"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" (Luke 4:9-11)As we have explained, this part of Luke is using the concept of "devil" metaphorically. Are we to believe that there is a person named the devil who is leading Jesus around and bringing him to Jerusalem and having him stand on top of the Jewish temple? Are we also to believe that such a person would know scripture well enough to quote from it as is indicated here?
If this were true, then we would also be saying that Jesus followed the devil. If the devil 'led him' this also means that Jesus was following the devil. This would mean that Jesus was not only listening to the devil, but he was following the devil around, going to Jerusalem. It means that Jesus followed the devil to the top of the temple.
Certainly, this is ridiculous. But to take the concept of the devil as a person would necessitate that Jesus would not only be following the devil around the desert, but he would be listening to him, engaging in conversation with him, and debating scripture with the devil. This is a ridiculous notion.
The fact is, the notion of the devil, as explained earlier, represents our own self-centeredness combined with our self-centered desires to enjoy within the physical realm. This is often expressed as temptation because we are tempted by our desires. It is also often expressed as the material world tempting us, because the Supreme Being set up the physical world to accommodate our self-centered desires. But those desires are connected to our self-centeredness. If we weren't focused on our own enjoyment, we would not have self-centered desires, and the physical world would not tempt us.
This doesn't mean that the Supreme Being does not have helpers who help orchestrate the various workings of the physical universe. But there is no person, as sectarian teachers put forth, who challenges God's control, and is responsible for all of our selfish behavior. The fact is, each of us is responsible for our own selfishness.
Meaning of "devil"
This is reflected by the proper translation of the Greek word διάβολος (diabolos), which is being translated to "devil" in these verses. As described earlier, according to Thayer's lexicon διάβολος (diabolos) means "prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely;" "a calumniator, false accuser, slanderer;" and "(metaphorically) applied to a man who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him." This last use of the word, as a metaphor, is precisely how it is being used in Luke.
There is no physical devil leading Jesus around, and Jesus is not following the devil around and allowing the devil to tempt him. Rather, what is being communicated is that Jesus, during his forty-day fast and sacrifice, was becoming purified, and was battling his own desires.
The reason "he was led" by the devil is that Jesus was dealing with the temptations offered by the physical world: Those temptations of gaining material wealth, becoming great in the eyes of others, and even using God's power for his own purposes.
Misinterpretation for manipulation purposes
This is, in fact, what many sectarian teachers have done over the years. They have misused the words of scripture for their own purposes. For example, many will teach, even though Jesus clarifies it here, that we should pray to God or Jesus to make us wealthy, make us famous or otherwise achieve our desires.
Some have taken this to an extreme by praying for their football team to win, or praying to win their Olympic contests. These teachings have become very popular, because they are in effect turning God into some sort of Genie who does whatever we beck and call for.
These teachings have made many sectarian teachers very popular and famous - as some have become wealthy through their popular teachings.
But this is a perversion of scripture. Scripture teaches the exact opposite: Scripture instructs us to do God's will and worship God - not use God to fulfill our own desires.
They are asking us to do God's will - not that we ask God to do our will.
Should we ask God to do our will?
Trying to get God to do our will is non-different than trying to make God our servant. Rather, the teachings of Jesus and other representatives of God are teaching that we are God's servants, and we are fulfilled when we please God.
This concept - of wanting God to do our will - is related to Jesus' statement above: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." This is because the repeated asking of God to fulfill my wishes naturally leads to testing. If a person doesn't get what they want from God when they ask for it, they will often follow with condemnation, saying that God didn't get me what I asked for so there must be something wrong with Him, or maybe He doesn't exist. This kind of approach to God is self-centered.
Jesus' quote about testing comes from one of Moses' talks with his students:
"Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees He has given you." (Deut. 6:16-17)"Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees He has given you" illustrates clearly that Moses is teaching his students - and Jesus is teaching his students that God is not our servant. We are God's servants. (Note that the detail of Jesus' forty-day fast most certainly was derived from Jesus' discussions with his disciples, who later passed this on.)
In this respect, a loving servant never tests his beloved master. The beloved master will certainly take care of his subject. To test the master would be insulting because such a test would communicate that the servant doesn't trust the master. He thinks the master is either not in control of the situation, or not caring for the servant.
This is the case with our situation. We were created as the Supreme Being's caregivers. We are His subjects, and He always takes care of us. Thus, we are not in a position to be using Him to accomplish our own goals, and we are not in a position to be testing Him as though we are so superior that we are qualified to judge God.
We can also see this sentiment clearly as we delve into the verse that the metaphorical devil quoted from. The verse comes from David's Psalm 91. Here is the Psalm in its entirety:
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely He will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling--even the LORD, who is my refuge--then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My Name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation." (Psalm 91:1-16)We can understand from this our true position with respect to the Supreme Being. We are His subjects, and we should be completely trusting that He will take care of us. We do not need to be asking Him for stuff, because He is our refuge.
We also can see from David's Psalm that calling upon God and praising God's Holy Names are important aspects of gaining access to the Supreme Being. These activities connect us with the Supreme Being and allow us to take shelter in the Supreme Being.
This Psalm also requires that we know who we are when we consider that God gives us shelter. We are each spiritual beings, temporarily occupying a physical body. Each of our physical bodies was designed to feel pain, age, become ill and at some point die. It is like owning a car: At some point, the car will get old and no longer run.
While the Supreme Being will certainly protect us, we should not be thinking that by taking shelter in Him our temporary physical body will not get old, get sick and die. The Supreme Being designed these bodies as temporary vehicles and this physical world as a temporary realm. And we can see even from the lives of God's richest devoted servants - such as David and even Jesus - that every body dies. Every physical body meets death - often painfully - within the physical world.
What David is speaking of is the real me: The spiritual being who occupies and drives the physical body. This is who the Supreme Being will protect. He will protect the real me. When David says "no harm will befall you," the "you" is the spiritual person within the body.
This person can easily become lost and tormented should we become immersed in our self-centered desires and their consequences. But to take shelter in God means to rely upon Him and trust that He will deliver us from the physical world and our self-centered nature, and deliver us back to our natural position within the spiritual realm.
After the various challenges and training the physical world presents us with (to prepare us to return to the spiritual realm) are finished, we will return to Him and His children and live eternally within the community of the spiritual realm.
This is David's promise to us and it is Jesus' promise to us.
What should we ask God for?
One of the lessons of this event between the metaphorical devil and Jesus is the very concept that is being described here: Thinking that if I worship God, that my physical body will no longer feel pain. That my physical body will not get sick. Or age. Or die.
Remember that Jesus' physical body was starving after forty days of fasting in the desert. Jesus' physical body certainly was suffering. But the meaning of his sacrifice was that Jesus was condemning the value of physical pleasure. He was putting his life in God's hands. He was taking refuge in God - just as David's Psalm teaches - and he was not going to test God - as Moses teaches.
Jesus is communicating that he has come to terms with his position with respect to God. He is the Supreme Being's servant, and his goal is to do God's will. This is why Jesus later said:
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 17:50)Jesus' purpose is to please the Supreme Being, and do His will, because Jesus loves the Supreme Being.
And what is pleasing to the Supreme Being? God wants us back. He wants us to come home to Him. This is because God loves us, and knows that being back in His loving arms will make us happy.
This is what we should be asking God for. We should be asking Him if we can learn to love Him and return to His loving arms. This is why Jesus and Moses both taught:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" (Luke 10:27 and Deut 6:5)