Temptation Two (Matthew 4:1-11)
The tempter isn’t done. Round one has gone to Jesus – He has resisted the first temptation to satisfy his own appetite at the expense of His relationship with the Father; He has practiced what He preaches and has applied the power of God’s Word to douse the fire of Satan’s first temptation.
Now Satan shifts tactics. He tries to wield Scripture for his own benefit – anything to destroy the Son of God whom he perceives is capable of frustrating the evil one’s suffocating grip on humanity. We’re told the devil’s second temptation occurs in Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish culture, atop the temple’s highest peak. Perhaps it is in the dead of night, a time in which the dark one likes to work his lies.
“If you are the Son of God,” he sneers with devilish trickery, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
To be a bona fide temptation, there must be something in this suggestion that will appeal to Jesus. Perhaps, in His physically weakened condition from fasting there is nothing He’d rather have right now than the legions of angels who had attended Him in heaven’s realm, come and whisk Him away from the travail of His earthly task.
We are told in Paul’s letter to the Philippians that in coming to earth, Jesus, “being in very nature God… made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” Perhaps this contrast is what the tempter wants to spotlight.
You deserve to be served, if you are as special as you say, Satan goads. He takes God’s words, written by an ancient psalmist, and challenges Jesus with them. Ironically, Jesus does deserve to be served. He is God incarnate. If anyone should have the right to fling Himself from the highest peak of the temple and be lifted up on angel’s wings it’s Him. Yet, He resists. He has a higher calling than immediate gratification. He has in mind obedience to the Father in order to complete a greater rescue than that which the devil has just suggested. At the right time Jesus will be raised onto a cross above the heads of the people; His lifeless body will be pulled from the nails that have held him so that it can be buried deep in a tomb. Satan will foolishly imagine he has routed the people’s only hope…until the Son of God rises to storm Hell’s gates and open Heaven’s doors to all people who follow Him.
Here is where we come in, we who would be followers of this amazing man, the Son of God, Jesus. We will find moments when temptation is whispered into our ears by the same liar who tried to sway Jesus. We will hear the words, “You deserve…” and fill in the blank with any number of things. We deserve respect; we deserve attention; we deserve the right to life, liberty, happiness, free choice, self-realization, and anything else that comes to mind. So we fling ourselves mindlessly before the opportunities this world offers, foolishly expecting God and His angels to bless, without scrutinizing the source of the idea.
Jesus’ quiet response to this temptation is, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” His role as model for us shows us that we, too, while of inestimable value to God who created us for His glory, are to take on the nature of servants. We are to humbly face life’s challenges, its ups and downs, not manipulating God’s power for our purposes, but accepting every situation as having redemptive value. This means that even the difficult, painful, and unpleasant moments in life can be transforming experiences for our eternal souls and for His glory. The temptation to take the easy way out is a lie of Satan. Never let him have the satisfaction of a successful deception. The true Spirit of Jesus within us is greater than the liar that is without. Let’s tune our ears to His voice and tune out the tempter’s proposals. Round two goes to Jesus.
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