The Temptations of Christ: Part Three


1] Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4: 1-10

Go here to read part one of our Lenten examination of the temptation of Christ by Satan, and here to read part two.  After the failure of the temptation of bread, Satan decides to tempt Jesus with the Messianic expectations that had grown up among the Jews about the Messiah, the expectations that Jesus had heard personally since boyhood.  Satan takes Jesus up to the pinnacle of the Temple, the locus of the worship of God in this Vale of Tears.  All Jews who believed in the Messiah assumed that he would announce himself in Jerusalem.  Some thought it would be a spectacular appearance with the Messiah coming from the sky with angels to raise the Jews up.  During the Jewish Revolt of 66-73 as the Romans besieged Jerusalem, the Zealots would scan the skies looking for the Messiah to come and save Jerusalem.

These expectations are key to understanding the nature of the second temptation.  Satan was not tempting Christ by asking Him to perform an Act, throwing himself off the top of the Temple in order to require a manifestation of divine power, he has tempting Christ to begin His ministry with a stupendous miracle that would cause all of Jerusalem to flock to Him.  No years of preaching in the backwaters of Galilee, Samaria and Judea.  One massive miracle, flying over Jerusalem, with angels and the whole of Israel would follow Him as the Messiah.

Throughout his three years ministry Christ was constantly confronted with the demand that He perform miracles, and no matter how many He performed, the demand always persisted.  How many came out to see Him, not for His preaching but in hopes to see Him perform one of the miracles they had heard of?  From what Christ said, I would assume many:

1AND there came to him the Pharisees and Sadduccees tempting: and they asked him to shew them a sign from heaven. 2But he answered and said to them: When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. 3And in the morning: To day there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times? 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. And he left them, and went away.

Matthew 16:  1-4

[46] He came again therefore into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain ruler, whose son was sick at Capharnaum. [47] He having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, went to him, and prayed him to come down, and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. [48] Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not. [49] The ruler saith to him: Lord, come down before that my son die. [50] Jesus saith to him: Go thy way; thy son liveth. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way.

John 4:  46-50

He understood that a stupendous miracle such as Satan proposed would make many converts for him, and establish Jerusalem as a base for him.  No years of toiling in the hinterlands, instead He would begin His ministry with a stupendous triumph in the big time, Jerusalem, THE CITY, as if there were no others, for most Jews. Certainly this prospect was tempting?

Not at all.  Christ rejects the temptation out of hand with a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:

16 Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God, as thou temptedst him in the place of temptation.

The verse which immediately follows is immensely significant:

17 Keep the precepts of the Lord thy God, and the testimonies and ceremonies which he hath commanded thee.

A grand miracle would make mass converts but they would be superficial without their understanding and believing what Christ would preach over the next three years.  Christ set this forth in His story of Lazarus and the rich man where the rich man in Hell asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five living brothers so that they will not end up damned with him:

.                                                                                                                                                                                                          27  And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, 28  That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. 29  And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30  But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance. 31  And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.

Miracles would play a role in His ministry, but only to draw attention to His preaching and to His greatest miracle of all:  the Eucharist.  And so Christ rejected the temptation of the Jerusalem Miracle.

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