Thursday, March 2
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “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.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
In February of 1964 the boxing world was shocked when Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammed Ali) defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship. He wouldn’t let us forget how great a boxer he was. He would frequently remind us saying, “I’m the greatest!” Was he a narcissist, egotistical, grandstanding, or worse?
Before answering that question, we would do well to look at ourselves. How many times haven’t we had the same attitude in relation to others. It’s part of who we are; a product of our sinful human nature. All of us want to be “the greatest.”
When the devil tempted Eve to eat fruit from the tree in the Garden of Eden he said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) That is, you’ll be able to choose for yourself what’s good or evil. Not much has changed since then.
At the start of his ministry Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He had just resisted the temptation to turn a stone into bread when the devil took him to the top of the temple. The tempter wanted Jesus to jump down from the pinnacle of the temple to demonstrate his greatness and thereby win a large following of people. One might paraphrase the devil’s words to our Lord: Show the people how great you are! Jump down!
Jesus chose another path. He emptied himself of his glory and chose the road to Calvary. He didn’t do it for himself. He did it for us, we who by our sin stand at the foot of the cross crying out, “Come down! And then we’ll believe!” Because he chose not to come down, we find forgiveness and life through him.
Lord God, we confess that time and again we have elevated ourselves at the expense of others. Forgive us and by your Holy Spirit equip us for a life of humble service to those in need. To you alone be the glory. We ask this in the name of him who did not come down from the pinnacle of the temple or the cross. Amen.