14 – Temptation
Where: Places God was revealed
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After Jesus was baptized, and was guided by the Holy Spirit to realize that he was called to be the Messiah, he immediately began to have many questions (as anyone would). ‘Am I really the Messiah?’ ‘What kind of kingdom will I have?’ ‘What kind of king will I be?’ ‘How will I accomplish this mission?’ ‘How will I lead the people of God into the kingdom?’ Jesus needed to have these questions answered. Thus, the Spirit led him to seek the answers as the prophets of old had done, in the solitude of the desert.
But Jesus did not just wander from one place to another randomly, nor did he hide in a cave. Instead, he chose to seek those places where, of old, God had spoken to his prophets. Jesus would seek the places where God had been revealed to Elijah, to Moses, and to Abraham.
Traveling south through the Judean wilderness Jesus would pass through Hebron [today] where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were all buried in the cave that Abraham had purchased as a burial place.
Jesus was following Elijah. Elijah, fleeing Jezebel, had traveled to Beer-sheba (“the well of the seven”). When Elijah left Beer-sheba and walked south, he spent 40 days in the wilderness. He slept under a “broom tree“. He was without food while he journeyed to Mount Horeb, the “mountain of God“, near Kadesh-barnea. Here Elijah spent 40 days waiting for God’s enlightenment, just as Moses had spent 40 days here, and the people of Israel had spent 40 years here. It was near here that Jesus lived his first year of life.
Near the “mountain of God”, Jesus fasted [did not eat or drink during the day time] for 40 days. Jesus faced the question, ‘Am I the Messiah’? ‘I could prove it to myself simply by turning a stone into bread and using the power of God to manipulate nature’. But Jesus never gave in to the temptation to prove that he could effect this change, or to prove to himself that he was, in fact, the Messiah. Jesus came to realize that to seek proof was to doubt God, and Jesus chose to live by faith rather then by sight. He chose to trust in the Father.
Jesus then left Kadesh-barnea and the “Mountain of God”, and followed the route that Moses had used to lead Israel into the Promised Land. Jesus walked east past Tamar and Punon, and crossed the Great Rift Valley to Bozrah. Jesus then journeyed north along the ancient King’s Highway through ancient Moab and over the Aroer River. Jesus arrived at the range of mountains called Pisgah, just east of the Dead Sea. There he sought for Mount Nebo where God had given Moses a vision.
From Mount Nebo Jesus sat looking west toward the Dead Sea. Moses had been given a vision of all of the Promised Land. But Jesus was given a vision of the power and glory of all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus saw a vision of how he could give the Jews what they wanted, and what they believed God had promised to them. He could lead armies! He could throw off Roman control! He could conquer nation after nation until the Jews ruled the world under their leader, the Messiah Jesus – the son of David! Jesus could be Emperor of the World! Jesus Caesar!
But that was not what God intended. Yes, Jesus should bring God’s people into the Kingdom of God, but it would not be a worldly kingdom. One should worship only God. The kingdom of God would be a spiritual kingdom, and Jesus would be The Messiah. Those who had faith in God would be part of the kingdom. Jesus would not be the emperor ruling the kingdom, but he would be the servant of all.
Then Jesus left Mount Nebo, led by the Spirit, across the Jordan River. It was here that Joshua had led the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Now Jesus, the “new” Joshua, would lead God’s people into the place of God’s promise.
Jesus went up to Jerusalem, to the “City of David”. As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he noticed the southeast corner [today] of the temple complex (known as the Pinnacle). Jesus entered Jerusalem through the eastern gate [today] and went into the Temple.
Just inside the Nicanor gate [model], at the center of the Temple, is the doorway [model] that leads to the Holy of Holies. Here, on Mount Moriah, was the place where God had asked Abraham to walk by faith and not by sight. God had promised that through Isaac, Abraham would have descendents beyond number. Then he was asked to kill Isaac. Abraham trusted God and offered his son. Because Abraham trusted God, despite appearances, God promised that Abraham’s offspring would “be a blessing for all the nations”, and God told His people not to practice child sacrifice like the nations around them.
The Holy of Holies stands over the place where Abraham built his temporary altar. This was also the rock of the threshing floor of Araunah [today], where God stopped a plague at King David’s request. Here, on that rock, David had built an altar.
When Solomon built the Lord’s temple, around 950 BC, he placed the Holy of Holies on top of the site of David’s altar, and this came to be the most holy place [model]for the nation of Israel.
In the temple complex, the priests offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. In the temple, the people praised God, gave thanks, made petition, and rededicated their lives to God. The temple was the heart of the Nation and from the temple the Jews were to be ‘witnesses for God’ and to see that justice was established in the world. Was Jesus really called to lead this nation and these people to forsake Jerusalem and the temple in order to worship God in their hearts?
Jesus was drawn to the southern end of the platform. Here, on the southwest corner [today], all Israel was called by the ram’s horn to worship God. Here came the people of the covenant to fulfill their promise to keep the Torah.
But Jesus went to the southeast corner and looked down the wall from the top of the pinnacle to the ground below [today]. ‘If I am the Messiah, and I jump from the temple wall, then God would be required to save me as it is written in the scripture, Jesus thought. ‘Would God really DO whatever I ask? A miracle displaying the power of God would prove to me, and to everyone else, that I am the Messiah. There would be NO doubt that I am the Messiah’.
‘NO!’ said Jesus. ‘The kingdom of God will be based on faith! Not only must the people walk by faith, but so also must I. There must not be so blatant a display for the purpose of testing God’s word’. Jesus now realized that the people must be offered the opportunity to enter the kingdom based on their faith in Jesus, and therefore faith in God. For now, Jesus was no longer tempted to live “by sight”. He would put his faith and trust in the words of God spoken to him at his baptism, and all Israel would be called to do the same.
No questions have been asked yet.