Thursday March 23, 2023
AND HAD HIM STAND ON THE HIGHEST POINT OF THE TEMPLE
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.
Have you had platforms in your life—opportunities to speak, teach, guide, lead, or influence in a church, a business, or a project—that you had the humility to use for God’s glory and not your own?
I once read an article by a scholar noting that humility was not a valued virtue in a leader, historically and globally, until Jesus came on the scene.
The highest point of the temple, in today’s passage, could represent many different tests of the heart—all of them oriented around why high places are different than low places. For one, a high point is more visible than a low place. Leaders lead from on high, from their fortified city, from their elevated throne, from their high popularity and visibility to their people.
With the high supporting one’s leadership, or so history has emphasized, we are too normal, too unremarkable, too uninspiring to be influential. But gain a little height with a city, a throne, or a stage of popularity and influence (having a movie credit is not the only way a small-time celebrity gets created)? Then you can influence others.
Take the high place, right? Have the influence, in Jesus’s name, correct? The answer this story gives us to those questions is no.
Jesus tells us to take the lowest place at the table, to bow lower than everyone else in the room, to wash their feet as a servant, to become the least of all if you want to become great.
And he did it. Instead of taking the high place of visibility, he chose the long, slow, low work of serving, caring, influencing, and loving his way into the hearts of individuals. He had no impressive form, and as Isaiah 53:3, the passage of the Suffering Servant, prophesied: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
While Jesus could have taken the high place, displaying God’s favor on his life and forcing his will on the Father, he knew that the way of humility and slow, patient grace was the path to changing human hearts.
And one by one, he did it. No big shows, no spiritual fireworks to shut down all questions; just deep, abiding presence, with signs and wonders following. God with us. Immanuel. The man who made himself low to show us the high way of humble love.
What are the low places in which you are serving right now? How do you sense the Holy Spirit moving in those settings?
Lord of the Wild, there is a humility to your way, a deep patience to how you change a heart, that has brought the world to remark about your simple life of love. We choose the low places in which to serve, the unseen places of faithfulness, in the path of ministry. If you give a wider platform, so be it. But let our hearts live in the low places with others, with Jesus. 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.
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