We don’t know for certain if the mountain in Israel known as “Mount Temptation” is, indeed, the place where Jesus went following His baptism and was tempted three times by the devil. What we do know is that the temptations Jesus successfully withstood were those common to us all.
The fourth chapter of Mathew’s Gospel records the temptations. I categorize them as pairings of comfort and ease, safety and power, and vanity and prestige. These are temptations Satan still uses today, especially in politics. He’s an all-too-willing provider for whatever combination of sins might capture one’s heart.
Politicians get treated like royalty, and it is addicting. They like the trips in donors’ private planes; the getaways to exotic locales for “conferences.” There is always someone ready to buy a meal, tell them how smart they are, or put their name at the top of an invitation. Like any addictive substance, the trappings of power can turn into an insatiable demand.
It is the third temptation that tends to most often ensnare people in politics. We read that Jesus was taken to a “very high mountain” where Satan showed Him “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” It was there Satan said, “All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me.”
I hear elected officials constantly tell me that they must make compromises with the devil so they can “do good things.” I bet Jesus could have justified saying “yes” just like that. I know I could; I’ve heard variations of it an uncountable number of times.
Just recently a very well-known Christian conservative politician told me he was endorsing a corrupt defender of Austin’s corps of cronies because it meant he’d demonstrate an ability to maintain relationships with other elected officials. You know, so he could advance in their eyes, and do good things down the road.
A compromise here, bowing down there… eventually one is worshiping at a very dark altar.
The reality is that once one starts worshiping at the altar of political access, those “good things” happen less and less. Can’t lose that access! Habits are formed, then the good works end altogether. And, in his final evolution as a politician, that agreeable access-seeker is working against the principles he once espoused. It happens all the time.
This is why Jesus said no. He knew He had greater access than to earthly powers and princes. And through Him, we can too.