Who Gets To Be King?
4 Principles for Reading Better:
Jesus’s Temptation in Luke 4:1-13 is one of the best New Testament passages to help us learn how to read the Bible. 4 Principles will help you read really well.
1. DETAILS: Note any details such as numbers, phrases, locations, etc. that are familiar in other passages.
2. PARALLELS: Note any parallel passages or references from either the O.T., N.T. or an extra-biblical source (use Biblegateway.com or a commentary for this)
3. ALLUSIONS: Note any allusions in which any word, phrase or idea is found elsewhere in the O.T. or N.T.
4. QUOTATIONS: Note any direct quotes from other portions of the O.T. or N.T. and treat them like modern day hashtags (#) rather than as cherry picked verses. As a hashtag verse, its a condensed version pointing to a much larger whole.
Parallels and Their Problems
In Part 1, we introduced Luke’s version of Jesus’s temptation narrative. One of our rules is to look at parallel passages. This same Gospel narrative can be found in Matthew 4:1-11 and in Mark 1:12-13. In each occurrence, the order of events is not recorded exactly the same (the 2nd and 3rd temptations are reversed in Matthew and Luke) nor do the details match each narrative exactly. Matthew quotes more of Deuteronomy 8:3 than Luke does in Jesus response to the first temptation and only Matthew and Mark mention that angels ministered to Jesus after the devil leaves. These are all helpful things to note, but we won’t belabor them. Instead we will move on to the last two temptations and what they teach us about how to read the Bible. Nonetheless, comparing and contrasting parallel passages usually yields fruitful rewards.
Jesus Succeeds where the Kings of Israel Failed:
In Luke 4:5-8, we have the second temptation recorded:
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
The offer here is definitely one of kingship – universal kingship to be precise. But as we know from Daniel 1-7 and many other passages in both Testaments, the right to offer local and universal kingship in any form is reserved for Yahweh and Yahweh alone. Kingship is the primary role that Yahweh plays throughout the Old Testament and Jesus, upon his arrival, is donned the new and coming earthly king, the Son of David, the Son of Man, etc. Who gets to be king is always the issue for Israel leading up to the birth of Christ. Israel struggled with this throughout their history. It’s no mistake that Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6 as this book’s very form follows an ancient treaty format (Suzerain-Vassal) in which a high king communicates expectations with rewards and consequences to one of his lower kingdoms – Yahweh to Israel! Their call to obey God in the sermons of Deuteronomy is a call to show fealty to their King, a Warrior God who will lead them into victory as they conquer the Promised Land.
As we mentioned, who gets to be king and how that king should act is central to Israel’s struggle with Yahweh in the O.T. Starting with King Saul, climaxing with Solomon, but continuing with the rest, the kings of Israel and Judah were constantly guilty of worshipping the gods of neighboring nations, particularly those with whom they had close political ties. Jesus quotes the very passage that the kings of Israel and Judah were to have followed in order to avoid idolatry. But the problem was that an Israelite king could accrue glory and expansive authority in a very short time if they established strategic political ties with outside nations. How do you establish these ties – by inter-marriage and through the shared worship of their gods. 2 Chronicles 9:13-31 demonstrates that Solomon’s glory and kingdom accomplished more for Israel than any king before or after him. The problem – each aspect of his glory and authority was in direct opposition to God’s design for how an Israelite king should lead. If one reads the qualifications for an Israelite king from Deuteronomy 17:14-20, Solomon’s splendor record in 2 Chronicles actually reads like a report card with BIG RED “F” on it. His issue? He wasn’t willing to follow God’s design, God’s timing or simply only worship God in order to achieve that glory and authority. He does the complete opposite and so do most of the kings who follow him. It isn’t until Jesus arrives that we have an Israelite king who finally succeeds in waiting for glory and authority to be given to him by God. How does Jesus do it – by not worshipping other gods. What happens – Philippians 2:5-11 records that every tongue confesses he is lord and every knee bows before him because after humbling himself, becoming like a servant, and going to the cross, he is exalted and given a name that is above every name – he is crowned king. As a result, he ends up with more splendor, glory and authority than any earthly king could ever accrue or even imagine – universal kingship.
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 from memory in his response to the second temptation. Israel’s kings were to know Deuteronomy by heart (Deut. 17:18-19) as Jesus demonstrates. Deuteronomy is a series of sermons by Moses on the plains of Moab – not far from the wilderness where Jesus is having his fast. In this passage, Israel is on the doorstep of the Promised Land waiting to go in and conquer it. They are urged and urged to follow the stipulations of God and not worship other gods so that it will go well with them. The people declare that they will obey Yahweh and won’t worship other gods more than once with a final declaration in Deuteronomy 26:16-19. But – it doesn’t go well with them. They eventually fail, but no one fails more terribly than the kings of Israel who lead the nation into all sorts of Deuteronomic infractions, especially Solomon. Because Jesus crosses the Jordan back into the wilderness, he is identifying with Israel, standing on the doorstep of the Promised Land. There he undergoes the temptation to look to other gods for victory and glory, sustenance and safety and for permanence in the Promised Land. In one fell swoop he undoes the numerous failed opportunities Israel had to obey their true King. He does so by not failing, by not worshipping other gods and by choosing Yahweh as his king.
In the right time he receives glory (Phil.2 ) and authority (Matthew 28:18). Just before his ascension, Jesus commissions his disciples with the authority given to him at the end of his ministry rather than an authority the devil attempts to offer him at the beginning of his ministry. With patience and in obedience to the High King Yahweh, Jesus receives everything and more that the devil attempts to offer him in the wilderness, but only in obedience to the Father and within the Father’s timing. Jesus, as a true Israelite, is ready to cross over into the Promised Land with an indefatigable commitment to obeying Israel’s God. Also, as Israel’s true and rightful king, he receives glory and honor after finishing another chapter of Israel’s failure with a success.
Where ancient Israel failed, Jesus, the ideal Israelite, succeeds and where the kings of old failed, Jesus, Israel’s true earthly king, finally succeeds.