In our Matthew Mondays we’ve been looking at Matthew 4, and the temptations of Christ, particularly through the lens of Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin”, and the trinity of man: body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23) in that these three temptations of Christ represent every way we are tempted.
Last week we looked at how the devil tries to tempt Jesus physically with food, and the way Jesus rebuffs Him by explaining the nature of the physical world: it’s God’s word. God spoke it into being; thus man is not sustained by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
This week we’re going to look at the second temptation of Jesus.
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You; and 'on their hand they will bear You up, so that Your foot will not strike a stone.'" (Matthew 4:5-6)
Now let’s take just a moment before getting into Jesus’ response here to look at exactly what the devil is asking Jesus to do.
Satan took Him to the temple. This is the spiritual center of the world. Even the New Testament talks about Jerusalem and the temple as being the spiritual central. The Gospel would eventually radiate out from this point into the entire world, and it continues to be the major focus of the Judeo-Christian religions.
If Satan had just wanted to see if angels would swoop down and rescue Jesus, there were hundreds of other places he could have taken Him. Mount Everest might have been a good choice. Satan knew as well as Jesus did that the angels would have saved Him. This temptation wasn’t about the action any more than the first one was about bread.
The temptation on the temple top had a spiritual element to it.
Imagine you were standing at church waiting to go in, and this guy comes hurtling down off the steeple, and before his foot hits the ground, a bunch of angels appear, catch him, and gently set him down. You ask why the angels caught him, and he says because I’m the Son of God—hard to argue with that don’t you think?
If Jesus had fallen for Satan’s temptation, He would have immediately become the spiritual leader of Israel. Caiaphas (a goon appointed by Rome) would have been tossed out on his head, and there would have been no crucifixion, no redemption of sin, and no spiritual regeneration for any of us. But God had other plans.
And so Jesus responds, “On the other hand, it is written, “you shall not put your Lord to the test” (Matthew 4:7).
Often times when it comes to spiritual temptation we experience, it comes in the form of testing God, and the test is for the wrong reasons. It’s never just to prove to ourselves that God is true to His word and that He abides in us. It’s to prove ourselves to others around us. We pray for God to do x, y, or z in our lives. Make us rich. Heal us. Help us teach, preach, and prophesy. But our imaginations are running a mile a minute about what others will say or do when God moves so mysteriously/miraculously in our lives.
This is spiritual temptation. God’s power is not meant to bring us glory; it’s meant to bring Him glory. When you pray for these things, pray that God would glorify Himself however He wants and then be obedient. Maybe He wants to use someone else to accomplish His work, and maybe He has other plans entirely.
Obedience to God’s plans is the key and the beauty of overcoming spiritual temptation. Because in obedience there is humility, in humility God is glorified, and when God is glorified, He raises our spirits.
Next week, we look at the temptation of the soul.