Matthew 4:5-7. “Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
Satan started with the small stuff: “Here, Jesus, turn these stones into bread.” For the next test, he stepped it up a bit. It is important for us always to remember that Satan’s goal from the beginning of the history of man was to keep Jesus from the cross. If he could win in this next contest of the wills, he would win for all eternity.
So, where does Satan go for the next test? Why to the Holy City! The the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of worship for all Israel. How fitting it would be to win a contest with the very Son of God in His own city, on His own temple!
Satan takes Jesus to the edge–the pinnacle, a very high place–of the temple and says again, with a sneer, “If Thou be the Son of God.” Always the challenge, always the attempt to bully and intimidate the One whom he knew to be the Son of God. You have to wonder about his intelligence sometimes, but then you have to remember that the bad guys will always try to undermine the confidence of their victims.
Satan then challenges Jesus to literally jump off the top of the temple. He says, “If You’re Who You say You are, then prove it! Jump down! Isn’t it written that God will send His angels to protect You so that You’ll never even stub Your toe?” (The quote is from Psalm 91:11-12, a Messianic Psalm.)
This temptation is a temptation of Jesus as Messiah. What Satan left out was just as important as what he actually said, much like his lie to Eve in the Garden of Eden. He told her that she would not surely die. What he didn’t say was “right now.” A lie is always more effective when it contains a kernel of truth.
Here, he leaves out the words “To keep Thee in all Thy ways.” Why is that omission important?
Clearly, for Jesus to cast Himself off the pinnacle of the temple would not be God’s way, but Satan’s way. The ways in which Jesus, the Messiah, would be “kept” were the ways of God, not the ways of Satan. Satan’s way would be to test whether or not God was true; to test whether or not He would indeed protect His Son.
Jesus wasn’t fooled for a moment. What I really want to emphasize here is that when we are truly walking in the Spirit, we will not be fooled by the lies of the world; by the lies of those who claim the Name of Christ but live, teach, and preach another gospel; by the lies of Satan himself, who is a master of deceit. Always we are to sift what we hear or read through the sieve of the Word of God. Anything that falls through the sifter is false. We can’t do that sifting, however, if we do not ourselves study and learn what the Word of God says.
Jesus responds with yet another scripture: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deut. 6:16). It’s kind of like watching a chess game, isn’t it? Satan moves, and Jesus counters his move and stops him. Sometimes you have to wonder about Satan’s intelligence. After all, he knows he’s in a losing battle. But then we have to remember, as well, that bullies always seek out our weaknesses and try to intimidate us with mockery and threats. Nothing new under the sun.
Satan loses again, but he’s got one more trick in his bag. We’ll look at that next time.