I’m fascinated by summits between leaders. Whether we are talking about Roosevelt and Churchill or Reagan and Gorbachev or a host of other historical moments, I’m intrigued.
But there is perhaps no bigger meeting than what we find in Matthew chapter 4 between Jesus and Satan. Here you have the seed of the woman and the serpent meeting together in that long awaited moment. The head of the true evil empire and the head of the new humanity, the kingdom of grace.
When you look at the temptations you see Satan attempt to get Jesus to take his eye of the ball (this may be an oversimplification). He appeals to his status and his rights as the Son of God. He also offers him what seems to be what Jesus wants: to be King.
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”” (Matthew 4:8-9)
You may not notice this at first but there is something missing between Satan’s “wonderful” plan for Jesus’ life and the Father’s plan. What is missing is the cross. Satan was offering Jesus a kingdom without a cross but Jesus would get a kingdom through the cross.
You realize of course what, or perhaps who is hanging in the balance here. It is people; sinners like you and me. If Jesus takes the offer, among other things he will not save sinners.
Satan’s game was to avoid the cross because the cross is where Christ would tread upon his head (Gen. 3:15). It is the cross that is the great redemptive pivot upon the skull of the serpent. You better believe he wanted to give a crown without a cross. And you better believe Christ wanted a crown through a cross.
It should come as no surprise to us who are Christians to find that Satan’s chief temptation of us is to have us forget the cross. Satan is not so concerned with moral living as much as moral living apart from Jesus. Satan is not concerned with emptying churches of people as much as he is emptying the pulpit of the cross of Christ. Satan is not so concerned with busy church calendars as much as he is with busy churches that have assumed or forgotten the cross. Satan is not so concerned with people who pray as much as he is concerned with people who pray broken, grace-grasping, desperate prayers in the shadow of the cross.
We are not ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2.11). If Satan can’t destroy you he is content to simply divert you.
Here is sound advice (source):
Let us, in the words of Jerry Bridges, “Preach the gospel to ourselves daily.” Let us heed Charles Spurgeon’s exhortation: “Abide hard by the cross and search the mystery of his wounds.” Let us respond to John Stott’s invitation: “The Cross is a blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough for its sparks to fall on us.”