After he returned from the period of temptation in the wilderness, Jesus did something quite remarkable. He told someone about it. We don’t know who it was he told, of course, or whether there was more than one. But he told someone, or we ourselves would never have learned about the temptations.
And since he told somone, he must have wanted the nature of the temptations and his rationale for resisting them to be known as well. Why?
Surely not to communicate how he had overcome unique and uniquely powerful temptations, temptations available only to him: to change stones to bread by miracle, to exercise a privilege of protection as God’s Son, to rule the world. The only possible motive for his telling someone for that reason would be pride.
The answer must be that each represented a category of temptation to which we are all subject, and which we must be especially diligent to resist, for the reasons given in Christ’s several responses. Thus the one teaches us not to desire shortcuts in our journey towards God: to embrace the difficulties of the journey; to be wary of easy answers and gaudy promises; to live through faith rather than sight.
And another warns us against both spiritual complacency and spiritual arrogance, against neglect of prosaic duty and humble responsibility, against pride in its most subtle embodiments.
And the third?
The temptation for Jesus was not to rule the world: he created the world, for goodness sake. Nor was it to save the world; he’d already accomplished that in eternity.
So what was there between the world and Jesus that finds counterpart in each of us, and would explain why Jesus described this temptation to someone?
I think it must be the spiritual ignorance of the world, and the temptation to remove that ignorance by any means but the truth, the gospel truth.