by Daniel McCabe
Temptation of Jesus
Luke 4:9, “Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.’”
Life has dangerous edges. One more step forward and you’ll fall over the side. Yet you know God has brought you to this place, so you can’t retreat and there you stand. Some of the injured below yell up at you, “Jump! We did!” Some behind you threaten to push you unless you get with the program. So what do you do? If you belong to God, then stand your ground. I can’t promise that others won’t push you over the edge. I can’t promise that if you jump you won’t get hurt. But I can promise you this—that standing for what is right is the right stand to take.
In Luke 4 Jesus too stands on a dangerous ledge—the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem—which probably refers to the southwest corner of the castle-like retaining walls that surrounded the thirty-five acre temple complex in Jesus’ day. Built on a very high hill the temple walls towered several stories above the homes and marketplace below, making it the ideal spot for priests to stand and announce with shofar or trumpet the beginning and ending of festival and Sabbath days. A fall or jump from this perch would easily kill or maim unless, like Jesus, you could count on a pillow of angels to catch you (Psalm 91:11). The devil stood at Jesus’ side, goading him to jump and tempting him to prove through spectacle that angelic wings would protect him from the bruising limestone rocks below. Jesus refused to take orders from the tempter and stood his ground with these words, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God” (Luke 4:12).
Thirty years later, James, the half-brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55) stood on that very spot. Originally among one of Jesus’ many opponents (John 7:5), James later believed in him and earned a reputation as a godly man of prayer. But angry hearts insisted that James recant and also convince the masses to do the same. Bringing him to the pinnacle to be heard throughout the city, his handlers panicked when instead James loudly confessed his faith in Jesus, and they pushed him over the side. Not killed by the fall, a blood-thirsty mob rushed in to finish the job. The early historian, Hegesippus, described the moment as follows, “And one of them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. He became a true witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ.”
Two great stories that took place at the pinnacle of the temple. Two great lessons about temptation. First, there’s Jesus who was tempted to take orders from a lesser and to bring attention to himself by jumping. Then there’s James who was tempted to turn back from danger and to deny his faith in Jesus Christ before the large festival crowds. In the end both chose to honor their Father in heaven, and both lives challenge us to do the same—to remember that life is not about us. It’s about our heavenly Father.
So, despite the danger, stand your ground. You cannot jump. You cannot retreat. You must be a witness for God.
Further Reading: Matthew 4:5-7; Luke 4:9-12
Dr. Daniel McCabe is the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Spring, Texas. He is a contributing editor for The Jerusalem Connection Report. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.