The first two temptations were straightforward enough: sensual pleasure and power. But this third one is more elusive. It is the temptation toward glory. It is the temptation to use God, to manipulate him instead of becoming his servant: “Then the devil led him to Jerusalem, set him on the parapet of the Temple, and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…’”
What does the Temple have to do with glory? There was no place more central in Jewish society than the Temple, no place more revered. To stand therefore at the very pinnacle of the Temple is to stand highest in the eyes of the world. Everyone would be watching you, even God. As the devil says to Jesus, “He will bid his angels watch over you…with their hands they will support you, lest you stumble on a stone.”
This is the temptation to self-deification, one that all of us sinners are susceptible to. It’s the temptation to make ourselves the center of the universe. But Jesus replies, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” God remains God, and you must become his servant.
Having dealt with these three classic temptations—sensual pleasure, power, and self-deification—Jesus is ready for his mission.
But the Gospel ends on an ominous note: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” Notice the words “for a time.” This is warning to all of us that temptation will return throughout our lives, often at key moments.
Lent is a good time to remember that we must always be ready.