The Second Temptation

Why did Satan tempt Yeshua to jump off a tall building? What's so "tempting" about that?

Artwork from the Torah Club Jesus, My Rabbi study, lesson "Three Temptations". (Image and art © First Fruits of Zion)

Leaping from a tall building is not particularly tempting to most people. But it must have been a temptation for Yeshua, else Satan would not have attempted it:

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand 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, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" (Matthew 4:5-6)

Satan transported Yeshua from the wilderness directly into the city of Jerusalem and stood Him at the highest point of the Temple. The top of the royal portico that Herod the Great built in the Temple’s outer courts provided a dramatic height. The southeast corner of its roof looked down a straight drop to the Kidron Valley floor far below.

The second temptation in the wilderness must be understood as a unique challenge to Yeshua’s messianic identity. For a second time, Satan tested Yeshua’s confidence in the revelation He had received at the Jordan. For a second time, he prefaced his temptation saying, “If you are the son of God …” Then he challenged Him to leap from the height, invoking a promise from the Psalms: "For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91:11-12). In this conversation, Psalm 91 is presented as a prophetic psalm about the Messiah. The Messiah is the one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High and the shadow of the Almighty and enjoys God’s special protection. On the strength of that interpretation, Satan encouraged Yeshua to test the revelation about being “the Son of God” by defying a mortal death. Leaping from the Temple height unharmed had the added advantage of bringing Yeshua a shortcut to messianic fame. Most of Jerusalem would witness such an amazing leap and miraculous landing. Satan tempted the Master to invoke divine intervention and heavenly protection, thereby avoiding human injury and harm while simultaneously establishing His messianic identity in the eyes of all Jerusalem. It would have been a miraculous sign and a wonder to establish His Messianic claims--a shortcut to redemption and the kingdom.

Yeshua refused the temptation on the basis of the prohibition on testing the LORD found in Deuteronomy 6:16. According to Jewish interpretation, to “test the LORD” implies demanding a miracle, a sign, or miraculous act of provision. The rabbis interpret Deuteronomy 6:16 as a prohibition against exposing oneself to mortal danger with the expectation that God will perform a miracle to save one’s life. Yeshua remained confident in the prophetic word He had heard at the Jordan. He felt no need to prove it by testing the LORD. He didn't do signs, wonders, or magic tricks to wow the crowds or persuade people to believe in Him. Had the Master yielded to the temptation to reveal His messianic identity and power by invoking a divine, untouchable status through the public miracle of leaping from the Temple parapet, He would not have been able to fulfill His true messianic destiny: suffering and death. Only after His submission to suffering and death did Yeshua receive the death-defying, immortal, and untouchable status which Satan urged Him to seize.

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This year Torah Clubs are studying the Gospels from a Messianic Jewish perspective. Every week Club members encounter Yeshua of Nazareth in his Jewish context. Discover the historical and cultural backdrops of the gospels and be amazed as the teachings of Yeshua snap into focus and clarity. Unravel his difficult words and parables; study Jewish parallels to his teachings; and ultimately know Jesus better.

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