IX. The third temptation revolves around kingship. Satan offers Jesus exactly what the Messiah might be expected to possess: the sovereignty over all other earthly powers, the leader of one great kingdom of peace and well-being. As with the earlier temptation around “bread,” this “view from the mountain” has parallels in the Gospel story. Jesus will summon the Eleven to the mountain and declare: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” – precisely after the Resurrection.
Two facts emerge here: first, that Jesus’ power is not only earthly, but also “in heaven” – He has united these two realms, just as He teaches us to pray that the Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus has not come to establish an earthly paradise, but to lead us to God’s Kingdom which already begins here through faith but will be realized wholly only after our own dying and rising.
Second, this mountain of the Resurrection presupposes the Hill of Golgotha (or Calvary). Only by completely surrendering all power and glory – even His very life – in love does this divine power manifest itself.
Pope Benedict says: “The temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again throughout the centuries. The struggle for the freedom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus’ Kingdom with any political structure, has to be fought century after century [lest] faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria.” The alternative at stake, he says, is seen dramatically in the choice of Jesus or Barabbas at the Passion. Barabbas was a messianic figure, whose name in Hebrew literally means “son of the father.” He is a “revolutionary,” John tells us, leading a revolt against Rome’s power in order to substitute a different earthly kingdom.
Barabbas promises freedom and a new order, where Israel’s power would throw off oppression. Jesus promises suffering, sacrifice, and a strange idea that surrendering oneself is the way to life. As the Pope says: “Is it any wonder than the crowds prefer Barabbas?” And that remains the temptation today: to take matters into our own hands and build a better world, without the problem of God.