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THE THREE TEMPTATIONS
 THE voice from heaven changed the whole
manner oŁ our Lord's life. He worked no more
at the carpenter's trade after that. He had a
much more important business; for he knew
now, with all certainty, that he was indeed the
Son of God.
Nobody knows all that that means. Even
wise persons who have studied it deeply are
not able to make us understand it in its
fullness. But some things in it are quite plain.
It is plain that Jesus was the Messiah.
Messiah is a Hebrew name, as Christ is a
Greek name; and they both mean one who
has been anointed. It was by anointing,—that
is, by pouring fragrant oil on one's head,—that
a man was made a priest or a king.
This was a way of saying that God had called
this man into his high service, and that he
would give him blessing and strength from
heaven. The people, for a long, long while,
 had been looking for a wonderful Anointed
One, who should be their king and their priest
at the same time,—a king to make them great
and a priest to make them good. Mysterious
things were said about him in the Bible. They
were all expecting him; but in a temple or a
palace, not in a carpenter's shop. That day by
the river, when the Spirit as a dove came down
from heaven, God anointed Jesus.
Jesus was the Messiah; but the name Son
of God meant more than that. One day, he
said that anybody who had seen him had seen
God, because he was in God and God in him.
God is in all the world, where the heavens
declare his glory, and all things show his wisdom
and his might: God is the Father. God is also
in all men, speaking to us in our hearts by the
voice of conscience: God is the Holy Ghost.
But in neither of these ways does God speak
very clearly to us. Nature does not make us
sure of his love, and conscience does not make
us sure of his will. But God is in Jesus Christ,
the Son of God. By him, God speaks and tells
us plainly of his love and of his will. In him
 God so dwells that Jesus Christ is at the same
time man and God.
This was the great meaning of the word
from heaven. At that moment Jesus came to
complete knowledge of himself. It was as if a
prince, brought up in the house of a carpenter,
had at last discovered the secret of his
birth, and learned his place in the world, crying,
"I am the son of the king!" So Jesus
with the light of heaven in his eyes and the
voice of heaven in his ears, said over and over
to himself, trying to realize it, "I am the Son
of God! I am the Son of God!"
Immediately, he went away alone, seeking a
place where he might think. He plunged into
the wilderness out of which John had come.
There he stayed, days and days, out of the
sight of men, in the silence of the woods, with
the wild beasts for neighbors, thinking and
thinking, making out what all this meant for
him and for the world, planning his new life.
Long after, he described what took place there,
putting it in the form of a story. Thus one
time when the apostles had been preaching so
 that people turned from their sins, he said,
"I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of
lightning," meaning that he foresaw the day
when evil would be wholly cast down by the
good. So here he said, telling what happened
in his soul, "The devil came and spoke to
me;" meaning that one wrong thought after
another came and attacked him.
He said that one day he was very hungry;
for he had been so occupied with his great
thoughts that he had forgotten even to eat.
You remember how he was so interested that
day in the temple that he forgot to go home.
So days and days passed there in the wilderness,
during which he sat still, with his eyes
upon the ground, thinking and thinking. At
last he was aroused by the appearance of a
visitor, and when he looked to see who came,
behold, it was the devil. The devil began in a
very friendly way, as he always does, and said,
"It is now a long time since you have eaten
anything. You must be very hungry. And
here you are in the wild woods, a long way
from good food. If you are the Son of God,
 speak to these flat stones and turn them into
bread. The Son of God can do that. Moreover,
you are going out presently into the world
to tell men about God; you are not going to
be a carpenter any more. How will you support
yourself? How will you get bread to eat?
Make your own bread. Use your divine powers
to help yourself." That is, the devil suggested
that he ought to look out for his own interests,
for his own comfort and advantage. Here he
was giving up his business in order to devote
himself entirely to the service of God. Was
that a wise thing to do? For there are people
who think of nothing but their own pleasure.
They are like the old woman in Mother Goose,
who "lived upon nothing but victuals and
drink." Our Lord turned his back upon that
kind of life. "It is written," he said, " 'Man
shall not live by bread alone, but by every word
which proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' "
That was the first temptation.
Then the devil did what a regiment of soldiers
sometimes do in battle. The soldiers
pretend to run away, so as to get the enemy to
 chase them, and thus they get the enemy into
an ambush where there are guns firing upon
them from all sides. The devil pretended to
agree with what our Lord said. "Of course,"
he answered, "the body is not of so much
importance as the soul. It is best to do the will
of God, even if we go hungry. We ought to
think only of God. Come, let us do as you
say." And the devil took him away off to the
holy city, and placed him upon the top of one
of the high towers of the temple, and they
looked down, and the men and women seemed
like ants crawling over the pavement far below.
"Now," said the devil, "let us rely upon the
word of God. God says that he will give his
angels charge over those who love him, and in
their hands they shall bear them up lest they
stumble over the stones. Cast thyself down."
There it was, sure enough, in the Bible, looking
like an invitation to do all sorts of wild
and reckless things, trusting in the care of
God. There have been people who have
met the first temptation and overcome it, and have
devoted themselves to God's service, and then
 have been tempted to neglect or to abuse
their bodies, feeling that somehow God would
be pleased to have them fast or whip themselves
or break the laws of nature. But our
Lord answered, "It is written again, 'Thou
shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.' " That
is, we are not to run needless risks to see if
God will save us. We are, indeed, to be on
guard against paying too much attention to
our bodies, but we are also to be careful to
pay them such attention as they need. So our
Lord determined that though he must give up
his trade and be in peril of hunger in the service
of God, he would still live a natural life,
taking all proper care of himself. Thus he met
the second temptation.
These two, you see, were like the rocks on
either side of a narrow river. Some have struck
the rock on one side and have lived lives of
mere worldly comfort; some have struck the
rock on the other side and have become fanatics,
doing foolish things like crazy people.
Our Lord went straight between. But now
this course brought him to a mountain. For
 the devil was not yet discouraged. The devil
is very patient. "I know what you want,"
he said; "you want the whole world to be
good and happy. Let us go up on this high
mountain, where we can see the world." So
up they went, in the vision, and there the
world lay, spread at their feet like a great
map. It was the sight which he had seen so
many times from the great hill near Nazareth;
and he looked now with the same deep longing
in his heart, to help men and to save them.
There lay the little towns, in every one of
which sin and sorrow lived, because the devil
had them in his power. And the devil said,
"Now I will go away and leave the world in
peace. I will go out and all joy shall come
in, if you will do one thing. Here in this solitary
place, where no man can see us, kneel
down before me!" It was as if the devil had
said, "You cannot govern the world without
me. You cannot even begin your great plans
without my help. If you determine always to
be perfectly good, always to do perfectly right,
always to follow the ideal wherever it leads
 you, you will fail. That is the truth about it.
You will get yourself killed." To which our
Lord answered, "Get thee behind me, Satan;
for it is written, 'Thou shalt worship the Lord
thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.' "
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels
came and ministered unto him.