I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me...
Jesus here refers to Satan by the title ‘the prince of this world’. The Saviour states that the devil has some authority. His domain is not geographic but moral. He holds sway over sinners through spiritual blindness. So far, his kingdom is very extensive, in fact there is only one human – Jesus – who has not been a subject of his rule.
Thankfully many millions of sinner have been rescued from his rule, but they all had been subjects at one time. And they still retain, while on earth, within their personalities, particular traits and other sinful features which the devil can locate and use. It was different with Jesus. So here the devil is coming towards the one Man who has never been part of his kingdom and in whom there was nothing that the devil could find suitable for his schemes. In what ways would he come?
First, he would come with hatred. This meeting would not be a joyful one. The hatred had begun centuries before when Satan, then an angel in heaven, had attempted vainly and foolishly (they usually go together) to overthrow the throne of God. He failed, but his hatred developed. We know the strength that hatred can give to some people. In a different way, it fuelled the devil’s march against the Saviour.
Second, the devil would come with hordes. Satan would not come alone. This was not going to be a one-to-one combat. Alongside the devil marched all the fallen angels, each of them determined to destroy Jesus. No-one knows how many there are. Who are they attacking? One perfect Man.
Third, the devil would come with horror. We know that when an army attacks, they use horrible weapons. The devil had his arsenal, with his main weapon being temptation, although he had other weapons such as cruelty and pain. He was going to unleash these awful temptations on the holy mind of Jesus, attempting to get him to cease loving his God and fellow-man. Of course, the devil failed. When his fellowmen nailed him to the cross, Jesus prayed for them. When his Father brought him into the state of abandonment, he cried, ‘My God.’ He never ceased to love God or man.
Although such a powerful enemy was approaching, Jesus was aware that there was nothing within himself that would listen to the devil’s temptations. This is the real difference between Jesus and every other human that the devil tempts. Whatever the devil suggested was abhorrent to the Saviour. It is not a sin to be tempted; it is giving in to the temptation that is sinful.
What did the devil learn when he attacked Jesus on this occasion? First, he discovered that God’s ancient promise was fulfilled. In the Garden of Eden, the Lord had pronounced the coming of a Champion who would crush the head of the devil. This crushing would occur when the devil managed to bruise the heel of the foot that crushed him.
Second, Jesus, through the cross, rendered the devil powerless as far as his claims against God’s people are concerned. Satan is called ‘the accuser of the brethren’, and perhaps this means that he was urging God to punish them when they sinned. But on the cross, Jesus provided a legitimate way for sinners to be forgiven their sins, which means that Satan’s accusations are no longer valid.
Third, the devil discovered a Man determined to go to his Father. He discovered that his attacks could not change the purity of the life of Jesus, that Jesus would continue to have a perfect life no matter what temptations he had to endure. This perfect life was essential for his people’s salvation. Only as sinless could he offer an atoning sacrifice. No matter what the devil tried, he could not make the sinless Jesus sin.