some dramatic act that would bird the hero to the affections of a populace and enthrone a victor in the imagination and adoration of the Jewish race. In what literal or symbolic sense these words are used, we need not stop to discuss, but it is a fact repeatable ever more in Christian experience, that "then" "the devil taketh Him into the Holy City, and setteth Him on the summit of the Temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down, for it is written, 'He shall give the angels charge concerning Thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.' " There is no rea-son to suppose that these words need to be accepted more literally than Paul's words as to his having been "caught up to the third heaven," and other similar words. A more important fact it is, that the temptation which offered itself to Jesus at this moment in the development of His thought of Himself as Messiah, and in the presence of all that the Temple in Jerusalem meant to Him and His nation, was so subtly conceived, and so persuasively insinuated by Satanic artifice, that only the truest and most deeply inspired spirituality and faith could have resisted it. Behold how you and I may resist it!
Do not underestimate its force. Jesus was divinely ambitious. Ambition to lead and to deliver Israel must have considered the fact that Israel must be impressed. How Israel was to be impressed, and whither Israel's leader was to lead, were questions answered variously. They were answered according to each thinker's conception of the true Messiah and His mission. The answer of Jesus must be in accord with His unique idea of the Messiah as the representative of His Father--God. He was still drinking at the fountain of His inspiration: "God is My Father; I am His well-beloved Son, and God is pleased in Me." That came from His hour of baptism. But things had taken a new aspect. Would He still be God's Child? He had proven Himself to be God's Child by His trust in God and His dependence upon Him in the first trial. "Trust Him still further," said Satan. "Depend upon Him with dramatic entirety," whispered the tempter. Satan had grasped and was urging on Jesus' own argument.
Against the great gates of the Temple, the sun-light poured its splendor. Every parapet caught the glory and burned in the far-flung morning tide. The sublime height of the Royal Porch invited Him. Thousands of Jews who had come up from all parts of the world were talking over the national expectancy. Had the Messiah been born? Many of these pilgrims had recently been baptized by John and were of those who had just left the banks of Jordan, where John had gathered the nation and baptized Jesus, when the heavens were opened and they had heard the voice of approbation above the Galilean Carpenter. Some of them were ready to believe. Was it not the hour for His vindication and the one valuable opportunity for Him to trust God, even daringly? If He were to cast Himself off from yonder golden edge of the Temple, surely divine wings holding Him up would create a new breath of faith for men. Was not this to be desired to reach the goal in one scenic event, to save Israel's faith, and to reinspire His own faith in Himself? The King was surveying two kingdoms. One was the kingdom of this world; the other was the kingdom of God's universe, inclusive of earth and heaven. Which kingdom would be His? Was He thinking that the one could be entered only by presumption, and that He was already enthroned in the other, by the fact that, even with extraordinary powers, He had been obedient thus far to all accepted law, the law of nature as well as the law of Sinai? By and by natural laws were to be broken divinely, only because He would fulfill them; that is, "fill-full" them with Himself, and thus enlarge them until they were lost in greater and all-inclusive laws? Or was He afraid to throw Himself upon the air, lest it might yield, and all His divine and humane designs perish with Him? Then it was that Satan clothed himself so sacredly with a scriptural text, that only divine eyes could have discerned his sinuous craft, making it all a lie; and the devil repeated the old promise of Israel: "He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone." He intimated this: "Thou art soon to break up man's sense-bound universe, by revealing the unseen. Do it now and so publicly as to save time, struggle, and long agonies!"
O my Saviour, Thou wilt not do this! No. Jesus was the invisible King of an invisible kingdom. He could not begin the conquest of that kingdom over the hearts of men, by further vulgarizing the already too theatrical passion of mankind. He would trust God so deeply as to rely upon the appeal of the invisible and spiritual entirely. He would not make the unseen seen. He knew that He could not save men to communion with His invisible Father, except by wooing them through the triumph of His invisible and perfect Sonship unto God. He saw further than this. He perceived that this would be to furnish a false idea to the race of men. They would become imitators of an external magic. Most of all, He saw how irreverent and presumptuous it would be, as related to His heavenly Father. He would therefore answer that which was neither the first nor the last of misquoted texts, by truly quoting another text in its real sense. He turned upon Satan, and said, "It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."
"Again." Jesus here teaches us, among other things, this how to use our Bible. No one text and no one set of texts may be considered representative, still less are they to be thought exhaustive of the scriptures. Satan can quote scripture; only Christ can compare scripture with scripture, and quote it with justness. And it is Christ in the Christian that enables the Christian to find the true meaning of the Bible. Only an inspired man can intelligently read and use the inspired words. The quotation of Jesus, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God," with which He met the cunning of Satan, is a command which came to Israel long before, when, in the journey through the wilderness, they came to Rephidim, where "there was no water for the people to drink." The angry people crowded to Moses and demanded water. His answer to them was, "Why chide ye with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?" The command came to them later, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God, as ye tempted Him in Massah." The difference in the two cases was superficial; their likeness was radical. Unbelief was at the bottom of the action of the Israelites, and unbelief would lie at the bottom of the action of Jesus, if He were to follow the suggestion of Satan. Yet it was Satan's effort to have Jesus think that such action involved an earnest belief. Jesus saw that trust in any of the laws of God is trust in God Himself, and that to enter upon a course of conduct which selfishly denies the sacredness of these laws, is to distrust God. To dare upon the persuasion of the infiniteness of Love's power is to profane it. "God," says St. Augustine, "has promised forgiveness to those who repent, but He has not promised repentance to those who sin." To have thrown Himself down, without the command of God coming through necessity, and to have counted on God's power to save Him from bodily harm, would have been sinful. It would have been to have thrown Himself away from His idea of Messiahship, whose central current was love and loyalty unto God, the Father. He would have listened to vanity and to have countenanced presumption, to have courted a peril where there was no duty, to have created a danger in order to obtain a spectacular deliverance from it; He would have distrusted God's ability to take care of the divine destinies of His Child as God Himself had provided. This it was that Jesus meant to teach when he said, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God," thou shalt not make an experiment of the divine Fatherhood. The true proving of God is to obey His laws; the true dependence upon God is to confide that God will lead from duty to duty, and thus from destiny to destiny. Satan had failed again.
Still the forces of evil cannot give Him up. It is evident to Satan that his realm is threatened, and will be lost, if this Man, to whom God now seems constantly saying: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," is not persuaded somehow to abandon the moral divineness which is His. The ground is still worth contending for. "Count it all joy," says James, "when ye jail into divers temptations." It is proof that we have first risen to some height from which it is worth while for evil to dislodge us.
The third trial was the last charge in this Temptation of the Master; and it was even more subtly and carefully planned . and executed than either of those preceding it. It was born of Satanic despair, and developed in the presence of the divineness of Christ. The appeals of Satan had risen, step by step, until this last one was to be urged upon Christ's noblest faculties and upon His loftiest aims.
Jesus had entertained the dream of universal sovereignty. His idea of Messiahship had compelled this. He was brother to all men by virtue of His faith in universal Fatherhood, and He would deliver the world. But it was a world of men low-browed, proud, mistaken, ignorant, and yet divinely created, men. How shall He get hold of them in such a way as to win their hearts unto Him, and then lift them to the point where He can organize and equip them under His kingly authority?
There is a height physical, mental, or moral from which the man Jesus looks out over the kingdoms of the world and sees the glory of them. Other men have climbed up a little way toward the summit and seen much; He climbed to the top of it, and He saw all. Somehow, without parting from His vision of the truer glory of the kingdom of God, Jesus has been led thither. Satan has his new opportunity. Just as the second trial in the Temptation was put before Jesus on the very ground upon which Jesus had become victorious in the first, namely, His trust in God, so the third trial in the Temptation is put upon the ground on which Jesus was victorious in the second; and this ground was His determination to trust the laws closest to Him and to honor them in obeying His Father. Satan always grasped the sword instantly which Jesus had used in vanquishing him. What law could be closer to a man looking toward universal dominion than the law which every-body then accepted as the one rule of action governing crowned heads and rulers of states? "The end justifies the means" this was one of its precepts. "Accept the best you can get, and what you want will come" this was one of its maxims. "Be of the world, in order to help the world" this was one of its wise conceits.
It was Satan's hour to confess Jesus as Messiah, but he did that only in order to make Him Satan's kind of Messiah. He pointed out the immense realm of earthly sovereignties. He knew what set of forces held them clustered under one sky. He rose to the occasion, and he said, "Fall down and worship me, and all these things will I give Thee." Satan was sure of his ground, and he promised nothing which he might not have fulfilled, when he said, "To Thee will I give all the authority and the glory of them." He did not overestimate his power in the world, when he added, "For it hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it." Jesus knew that humanity was desperate, and that the world was waiting for a king. It was the hour when, only a little compromise with evil to make Him popular, only a slight homage to wrong in elegant circumstances, only His trifling obeisance to current theories and it would all have been accomplished and a goal reached. The dream glittered and shone. Jesus could have commanded the fanaticism of Palestine, organized about Him the discontented dependencies of Rome, marched against the decaying empire, overwhelmed the world's capital, and reigned over all. Satan had presented this, without making a misrepresentation either of the power of Jesus at that moment or of his own ability to fulfill his part of the contract. He was actually "The Prince of this world." He had compromised in the hope of meeting a compromise. Would not Jesus bend a little, as men do, worship-fully adopting baser means to gain their ends? Satan did not even ask Jesus to forsake the goal which He had before Him. He did not, in this third trial, suggest a doubt as to the divine Sonship of Jesus unto God. The only aim of Satan was to get Jesus to abandon His method.
Method is more than goal. The way in which a thing is done is of more importance than the thing done. Sovereignty which may be kept permanently is always won divinely. Satanic indeed is the idea that "nothing succeeds like success." A noble failure, by way of God-like methods, is grander than a gigantic success by methods base and low. Jesus would have disinherited Himself from God's Father-hood and His communion, if He had bent the knee in ever so small a reverence to anything but that idea of His life which made all His work a continuing of God's work in the world. At His baptism the fact of His Sonship was announced clearly in the words from heaven, "Thou are My Beloved Son." Jesus had just demonstrated its reality. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" this was to be the word eternally descriptive of His relations to God in the work of redeeming the world. Filled again with His ideal of the true Messiah as One whose supreme loyalty was unto God His Father, He said, "Get thee hence, Satan! For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." Satan heard the command and was gone.
The long siege of evil directed against good had failed. Not an inch had been won from Jesus; He had won Himself. Satan was gone, and angels came and ministered unto Messiah. Satan was gone? Yes; but only "for a season," as we are told. The whole life of Jesus was to be a battle, and not a dream it was a battle for a dream. Jesus had won new victories for the Christ. But he was nearer unto Calvary. Three times now had Jesus put self out of His way, in loyalty unto His Father. Verily, the cross is not far off, and on that symbol of shame, He will give Himself up entirely! Such is the course of inward training, by which our Master "returned in power of the Spirit." May God enable us to pay the price of such power!