Guest / Limited Access /
Page 3 of 4

The most significant temptation in Matthew's narrative is the third and final one. Satan offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth, provided that Jesus will bow down and worship him. "Go away, Satan!" Jesus commands, refusing Satan's offer (Matt. 4:10). It's no surprise that Jesus later gives a similar rebuke to Peter: "Get behind me, Satan!" In both cases, Jesus was offered a kingdom without the Cross.

In Matthew's passion narrative, Jesus' mockers continue to borrow Satan's lines, urging Jesus to save himself from the Cross, since he claims to be the Son of God (27:40–43). Just like Mark, Matthew sees any theology downplaying suffering and the Cross as satanic.

Matthew also includes the story of Jesus being accused of using Satan to cast out demons (12:24). As in Mark, Jesus counters by saying that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Satan, the ruler of demons, has no incentive to undertake widespread deliverance of people from demons. Jesus also says he expels evil spirits by God's Spirit, demonstrating that he is ushering in God's kingdom (12:28). Jesus' critics are so determined to evade any evidence for Jesus' messianic identity that they brand God's Spirit as the devil. Such hard-heartedness, Jesus warns, risks blaspheming the Holy Spirit (12:31–32). Jesus concludes his response by turning the tables with a parable about his generation. He has been casting demons out, but his opponents are so determined to reject his work that they are inviting eight times as many demons back (12:43–45). Who, then, is really serving Satan?

As in Mark, the evil one snatches the gospel message from uncommitted hearts (13:19). Indeed, those who are not true followers of Jesus remain aligned with the devil (13:39) and are destined for the eternal fire designated for the devil and his angels (25:41). No wonder so many Americans find the devil problematic. Jesus doesn't give a feel-good message on this subject; his portrayal of Satan is dark and serious.

The devil is bad news not only for outsiders but also for Jesus' followers. Although the translation could be debated, it appears that the evil one stands behind temptation more widely (5:37). When we pray for God to protect us from temptation, we also pray for protection from the tempter, "the evil one" (6:13). Whether this refers to Satan's direct activity or his indirect activity, the reality of cosmic evil cannot be underestimated—and there is a cunning personal force behind much of it.

Satan in Luke

Many of Luke's observations about the devil overlap with Mark's and Matthew's, so I'll focus on how he supplements their points.

At the temptation, for example, Satan claims that he has authority to give kingdoms to whomever he wishes (Luke 4:6). Satan doesn't bother to mention that his authority is merely delegated to him, and that God holds the ultimate authority over all kingdoms (Dan. 4:32).

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueProfessional Soccer Was My God
Professional Soccer Was My God
My sense of well-being depended entirely on my on-field performance.
RecommendedLamentations: A Bottle for the Tears of the World
Lamentations: A Bottle for the Tears of the World
Christopher J. H. Wright explains what one of the Bible's most neglected books teaches about our cries of grief.
TrendingDobson Endorses Trump, While Evangelical Leaders Advise Voting for Lesser Evil
Dobson Endorses Trump, While Evangelical Leaders Advise Voting for Lesser Evil
Pew tracks how many evangelicals came to pick Trump for president.
Editor's PickMy Encounter with Ken Ham's Giant Ark
My Encounter with Ken Ham's Giant Ark
A four-hour visit to the massive replica of Noah's boat left me with a flood of questions.
View this article in Reader Mode
Christianity Today
Casting the Devil Out of the Jesus Story