Christ or Caesar?

Satan tempted Jesus by offering him political power over “all the kingdoms of the world,” an offer he emphatically refused. Instead of power and grandeur, he submitted to the way of the ‘Suffering Servant’ that led inevitably to Golgotha. But the most startling detail of this encounter is that he did not dispute the Devil’s claim to have jurisdiction over the political systems of the world, including its most powerful empire.

Jesus was “driven” into the wilderness by the Spirit to be “tested” by the Devil. Thus, the event was instigated by God. There, Satan tempted him in four ways, and his greatest challenge was the offer of unlimited political power - (Matthew 4:8-11).

The Devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the “kingdoms of the world (kosmos) and their grandeur.” He was offering him more than just sovereignty over the Jewish nation.


In the passage, the term rendered “world” or “kosmos” can refer to the entire physical world if not the creation itself, thus, the ‘Cosmos.’ Satan was offering him the means to establish the “kingdom of God,” the very thing he came to do.

In the version of the story in Luke, the Tempter boasts that he will give Jesus “all this authority” if he acknowledges his overlordship, and he declares that “it has been delivered to me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it.”

But Jesus did NOT call him a liar or dispute his right to dispense political power, which almost certainly he would have done if the Devil did not have this authority. And if Satan received this authority from a higher source (“it has been delivered to me”), that could only be God.

Very likely, behind Satan’s claim is the fall of man. His “right” or rulership over humanity is the consequence of Adam’s sin - (John 12:31, 14:30).

In the story, to acquire such awesome power, Jesus must “RENDER HOMAGE” to the Devil. The Greek verb so rendered denotes giving homage or allegiance to someone or something of higher rank. Thus, to gain universal sovereignty it is necessary for Christ to acknowledge Satan as his master, at least, according to the god of this world.”


Was this a real temptation for the Son of God? Was he not the Messiah appointed by God to reign over all the earth? But how could the Davidic king reign over the rebellious nations of the earth without the military and economic powers of the World Empire? - (Psalm 2:6-8).

Satan was providing a shortcut to Christ’s God-ordained sovereignty over the world, a way for him to avoid suffering and death on a Roman cross.

After all, imagine all the good Jesus could do if he possessed Caesar’s throne and commanded his legions! With the military and economic might of Rome at his fingertips, would not righteousness and peace prevail throughout the Empire?

Surely, if ever there was justification for the resort to State power this was it. Who would be better qualified to wield the imperial might of Rome than the Prince of Peace?


But rather than bow to Satan and resort to the methods that dominate the present age, Jesus submitted to the path of the Suffering Servant. In his kingdom, victory is achieved through self-denial and sacrificial service for others, and “greatness” is measured by acts of mercy even if not especially to one’s “enemy.”

Contrary to the expectations of his Jewish contemporaries, and in defiance of Satan’s offer, Jesus embraced the “form of a slave” and became “obedient unto death.” Therefore, God exalted him to reign over the Cosmos and gave him the “name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

But Calvary must precede ascension and glory. And his disciples are summoned to ADOPT THIS SAME PERSPECTIVE by letting this “mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus”:

  • Who being in the form of God, counted NOT the being like God a thing to be seized, but instead, poured himself out, taking the form of a slave, being made in human likeness; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” - (Philippians 2:6-9).

Institutional Christianity has a long and sordid history of mixing Church and State. The temptation to use political power to impose “right” beliefs and conduct is too great. But sooner or later, advancing Christ’s kingdom through the political means of this age necessitates resorting to the coercive power of the almighty State.

Thus, disciples of Jesus of Nazareth must choose between following the “Lamb wherever he goes,” or giving their allegiance to the “Beast from the Abyss.” When they employ the corrupt political systems of this world, they willingly embrace the “Beast” and prostrate themselves before its “image.”

We need to take seriously the scriptural portrayal of political power as being part of Satan’s domain. If the Devil works behind the scenes in this world, and if the possession of political power necessitates giving allegiance to him, and since Jesus himself refused to do so and instead chose the way of the cross, should we not follow his example? SHOULD WE EMBRACE WHAT HE REJECTED?


Absent Church?

His Appearance