Matthew 4:8Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.
Jesus overcame His temptation to leap from the pinnacle of the temple; tempting Him to avoid the harsh penalty He would have to endure for the sins of the world. Now from that pinnacle Satan takes Him to a very High Mountain; on this mountain Satan shows Him the glories of all the kingdoms of the world. How they arrived at this mountain from the pinnacle is as much a mystery as how they arrived at the temple in Jerusalem from the wilderness, where Christ was tempted to turn stones into bread. In my perspective it is left for our own minds to exercise and share with each other as Christian minds to determine what we think makes most biblical sense. Whether we believe Satan walked Him from place to place for me seems unrealistic, especially since Christ’s human nature was weak without food and water. Yes we may argue; well, God would have given the Son of God the strength to accomplish such a vast travel. If we critically think that proposal after what we learned last week of what it means to tempt God; such a proposal may fall under that same temptatious category. To make the argument, Christ will fast forty days and nights without food and water, then walk an unknown amount of miles to Jerusalem, then to an exceeding; which, exceeding means “far beyond what is usual in magnitude or degree,” (AED) High Mountain, and it does not matter how weak his natural human body may be, because He is the Son of God, and the Father will strengthen Him to achieve it; is to tempt your God, which is equally comparable to the previous temptation of Satan saying jump from this pinnacle, after all if you’re the Son of God then the angels charged to your protection will not allow you to die. Remember that was Satan’s manipulation as he removed the phrase “keep you in all His ways” from verse 11 of Psalms 91. Those two propositions; though they are rephrased, express the same message in different words. In either case, not to sound redundant; but they both tempt God, so in my reasoning the walking interpretation is improbable.
I can imagine someone in their minds thinking; “yes I understand, but it’s the Son of God. Surely God would make an exception for Him.” I would reply; no you do not understand. We can biblically infer from scriptures a principle; the principle of not attempting to manipulate God to perform something for us being unreasonable in our human bodies, (tempting God). For the purpose of concise argumentation and understanding, let’s imagine that the letter “A” denotes something that is unreasonable to perform in our human body, such as fast food and water for 40 days and nights then go on a hike to the top of Mount Hermon in Israel, which is 7,336 ft. Also let’s imagine that letter “B” exemplifies the Love and Grace of God. To say I will perform subject A because I am a member of subject B, therefore because I am a member of subject B, God will see to it, that I will accomplish subject A; is to manipulate God to perform something unreasonable for our carnal justification and reason, instead of God’s will and orderly purpose. We can see then that this logic does not follow that God would make an exception, and break His orderly principle for Christ, because He is the son of God, but instead because He is the Son of God it makes more sense for God to hold Christ to a more strict standard of His laws and statutes, because the weight of the sins of the world is on the shoulders of Christ.
It seems more probable then that Satan transported Jesus to the top of whatever mountain in a supernatural sense under temporary divine authority. You may remember this was the preferred interpretation from John Gill in the second temptation, where John Gill excludes a visionary temptation, but in this third temptation; I adhere to a visionary interpretation for the following reason.
Some believe, such as 17th century theologian John Lightfoot, that there was only one kingdom Satan tempted Jesus with, which was Rome. Lightfoot claims that in those days the Roman Empire was called “all the world,” (Lightfoot). If it were true that Satan tempted Jesus with only the Roman Empire from the top of a mountain overlooking Rome in a non visionary temptation; and the scripture says Jesus was taken to an exceeding high mountain, then Satan would have to have taken Jesus to the highest point of the Apennine Mountains, where Jesus may have had a broad, high, and panoramic view of the Roman Kingdom. 18th Century theologian John Gill quotes John Lightfoot, but disagrees with his interpretation to conclude that, Satan tempted Jesus with a visionary temptation of literally all the kingdoms of the world; not meaning as Lightfoot thought all the kingdoms as Rome. On this issue I side with John Gill.
I believe there are insoluble problems with a literal interpretation of viewing the Kingdom of Rome in a non-visionary temptation. Viewing Rome from the Apennine Mountains is not an exact and precise view of the riches and glory referenced in scripture of the kingdom, but instead the non-visionary interpretation presents a more cluttered view of the cities. Also; in the following verses 11 and 12, it reads that after the Devil departed, Jesus went into Galilee. If Satan literally took Jesus anywhere near the viewpoint of physical Rome, and then was left there by Satan; where then the angels came and ministered unto Him, Jesus would have had to walk over 3,000 miles into Galilee. In modern times that is about a 3 day car drive. John Gill predicts that Mount Lebanon may be a mountain Christ was taken to, in my research I found Mount Lebanon to be much closer than the Apennine Mountains to be North of Galilee; as well as the highest mountain near the ancient province of Syria putting Jesus about 50-60 scaled miles from Galilee, which according to scripture makes far more geographical sense.
There are no mountains high enough to get a precise view of every kingdom in the world, which adds to the credibility of a visionary interpretation. To make the temptation more enticing to Jesus, He may have had to see a detailed glorious vision of all the riches and splendor of all the kingdoms in the world at that time, as the scripture seems to support by its plurality of kingdoms in verse 8. It is true none were as glorious as Rome, nevertheless there were other kingdoms.
In support of the visionary interpretation of this temptation, consider also what is written in Luke’s account of this temptation; where it reads in:
Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
The first bible translated into the English language; Tyndale’s Bible of 1526 reads a moments of time as “in ye twincklinge of an eye,” (Tyndale). These two phrases furthermore add to the credibility of a visionary interpretation. A verse where both phrases are used together is:
1Corinthians 15:52 reads; In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. We see that these two phrases used together have a connotation of something happening at an instant. When we apply this to the temptation it can mean nothing other than a temptation from Satan given to Jesus in His mind at an instant of time, which highly makes sense if attributed to a vision.