Saturday, March 9th
We continue on with the third and final temptation.
Then the devil took (Jesus) to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The first thing to note is that the devil can quote scripture (Psalm 91) as well as anyone. The ability to quote scripture is no assurance we are following the will of God. Sometimes people cling to the literal meaning of a verse, in a way, that leads them to miss its deeper meanings.
There is more than one way to interpret what the devil is appealing to with this temptation.
One possibility is that he is appealing to Jesus’ ego – that human desire to have others admire us. Dazzle people with your powers, Jesus and they will put you on a pedestal. Like a rock star!
Another possible interpretation is that the devil is appealing to the need inside Jesus (and in all of us) to have all doubts silenced once and for all. We prefer certainty to ambiguity. If he jumps off the pinnacle of the Temple and angels do indeed catch him “before he dashes his feet against the stone”, then his doubts will be wiped away.
But to be a human being is to live with some doubt and uncertainty. Living by faith, does not mean we do away with ambiguity. Faith is a willingness to go forth, trusting that ultimately we are in good hands come what may.
There is an old joke about a preacher who, with a great storm coming, has a dream in which the Lord appears to him saying, “Have no fear in the face of the storm; I promise to be your deliverer!”
The man is pretty impressed by this personal message of assurance from the Almighty. When the rains come and the flood waters rise the public is told to evacuate the area. Rescue workers come with a boat pleading that the preacher get on board, so they can take him to safety but he refuses their invitation, determined to trust in the promise of the Lord. The flood waters continue to rise. We find the preacher standing on the steeple of the church, clinging to the cross. A helicopter hovers above dropping down a rope ladder for him to climb to safety. He refuses to climb up the ladder.
The flood waters rise. The preacher drowns.
In heaven the preacher is not a happy puppy. After fuming about for a while, he finally gets an audience with God. “What’s the deal, God!? You told me I need not fear – that you would be my deliverer!” “Yeah,” said God, “I can’t figure this out either. I sent you a rescue boat and a helicopter and you refused them both.”
Faith is a working proposition. We put our trust in the Lord. Miracles would be nice, but we don’t demand them – we do not put God to the test. We trust that the Spirit of God will open doors in very ordinary ways. In stepping through them we discover good opportunities full of blessing that we had not imagined. As we make our way forward our trust is confirmed that the Lord is indeed worthy of our trust.
There is a voice within – a desire really – to have total assurance right now that we are doing the right thing. Can we have that desire, and yet recognize that it is not one we want to indulge? In the midst of uncertainty, can we choose moment by moment to trust God?