I think if you look at the way in which Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness you’ll find that perhaps his primary objective was to circumvent the cross. As I have thought about this, and considered the current climate in the Church today, I believe that the body of Christ is being tempted in much the same way: There are other ways than the “way of the cross” to achieve God’s purposes.
Jesus had come, assuming the brokenness of his creation, and this meant going to Jerusalem, and dying on a cross (Matt. 16:21, 20:18; Mark 10:33; Luke 18:31). After being baptized by John, the Bible tells us that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, and that the Devil tempted him. Jesus had been fasting in this barren place, he was hungry and tired, and it was at this point (and probably all during the 40 days) that the Tempter confronted him.
“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” The Devil is telling the Church the same things today. The Tempter comes and says to the body of Christ, “Look guys if you really are the Church, if you really have his Spirit and are full of God’s power, use it to meet your needs. Hey, you’ve got needs and rights, the Lord wouldn’t want you to suffer. Use that faith of yours to manifest what you need to sustain you. It’ll increase your faith when you see your needs met. After all, you’re no good to any one else if you don’t survive.”
The enemy knows that like Jesus we are to be submitted to the purposes and the will of God. Like Christ, we are to willingly lay down our rights, denying ourselves, existing off of the very “bread” that comes from having heard God speak. Satan knew that if he could get Jesus to give in at this point he was one step closer in diverting him from the cross. And the Tempter seeks to do the same thing to us.
‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”
“Jesus,” the Devil was saying, “the cross can be avoided altogether with one big miracle; just show them who you are.” We are offered the same alternative today. The Enemy comes and says, “Hey, this cross business is going to be really painful and messy. There’s no need for you to suffer like that. What better way to get people to see than a miracle! They’ll believe, and you don’t have to suffer! Let’s concentrate on miracles, spiritual gifts, and stuff like that. Ah, think about it. A ‘bull’s-eye’ word of prophecy would blow their minds. They’d have to believe.
Here again we see the enemy offering an alternative to the way of the cross. The Church is being tempted to bypass the way of the cross for the miraculous.
“Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. ‘I will give it all to you,’ he said, ‘if you will kneel down and worship me.’”
Here we see the devil again tempting the Lord to bypass the way of the cross. He tells Jesus that he’ll give him all the nations if Jesus will simply worship him. “Look Jesus, if it’s nations you want, I can give them to you. There doesn’t need to be a cross, just do it my way, and they are yours.” We learn in scripture that Satan’s way is primarily the flesh way. When Peter told Jesus that he (Jesus) should not have to suffer and die, Jesus responded, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” See, Jesus knew his was the way of the cross, and this way is always contrary to what man or Satan would pursue. I think the Church is tempted (regarding the nations) in much the same way today.
The Devil comes and whispers, “Listen Church, no need for this cross business, take the nations by influence and power. Take over the political arena, get the right laws passed, infiltrate the culture, and I’m out of business.”
We are called, as followers of Jesus, to the way of the cross. It is in our weakness that the strength of God is made manifest. As we lay down our lives, take up our cross, and follow him, the life of Jesus and power of God will be made known. Are we to do justice, feed the poor, clothe the naked, and disciple the nations? You betcha! But, these things are the result of the way of the cross, not a substitute for it. Remember when Jesus fed the 5,000? Did it make everyone a believer? Did they all repent and follow him? No, they tried to take him by force and make him king. What did Jesus do? He left, and then later rebuked them for not truly wanting him. They were only seeking to use him. Jesus had his face set towards Jerusalem and the cross.
The Apostle Paul knew that the way of the cross was the way to really touch people for Jesus. He told the Corinthians that true ministers are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.” (II Cor. 4:10-12) Friends if we are ever to truly know the power of Jesus’ resurrection we must first be conformed to the image of his death. This is the way of the cross, and the means by which we are to make disciples.