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Close, But No Cigar

In the wilderness of temptation, after forty days of fasting and prayer, Jesus was surprised by an angel who said he was ready to assist, but before he could, he explained that he needed to know first who Jesus was. Earlier, a high-ranking emissary of God had been expelled from heaven for insubordination and maybe Jesus was that angel. How could he know? Jesus claimed divinity, yet there was no evidence to substantiate it. After not eating for weeks, he was emaciated and worn, and certainly didn’t look very princely. So the angel bluntly asked Jesus, “who are you? If you are a member of the divine family, show me your ID; do something divine; perform a miracle; turn these stones into bread.”

“Close, but no cigar,” was a popular phrase in 19th century America when someone failed to win a prize at a carnival. Cigars were actually given to those who won. In the judgement of the “angel” who questioned him, Jesus was a loser! He didn’t have the appearance of a divine being. He was a poor, hungry imposter who couldn’t even feed himself.

However, Jesus was secure with his identity. He felt no need to prove himself to a doubting angel who was himself the insubordinate rebel. So he modeled how we should respond when accosted by evil.

“Jesus told him, ‘No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone [by what many deem as evidence], but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4, NLT).

“Not without a struggle could Jesus listen in silence to the arch deceiver. But the Son of God was not to prove His divinity to Satan, or to explain the reason for His humiliation. By conceding to the demands of the rebel, nothing for the good of [humanity] or the glory of God would be gained” (Desire of Ages, p. 119).

The truth is, we can’t reason with the devil. If Jesus had performed a miracle, the devil would have asked him to do more to verify his relationship with God. The devil is never satisfied with evidence.

Our identity as children of God is not confirmed by our circumstance or station in life. The weakest, poorest soul is in line to receive heaven’s richest treasure when they believe and accept God’s promises. The carnival trinkets that are given by the devil to distract us from our inheritance are paltry and tawdry in comparison to what God offers.

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously” (Micah 6:8, The Message).

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

is director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference.

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