For Jesus’ final temptation, the devil offers Him all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would bow down and worship Him. As a child, this passage always confused me. As the Son of God, didn’t Jesus already have power over all the earth? But what I’ve come to realize is that the devil was offering Jesus a skip to the end: “You can have all of this now, without going through the suffering, rejection, humiliation, pain—and eventually even death—you would have to face otherwise.” Jesus’ real temptation was the choice of power over the cost of humility.
Nearly all of our human temptations can be traced back to the sins of pride and power. It is natural to choose our own selfish inclinations over circumstances that could potentially be painful or humiliating. Yet in our selfishness, we are easily led toward corruption, manipulation, greed, and hate.
But Jesus ultimately did choose humility over power, and his life provides a model for us to do the same. The famous kenosis (“emptying”) passage in Philippians 2:5-8 lays out the way:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (NRSV)