Was He Tempted to Prove Himself?
Perhaps the most difficult thing for anyone is to be willing to be misunderstood.
Something within every human being longs for at least one other person to know why we are as we are. To know why we do what we do. To know why we think as we think. True, many of us may not know our real motives ourselves, but as far as we know, we want to be sure someone else sees us as we at least think we are.
If we are right or innocent, it is a frantic experience to know that no one believes us to be right or innocent. Such a sense of frustration is set up in us that we long to do something startling to prove our point or our position.
A college girl once said to me, "Sometimes when I can't convince my mother that I didn't do what she insists I did, I want to beat my head against her head to prove it!" I am not quite clear how the young lady thought this would prove her point, but I can certainly understand her helpless dilemma. There is that in us that makes us frantic until someone believes us. Especially if it matters a great deal to us.
It is no secret that this exceedingly human trait is at the bottom of many heated religious arguments. This is perhaps an extreme example, but unfortunately it is not an isolated one. When I was a new Christian, I sat in on a discussion between one brother who held the Calvinist view of eternal security, and another who held the Arminian view. I confess now that although I had known Christ for almost two years, it so happened that I hadn't understood the difference between the two views until that day. In fact, both terms were still quite vague to me. But because of my ignorance, I merely listened and in no time I caught on that the Calvinist brother knew he would never lose his "salvation." Further listening showed me that the Arminian brother believed that if he slipped from his concept of the straight and narrow, he would. One of them (and I honestly can't remember now which one it was) finally grew so exasperated in his frantic desire to prove his point that he shouted, "So help me, brother, if I thought it would knock you out of your darkness, I'd hit you over the head with this book-end!"
This is not the place to argue either side of the eternal security question. I have never seen the necessity for that anyway. Jesus Christ is my security, and He has said, "Lo, I am with you always." I simply believe Him and let it go at that. Salvation is His business, not mine. But my point is clear, I am sure. Both brothers were gripped by that frantic seizure from within to have someone agree with us. To be recognized as being right. Right here it might be well to say that true humility is not the need to be proven right on a point. It is the willingness to be made right in our hearts. And Jesus Christ, so far as I know, was the only perfectly humble Man who has ever walked this earth. "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." He was.
But He did become a human being, and in the third temptation in the wilderness, according to the Gospel of
Luke (chapter 4:9-13) we find Him tempted, humanly speaking, to prove Himself.
The account says that He was invited by the tempter to cast Himself down from a pinnacle of the Temple in order to prove (as it was written) that the angels would protect Him from harm.
Alone, weary, hungry and knowing the hard work that lay ahead if He fulfilled His Father's mission on earth, Jesus heard this proposition: "If you are God's Son, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, 'He will give orders to His angels on your behalf to protect you,' and 'They shall carry you on their hands so that you may not stub your foot against a stone.' "
There He stood (on the "summit of the temple") and there before Him was a sensational opportunity to prove His identity. He knew how slow would be man's heart to accept Him as the Messiah. Knowing human nature as He did, He knew that if He jumped from that "summit of the temple," literally thousands would believe He was who He claimed to be. After all, He knew the Old Testament Scripture to which the tempter referred. Jesus was well trained in the Scriptures. He knew Psalm 91:11 declared that the angels of the Lord would protect Him, because He knew He was the Son of God.
If he jumped and landed safely, wouldn't this be proof that He was who He claimed to be? The public will always go for the sensational. Could any other person on earth jump so far and not be injured? He could, but again, He did not.
Just one more instance of the fact that in no way did Jesus Christ ever protect His humanity. He did nothing to save Himself which we cannot do to save ourselves. He became one with us, even as He remained one with the Father. But because He remained one with the Father, He did nothing extravagant to win men's hearts. He used no sensational means to collect a following. He did noth-
ing superficial to point to Himself. He was tempted to jump. The Bible says He was. But He didn't, and so He can say to the whole of frantic, misunderstood human nature, "I know how you feel. I've been through it, too. Learn of me."
No one finds "rest unto his soul" by displaying himself, or by using drastic measures to prove his point. If Jesus had in any way sanctioned human exhibitionism, I quake to think of what some religious workers might be doing now. If we resort to one bit of sensationalism or force to prove our points, we are then only faced with finding something a little more sensational or a little more forceful in order to keep things going. Jesus knew this about human nature. He thought up the human mind and He thought up the universe into which He placed it. He knows exactly what works out and what does not. He did not restrain Himself from jumping merely in order to obey the Father's will. He knew that the Father's will contained nothing quixotic or tricky or sensational. He knew that the Father's will contained no desire for the superficial "belief" which would follow an amazing "stunt," and then quickly fade away. He knew the Father longed to get at the very hearts of men.
I am well aware from having been out there just ten years ago, that those who do not follow Christ have genuine grounds for confusion as Christians spend themselves in heated and futile blasts at one another, each group attempting to prove itself right.
But for you who are not yet believers in Christ, I beg of you to remember that the Lord Himself did not resort to such superficial, unheavenly means. You are not being called to follow other Christians, you are being called by Jesus Christ to follow Him. And it is well to remember also that there has never yet been a follower of Christ who has become completely like Him.
I agreed to the tragedy of the niggling differences in
Christendom. I abhor it, too. So does Christ. But don't allow niggling Christendom to keep you from the holy adventure of Christianity.
Christianity is Christ.
And in Him is no contradiction. "By Him all things were created in heaven and in earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities, they were all created by Him and for Him, and He is Himself before all, and in Him all things are fitly framed together."
If you will go beyond Christendom to Christ Himself, you will see that "in Him all things are framed together." His has to be a heart of all-inclusive love in order to fitly frame together the warring factions of Christendom, each attempting to prove itself right.
He has enabled me to go peaceably from group to group only because He was able to get through to me that "everything I have, I have been given." I dare see nothing but "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." When I look away from Him, I too can fall, like you who are still outside, into utter confusion. But I need not look away from Him. And any time you are willing, you may begin to look at Him too and never again need to turn your eyes away.
Jesus Christ offered no tricks, no complicated theological plans, no sensational proofs of His identity. He offered Himself. We either accept Him or we reject Him. He could do it no other way and allow us to remain morally responsible individuals. Some may argue that His miracles and healings were "proofs." I do not think they were. To me they are merely evidences of His nature. In every instance, including the water turned to wine at Cana, His miracles were for the benefit of humanity. Not once did He employ His Deity to protect Himself. Not once did He employ His Deity in order to prove Himself. He simply went about presenting Himself to us.
Jesus did not jump from the pinnacle of the Temple. Instead He allowed Himself to be nailed to a tree. If He had jumped, a few thousand living then in Palestine would have been impressed. From the Cross He is able to call so loudly to the whole human race that even now you and I can hear.
And the choice remains ours.
Chapter Eleven || Table of Contents