The Fifth Temptation of Christ

They walked into The Cathedral of St. John the Divine Roman Catholic Church right in the middle of the Mass.  The devil said, “You remember that young long-haired guy you met when you got baptized named Yochanan bar Zavdi?  Well, this beautiful place is named after him.  Except they call him Saint John the Divine now.

Matthew 4:1-11 (NJB)  (see parallel with Luke 4)

 

1. Then Yahshua was led by the Spirit out into the desert to be put to the test by the devil. 2. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was hungry, 3. and the tester came and said to him, "If you are Son of Elohim, tell these stones to turn into loaves." 4. But he replied, "Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of Elohim."

5. The devil then took him to the holy city and set him on the parapet of the Temple. 6. `If you are Son of Elohim," he said, "throw yourself down; for scripture says: He has given his angels orders about you, and they will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone."

7. Yahshua said to him, "Scripture also says: Do not put Yahweh your Elohim to the test."

8. Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9. And he said to him, "I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage." 10. Then Yahshua replied, "Away with you, Satan! For scripture says: Yahweh your Elohim is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve."

11. Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels appeared and looked after him.

 

The First Temptation

   We know virtually nothing about our Savior before the recording of his baptism.  We know nothing about what he did through his teen years and life as a young adult.  The story picks up when he is about thirty years old.  We presume that he led a quiet life, maybe was a builder; he might have been educated somewhere; he was without a doubt a religious man in the traditional sense: he was a practicing Jew who kept the Law of Yahweh.  But that’s about all we know.  Obviously during this time he was an avid student of the Scriptures and based his entire existence upon their timeless wisdom, as should we.

   Recall that the set-apart Spirit of Yahweh descended to him in the baptismal waters.  Mark says that when he came out, the Spirit drove him into the dessert.  He wasn’t on a vacation.  He may not have even known what was going on, for, literally, he was cast out into this horribly lonely place of wild ravenous beasts.  There was nothing around to eat but bugs and him.  He was compelled by Yahweh to stay for well over a month, if you can imagine that.  It seems like a very cruel father that would put a son in such a dangerous situation.  But there was an essential test to be passed before Yahshua could fulfill Yahweh’s will and complete his mission.  Sometimes learning important truths takes discipline and hardship.  Sometimes things and knowledge aren’t so easy to come by.  Truth and spiritual power cost.

   Is it possible to live for 40 days without food?  Yes, it is.  Some people fast, not because they want to, but because they live where there’s nothing to eat but dust and ashes.  The deprivation of food and the harsh environment opened our Savior up to perceiving spiritual realities like never before.  Do you want a spiritual experience?  Don’t eat for a week and you’ll dream; two weeks and the visions begin.

   This is why we observe forty days of Lent.  It has been the custom to give up something during this time, like coffee or Hostess Ding Dongs.  The intention is to relive the desert experience and to win out against the devil in some small way.  It’s our hope that, through even minor self-deprivation, introspection and discipleship, we’ll exit the desert with a new, clearer vision of what kind of person Yahweh wants us to be.  I challenge you to observe Lent this year: to make a new start!

   Yahshua was starving when the tempter appeared to him in the fog of his mind and the scorch.  “Command stones to become bread.”  Was that such a bad thing to ask?   If Yahshua could make stones into bread, he could sate his own hunger then feed the whole world!  Later, Yahshua did multiply loaves, and he gave his own flesh as bread for the world.  Although the devil’s request was a good thing, the requestor was not.  Yahshua wasn’t going to do good on account of evil.  Had he tried, he would have failed and starved; and you probably would be living somewhere in Europe today.

   The devil bids us to do a lot of worthwhile things; did you know that?  We think we’re doing good.  We certainly like to tell people how good we are as we go about doing the devil’s good deeds.  We feel proud of our accomplishments.  But doing good isn’t always according to the plan.  True good only comes of our actions when we know the plan and work according to it in love.  The plan is found in the Scriptures, not in our own notions, not in our church disciplines, not from the politicals in government, the rude doctor or the talking heads on television.  Nowhere else can the true plan for your life be found except in the Word of Yahweh. 

   Yahshua blocks his tempter with words from this Word:  “One doesn’t live only by eating bread, but by every word from Yahweh’s mouth.”  He means from the Scriptures – the Torah, the Word of Yahweh.  Do you have that bread?  Are you eating that bread and supplying it to those in your care?  A quick test: recite the Ten Commandments: that’s a good place to start Lent, but it’s only a starting point for your journey out of the desert.

 

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The Second Temptation

 

   In his semi-delusional state, Yahshua finds himself with his adversary on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem.  This was a dizzying height, the place of the trumpet blowers, the highest point in Israel, with the deep Kidron valley far, far below.  The historian Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 2:23) tells us that 20 years or so later, the Temple priests took Yahshua’s brother Ya'aqov (James) up there and threw him down. He survived the fall somehow!  Broken to pieces and praying for his tormentors, he was stoned right where he lay by the priest’s henchmen.  Undoubtedly, the devil showed Yahshua an image of this horror, then taunted him in words of the then popular song, (sing) “Yahweh will com / mand his / angels to / catch you so / you won’t be / crushed" (Ps 91:11-12). 

   The devil tempts Yahshua to tempt Yahweh to fulfill the prophecy, “he will command his angels concerning you.”  That’s the reason Yahshua counters with the words of the Law, “Don’t test Yahweh” (Deuteronomy 6:16).  Yahshua was not going to jump down into the valley and make a show of himself no matter how miserable he was.  It was OK for Satan to test Yahshua, but not for Yahshua to test Yahweh.

   This applies to us in the sense that we test Yahweh sorely when we call ourselves by his name but neither know his Law nor follow his Word.  It tests him to fulfill the Scripture and judge us!  John defines sin as the transgression of the Law.  Breaking the Law tests his justice.  We’ve seen what happens when the Judge is tested beyond a certain measure – earthquakes destroy hundreds of miles; buildings topple; floods sweep away the multitudes.  We are so fortunate to have the Living Savior standing between the Judge and us.  However, it was this Living Savior who said, “Don’t test Yahweh.”

  

The Third Temptation

   Next, like a bird of prey, the devil transports his catch even higher, to the highest mountaintop, way, way up some place, where he shows Yahshua all the wealth of the nations then commands him to bow.  All will be his.  No telling what riches were paraded before the starving man, what manner of rich foods to eat and sumptuous apartments to recover his strength.  A starving man is fixated on food, and the hungrier he is, the more lavish the food.  Further, riches could have been used to save the world if that’s what he wanted to do.  A poor man is fixated on cash.  Why hadn’t Yahshua just done what the devil wanted?  His people needed food and money!

   If someone lies to you twice, are you likely to believe his third story?  Well, maybe, if the liar is a child or someone with whom you’re in love.  But not when the promise comes from the devil:

(John 8:44b) He was never grounded in the truth; there is no truth in him at all. When he lies he is speaking true to his nature, because he is a liar, and the father of lies.

However, we usually listen to him and seem ever willing to believe the lie; that this or that can be ours if we’ll do some little ol’ thing.  But Yahshua knew that if he said no to the devil, Yahweh would reward him with his heart’s desire: “The nations of the world might someday become the Kingdom of Yahweh and his Savior.”

   Yahshua dispensed the devil again with words from the Law, “Worship Yahweh Elohim, and serve only him” (Deuteronomy 6:13).  Yahshua knew that to fall at the feet of the devil was to worship the creation rather than the Creator.  He knew that coveting the vast wealth of the world is idolatry.  Yahshua knew that true worship entails worship in spirit and in truth, with the revelation of Yahweh’s will and the keeping of the Covenant Law.  Yahshua would not worship the devil, he would not worship himself, he would not worship any created being, and he would not worship things.  He would demonstrate true worship by remaining humble and poor and keeping every commandment that proceeded from his Father’s mouth, even if it meant further provocations, temptations or even death.

 

The Fourth and Fifth Temptations

   I was sitting in my chair listening to the radio and thinking about this Gospel passage when the lights went off the other night for an hour.  I had meditated and written on The Temptation of Messiah passages many times.  It’s like I saw my own vision of two more temptations.

   I saw the devil take Yahshua out along the Jericho Road and I looked way on down the road through Yahshua’s eyes.  I saw, lining the road, as far as you could see, upright execution stakes with men nailed to them – hundreds, maybe thousands – along the rocky Roman road.  And I heard the devil say, “Yahshua, look way down there – the second bloody man from the oak tree.  You see him?  That’s you. You’re nailed like a criminal.  You’re gasping for breath.  You think you’ve got it bad now, well, just look.  Scripture says ‘Cursed is the man who hangs on a stake.’”

   But Yahshua, who is near death by this time, hoarsely whispers, “All blessings shall overtake you, if you obey the voice of Yahweh Elohim” (Deuteronomy 28:2).

   Finally I saw the devil take Yahshua up through time to New York City on Easter Sunday morning sometime in the twentieth century.  They walked into The Cathedral of St. John the Divine Roman Catholic Church right in the middle of the Mass.  The devil said, “You remember that young long-haired guy you met when you got baptized named Yochanan bar Zavdi?  Well, this beautiful place is named after him.  Except they call him Saint John the Divine now.  Look at all the priceless treasures in this great temple.  See that triptych behind the altar of sacrifice?  That’s a picture of you.  They call you by the name Jesus Christ and they worship you, saying you are their god. 

   “Remember when I showed you your future on the stake?  Well, at St. John the Divine’s, they sacrifice you over and over again, not on the Sabbath, but on the day of the sun -- Sunday.  They think your body is in little pieces on that table over there and they worship it.  Millions of ‘em do.  And today is their high feast day; they call it Ishtar (Easter).  They worship you and eat you on a day they’ve named after Ishtar, one of my bunch.  The whole world is led astray from the Law of your Elohim -- by you!  Look!  The priest is holding up a piece of your body now!  Give it up, Jesus Christ.  Do nothing.  Die in this wilderness and St. John’s will never happen.”

   But instead of giving up, Yahshua the Anointed One receives a burst of strength from Yahweh his Elohim, and he says, “Listen up, devil! 

‘He will establish you as a people set-apart to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Yahweh your Elohim, and walk in his ways’ (Deuteronomy 28:9). 

Devil, do you see that squeaky little old lady over there on the third bench?  Can you hear what she’s saying?”  Quietly, one voice drifts upward from the Mass. 

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

“She really means what she’s saying.”  The Devil’s smile starts to slide off his greasy face.

“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Now Yahshua, through the agony of hunger, smiles, as the little lady continues,

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”  

   The powerful devil is destroyed by this dear lady’s simple prayer of faith from 2000 years in the future.  With the last of his breath, Yahshua delivers the final blow, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship Yahweh Elohim and him only shalt thou serve!’”  With the prayer of the Saint and the rebuke of the Savior, the devil dissolves without another word.  Yahshua finds himself back on the top of the mountain.  Fourth dimensional spirit-beings begin to appear in three dimensions.  They are the blessed angels of Yahweh’s mercy, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.  They’ve come to encourage him, feed him, carry him back to the land of the living.

 

The Last Word

   Dale Levite told me last week that he’s convinced that we live in this world to be tested in order to fulfill future missions.  I think he is absolutely right.  This Gospel Age is meant to reveal the saints of Yahweh for the Millennium, like the little lady in my story.  To become that which we must finally be, testing must come and we must pass.  The devil is as much our adversary today as he was Yahshua’s in his day, and he will show us the fiery pit if that’s what it takes to shake our faith.  But the devil need never win.

   Yet for some, it’s a sore trial just to meet together weekly.  Some are being tested through physical discomfort and disease.  Some by isolation.  Some by a fantasy life that will never come true.  Some are tested by devils: Apathy, Fear, Hatred, Prejudice; or by curses.  And that’s why we have Lent.  We make a new beginning.  We chart a new course.  We take up the Word and we determine to defeat the enemy of our souls; and even if we’re in the wilderness of deep despair, with one breath we can still say, “Get behind me,” and he must.  Then, with the next breath, we can then say, “Our Father, hallowed be thy name…”  The ministering angels will come.

(Deuteronomy 28) 9. He will establish you as a people set-apart to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim and walk in his ways.  2.  Then all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you.  Amein.

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By Jackson Snyder

February 16, 2002