If You Are The Son Of God- Matthew 4:5-7
As we continue in our examination of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, we now come to the second of the three, and we will examine this particular temptation also in the light of the temptations common to man presented in 1 John 2:16. In these verses, we find the devil taking Jesus to the Holy City, to the highest point of the temple. There the devil says to Jesus “If you are the Son of God, 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”. As we ponder precisely what this temptation is directed toward, we begin by asking some questions. The first of these is why the devil takes Jesus to the “pinnacle of the temple”? We begin by answering this question because this particular location holds the key to understanding what the devil may be after here. The Greek word translated as “highest point” in the NIV is pterygion, literally “little wing”. We also find that the temple is located in the “holy city”, which begs the question as to why Matthew uses this expression rather than just saying “Jerusalem”. It is this usage which provides our first bit of insight into the nature of this temptation. The word holy here is a Greek word used to refer to that which has been set apart for God’s service, and the holy city here is the place in which people are to be set apart for God’s service, with this setting apart being represented in the temple itself, in which believers consecrate themselves unto God. So it is at the temple in the Holy City in which Jesus’ consecration to God would be tested. We also find that the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple. Rabbinic teaching at the time taught that the Messiah, when He came, would appear on the pinnacle of the temple, proclaiming in great spectacle exactly who He is and displaying His “power” for all to see through a spectacular miracle, with Jesus here tempted by the devil’s suggestion that He publicly and spectacularly display who He is, throwing Himself down and letting God save Him. It is in all of this that we come to the heart of this particular temptation, for what we find here is the devil attempting to get Jesus to reveal Himself through a grand public spectacle, followed by a spectacular miracle. In doing so, Jesus would make a great impression upon all the people. His image, fame and power would grow exponentially if He did this, and people’s opinion of Him would be dramatically changed. It is at this point in which we come upon the heart of the temptation, and in which we connect it with the temptations found in 1 John 2:16, the second of which is the “lust of the eyes”. This “lust of the eyes” refers fundamentally to an inordinate focus on the image one presents to others, an inordinate focus on what others think about you. Here we also find a connection with the Devil’s taunt of Jesus with “If you are the Son of God”. We must note here that, in the New Testament, the word son is used not only to refer to an offspring, but also used to refer to one who does what his father does, who is about his father’s business. So, as we tie all of the preceding together, what we find here is the temptation for Jesus to choose to be controlled by the impression He made upon others, by what others thought of Him, or by the will of His Father. To put this another way, would Jesus be the Son of God, or the son of the lust of the eyes? Would He be controlled by what God says, or by what others thought of Him? Jesus gives us His answer very clearly here, responding with the Word of God, to which He would submit rather than submitting to this temptation to the lust of the eyes. He would choose to live His life controlled by the will of His Father rather than by the opinions of others. What we also learn from 1 John is that this temptation was not unique to Jesus, but would be one to which all of His followers would also be subjected, that all believers would also be tempted by the devil in this manner. The question, then, remains open, being asked of us over and over again, and the question is, will you choose to be controlled by the will of God, or by what others think of you, will you choose to be a son of God, or a son of the lust of the eyes? It is our prayer that every believer would answer this question in the way Jesus did, choosing to be controlled by the Word of God rather than by the opinions of others, controlled by what God says about them rather than by others opinions of them.