Another temptation of Christ. The second temptation recorded by Matthew, the temptation of spectacle. Immediately following the first temptation, which Jesus deflected with scripture, the tempter comes in using scripture itself to convince the son of Man of his next “good idea”.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Quoting from psalm 91, the devil challenges the discovery Jesus made at His baptism, daring Him to rely on the promises made there. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” Psalms 91:11-12 ESV. Notice the devil leaves out to guard you in all your ways. Some think this was intentional because the devil was aware that would not be one of “his ways“, the way of duty and service.
It may not have been the ways of God, the way of service, but it would certainly have been our ways. This was the temptation to bring in the Kingdom of God by showing people the spectacular. This would have been made for TV in 21st century America. We are a nation that loves spectacle. The glam, the glitz of the bright lights and big city.
Imagine what the thought is. From high on the pinnacle of the temple at the time, which was at least a couple hundred feet up, people would see Jesus standing tall. He could just call a local news channel, get some TV crews out there, and have a made for TV event.
We would have thought we were seeing a suicide…crazy guy standing there. “He’s going to jump!!” And jump He does. But He doesn’t die, He never hits the asphalt. Those angels do just as they are supposed to. They come as commanded by God, to guard him, to hold him lest he be broken on concrete. Upon seeing this, millions bow down and worship the Son of God.
Sounds like a good idea. Sounds like an idea we would love to see. Why doesn’t God just make it obvious. Why not just come and do something spectacular? Why not shout from heaven “I’m here!! All you atheists and unbelievers, you guys have it all wrong. I’m real. And tell Time magazine I ain’t dead yet!!”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” There’s going to be enough trouble, I don’t need to create trouble for these angels to show themselves. I don’t need to put God to the test of proving Himself.
So still the question, why doesn’t God just do something spectacular, something awe-inspiring, something to leave no doubt.
Well, first of all, we can doubt anything. “That’s just some special effect trick.” “That’s fake, it’s not real.” As Jesus a Himself once said – “He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”” Luke 16:31 ESV. I’ll just let that one sit there…
Second – He’s already done the spectacular and undeniable. Just look around you. Creation. We live in an age where we say there are no absolute truths, no immutable laws, yet we claim to trust science which only exists because of absolute truths and immutable laws. We make arguments that there is no creator, just natural laws. We claim to be the product of time + matter + chance, but we claim that the same chaos doesn’t apply to our sciences. The very arguments they make for relying on science points to intelligent design, to the very creator they reject. Not time + matter + chance.
Third, and maybe this is really the point, is that leaving room to doubt leaves room for YOU. By this I mean that this is where we get to really BE, to be authenticate people, people with a free will and real choices. If there is no room for doubt, no choice to make, no room for unbelief, we would all just be robots, or puppets on a string. But we were made in His image, to have a real life, to really exist. The room for doubt is the room for you, to be the authentic created image of God.
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'””
Matthew 4:5-7 ESV