Day Twenty-Three: True Heights

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

“Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence…” (Matthew 4:8). In this, the third temptation Jesus faced while in the desert, the devil again takes our Lord to a high place. In the second temptation, he took Jesus to the top of the Temple. In this temptation, he takes Jesus up a very high mountain.

The view from a high mountain is impressive. Luke’s version of this temptation states that from this high place, the devil “showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant” (Luke 4:5). If you’ve ever been to the top of a mountain, you know that the view can be breathtaking. The physical location of this third temptation is important because it tells us that the devil tried to seduce our Lord through an immediate sense of awe. Of course, what the devil forgot is that it was our Lord Himself Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created not only this world but also the spiritual reality in Heaven itself. Though Jesus would have had a holy love for what He looked at from the top of that very high mountain, it would not have dazzled Him to the point of becoming foolish as the devil wanted.

One of the tactics of the devil, when he tempts us each day, is to dazzle us as a precursor to his temptation. It’s like a salesman who first “wines and dines” a client before trying to make the sale. The difference, however, is that the “sale” the evil one is trying to make is always deceptive and sinful. For that reason, he will often try to impress us, giving us a sense of awe, so that we are better disposed to give in to his ultimate plan.

As we ponder the physical location of this third temptation, think about the “place” that the evil one is most effective at tempting you. By “place,” we should consider the things of this world that are impressive to us, awe-inspiring, or dazzling to our senses. Though these places might not be sinful in themselves, the excitement they foster within us can be an open door to some sinful temptation from the evil one. For example, the excitement of a night on the town with friends might tempt you to drink too much. Or the excitement of going on a vacation to an exotic place might tempt you to spend more money than you should.

Overcoming sin not only requires that we turn from the sin itself but also from the “near occasion of sin.” In other words, we must avoid situations in which we are likely to experience temptations we cannot endure. Jesus permitted the devil to take Him up this high mountain and show Him the magnificence of the world as a way of strengthening human nature when faced with the temptation of the “awe” that is part of the seduction of sin.

Ponder those places, situations, or even persons that the devil uses to seduce you. What activities should you regularly avoid so as to avoid temptation? If these are unavoidable, know that Jesus’ defeat of the devil’s temptation also empowers you to be able to withstand the passing “magnificence” of the seduction with which the devil tries to tempt you.

Most High God, Your divine presence is more magnificent and glorious than everything this world can offer. All of  the earthly power and glory fails to compare to the powerful and glorious act of loving You. Please guard and protect me always, especially when the devil tries to dazzle me with the passing and sinful things in this world. May I find wonder and awe in You alone. Jesus, I trust in You.

See also: Day Twenty-Three: 40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

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