Jesus will not prove Himself by performing miracles to skip hardship nor by forcing God’s hand by stepping into hardship. That leaves Jesus with no option but the bitter cup of scorn from enemies mingled with doubting friends and family and finally, a horrible and agonizing death. The devil realizing this offers Jesus a shortcut… if Jesus will simply worship the devil, he will give Him the world that He seeks to redeem.
How irresistible shortcuts always seem to be. Who wants the long hard way when things can be done in an instant? Yet Jesus rejects it. He sends Satan packing with a quote pointing to why these very nations have failed: they pointed their worship away from God. Their apostasy is precisely why they need to be redeemed. They need to be pointed back to God. There is no other way to achieve this but to reveal God’s character to a hostile world. Having been accused of having things easy because He can fall back on the divinity that He denies everyone else, God must come in the flesh and shine in the midst of pain and hardship. There can be no shortcut.
It is interesting to note that at no time does Jesus refer Satan to the Voice that spoke at His baptism. As spectacular as that event was, Jesus chooses not to invoke it as evidence of His relationship to God; He chooses to point to the Bible. Of course, merely regurgitating scripture is not nearly enough (even Satan does the same). Jesus understands the Bible and perceives it as a whole. He doesn’t see it as a mere formula book with dogmatic concise statements. Jesus sees the Bible as a book meant to guide his perception of the world around Him.
It is popular in Christian circles to curtly quote a verse to put a stop to discussion but we forget that it was only in medieval times that the Bible was divided into chapters and verses. Thus, when Jesus (or anyone in the Bible for that matter) quotes what appears to be a verse, He is directing his audience to an entire passage; He is pointing to an entire story or discourse. The Bible as presented in the battle in the wilderness is not a book of dogma to be memorized but a narrative meant to guide our perception of reality. It is in reading the Bible in this light that we too can conquer temptation.
There’s nothing wrong with dividing the Bible into chapters and verses as long as we do it for reference purposes. It is when we turn the verse into a cage in which we train God’s word to say whatever we want it to that we get into trouble. The Bible is ultimately a story of God’s love and patience with humanity. A love and patience that is still at work today. By learning to trace it in the Bible story, we may learn to trace it in the world today and act accordingly.