Friday March 24, 2023
IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, THROW YOURSELF DOWN FROM HERE
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.”
Let’s review. The temptation in the wild could also be called the testing in the wild, as Jesus is being tested as to his vocation in between his receiving it at his baptism and his actualizing of it in his Isaiah 61 ministry. He is full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit into the wild. He is fasting, a spiritual practice common to those wanting to come close to God and to become more aware of God’s presence as we become less focused on our bodily needs. In the wild, three temptations come his way from the one the Bible calls the satan, the accuser, the evil one—the devil.
The first test (I use this word interchangeably with temptation, as it depends on where we think the challenge is ultimately coming from) is a call for Jesus to misuse his power for personal gain. The second test is a call for Jesus to skip over suffering and to take control of the world and its benefits. The third test, a wild card, is a call for Jesus to manipulate God and to put on a show with his abilities.
So here we are, the third test in, with Jesus bearing a vocation to be the Son of God in all its fullness, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, to bring “good news to the poor” (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18) and to “destroy the works of the evil one” (1 John 3:8), and the enemy is taking one last, ministry-sabotaging swing.
Jump and force the Father’s hand. Instead of obedience, where you are yielded to the will of the Father, instead manipulate God to do your will.
It’s the dark inverse of the Lord’s Prayer: “My kingdom come. My will be done. In heaven as it is on earth.” It is magic, the manipulation of spiritual position, to achieve by power what can only be achieved by selfless love.
Jesus had another version of “throw yourself down” in mind. He would throw himself down on his knees in the garden of Gethsemane (to offer his will to the Father’s, for the fullness of the Father’s will to come to fruition).
Throw himself off the temple high place? Force God to catch him, to do his will outside of God’s? To even risk his life and put his Isaiah 61 ministry and the deliverance of humankind on the line? No. Jesus has no need to obey a satanic suggestion that puts a barrier between himself and his Father. Jesus will indeed throw himself down, on his knees, to offer the perfect and perfecting sacrifice for the world (Heb. 10:14).
His name means “the Lord saves.” He’s not going to risk that mission for a display—and he’ll follow that same pattern many times over in his ministry to follow.
Have you ever been tempted to manipulate God to do your will? Has there been a time when God was moving too slowly and you acted, trusting he’d catch you even though you knew you weren’t following his slow, patient time schedule?
Lord of the Wild, there is something inside of us, still, that wants our wills to be done. We don’t ultimately believe our will is better than yours, but honestly, your will and path feel hard and narrow and, at times, terrifying. Your kingdom come; your will be done—here in our lives as it is being done in heaven. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Songs for the Wilderness
First 15 through the season of Lent is adapted from Jesus in the Wild: Lessons of Calling for Life in the World available through Seedbed. If you or your small group are interested in using this resource for your Lenten study, you can find more information here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The First 15
Sign up to receive an email notification whenever a new devotional is posted to The First 15.