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Tempted to Take Shortcuts

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.” (Hebrews 4:15) When I first read this verse, I have to admit that I thought, That is not possible. He is God and I certainly am not. Most of my temptations seem petty and self-serving. There is no way Jesus was tempted like that.
I have since taken great comfort in the fact that my Savior is real. He knows what it is like to live a real human life with all its challenges. One of the temptations He faced that gives Him clear understanding into our lives is the temptation to follow a short cut when the full journey is necessary.
Luke 4 contains the synopsis of Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness. I am sure there were more than three instances during this time when Satan attempted to knock Jesus off stride but these three summarize the tactics and they all include a shortcut.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (v. 3) Certainly Jesus was hungry but there was also a commonly held belief that the Messiah would bring something like Manna when He appeared to set Israel free. Jesus is being told, “If you turn these stones into bread, we can not only take care of your need to eat but we can announce who you really are and get on with the program.”
“The devil . . . showed him . . . all the kingdoms of the world. 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. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’” (v. 5-7) Satan had wrestled dominion over the world away from Adam in the original temptation and now He is offering it to Jesus. Jesus is being told, “I know your plan is to be the ruler of all and I know a way to give that to you without you having to go the cross. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself. I can give it to you now!” This is where the temptation to shortcut the process is clearest. Satan could have delivered on this. Jesus could legitimately have taken over as the ruler of the world but He would have been leading non-redeemed people forever. The cycle of death would go on perpetually because there would be no solution for the sin of mankind. The old nature of man would be an eternal struggle because the process of the new birth would never have been instituted. Jesus knew that the long path was the only way to fulfill the plan in this case.
“The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here.'” (v. 9) Satan changed his tactic at this point and said, “Okay, since you are determined to walk through the plan, how about we get the show started? If you want people to know who you are so you can become their Messiah, let’s have you jump from the top of the temple so angels can help you make a miraculous landing. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Let’s go big!” Jesus could certainly have pulled this off but He knew that too much attention too soon would short-circuit His goal. It was going to take time to train His followers and establish His credentials beyond doubt.
The greatest work to ever take place on earth was going to take time. Jesus was smart enough at twelve to establish His public ministry but he waited until He was thirty. He was powerful enough at thirty to sacrifice Himself but He took three years to train His disciples so they could succeed as apostles. Shortcuts are great but they aren’t always the best way.
Lord, give us the wisdom to know when to take shortcuts in life and when to just stay the course.

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