Jesus was led by the spirit into the wilderness that he should be tempted by the devil. Absent that leading, the question arises, would Jesus have gone willingly into the wilderness? The condescension of Christ appears to be a complete and total condescension, in that Christ chose even to submit himself to the Spirits leading. It would seem that Christ knew something of the matter as he immediately entered into a period of extreme preparation, or I suppose one could conclude that Jesus knew the tempter was coming but not his timing. Perhaps, Jesus had no intention of fasting for 40 days. It could very well be that Christ, having known only that the devil was on his way, immediately began to prepare, supposing the battle was imminent.
There is much to ponder here, as we also know what Jesus knew, the devil is on his way! Yet, there is also still an ignorance about us, in that we know not the time. What then shall we do? We shall do as Jesus did and presume the battle is imminent, to presume the enemy is already at the gate and hour is now upon us. We would, however, be foolish not to take note of the timing. Although the number 40 seems to present itself in scripture quite often, and perhaps there is some meaning behind it on those other occasions. It does not appear to be the case here. It is quite possible the simple answer is the correct answer – The devil waited until his opponent was at his weakest point.
In appearing to Jesus, the devil appealed first to his weakness (he was hungry) – “Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus, having had much time to deliberate on God’s word, now demonstrates his condescension a second time as he places himself and his enemy under the authority of God’s word – “Man does not eat by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” This will not be a battle easily won, as it appears the second Adam will not be as easily persuaded as the first.
As the enemies plans are frustrated, so too does the enemy himself grow frustrated. Yet again, we see an even greater condescension in that the devil took Christ to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. Scripture does not imply that the devil took him by force, so we must conclude that Christ went willingly. Pride has forever come before a fall, and so it is that Satan’s strategy has now shifted from one weakness to an even greater weakness – Pride, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down and prove it.” Satan has learned from his enemy how to wield the sword. Seeing that Christ turned to God’s word, so too would he. “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’
Satan, proving himself to be an amateur was not fencing as with a man wielding a sword, but one who was the sword. Condescending once again, this time to his pride and to his fathers will, laying himself low and proclaiming “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” We may presume that Christ is quoting this verse to Satan as a means of saying “I will not put the Lord thy God to the test.” Yet, it could also be perceived as a warning to Satan, Implying that what the Devil is asking of Christ, will in turn be viewed not as Christ testing God, but Satan instead.
Next we see that Satan again took him to another place, a very high mountain. A mountain in which Christ could see all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. If appealing to the physical weakness of Christ were not enough to make him stumble, or likewise to the pride that is stirred when our claims are challenged by lesser men, were still not enough to incite our savior to failure, what would?
The next logical step in this line of progression is power. Satan would appeal to perhaps the greatest weakness that man has ever known – Power. All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” While it seems logical to conclude that somehow power equals freedom, we must first know that it always comes with a cost. In this case, the cost for Christ was to switch his allegiance to Satan. Thankfully, for us, compromise was not any part of his divine DNA. “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
I am convinced that power and control are the very things that prevent so many from taking that step of condescension, laying themselves low and humbling themselves under the mighty hand of God. Willing to set aside their own desires, that their hands and hearts are emptied and free to pick up the cross and follow thee.
It is here, where we first see the humanity of the holy, the weakness of our warrior, the meekness of the mighty, and the greatest condescension we have witnessed to this point. We see the Pre-eminent Christ, who was before all things and from whom and for whom all things have been made. We see the creator himself being restored and ministered to by his own creation, the very angels whom Isaiah himself observed encircling his throne and crying out for all eternity “HOLY! HOLY! HOLY! is the Lord God Almighty.”
This is the Condescension of Christ…The hope of our salvation!