Words by Ross Slough
From This particular spot in the temple of the Holy City of Jerusalem, priests would announce the beginning of annual feasts and Sabbaths . The “Place of the Trumpeter” was not only one of the highest points of the temple overlooking the beautiful city, but also is historically suggested to be the place attributed to the story found in Matthew 4, the temptation of Jesus.
Take a moment to put yourself in this story. Picture Jesus, tired, hungry, alone and most likely angry. He is brought by the tempter to the pinnacle of the temple; the place you see in this picture. The temple symbolizing the physical representation of the restorative purpose of Jesus on the earth. I would speculate that at this point of exhaustion, the fully human side of Jesus possibly had thoughts desiring to die, and definitely had desperate thoughts longing for rescue. And the authors of the story say this:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.
For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Remembering back to almost exactly a year ago, when I stood at this point in Israel, overwhelmed by the monstrosity of the temple, I can’t get away from this picture of Jesus. Standing at the top of this temple, he had a choice. Human Jesus didn’t know the end of the story like we do now. At this place, Jesus forfeited divinity to embrace his humanity. Knowing fully the path ahead of him, he chose to walk in the direction of pain and suffering.
I can’t think of many other times in the Jesus narrative where this kind of choice he makes is so clearly illustrated. This kind of choice that Paul describes of Jesus in his letter to the Philippians:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death —
even death on a cross!
Jesus could have chosen to be thrown off the top of the temple and that choice would have been right; it would have fulfilled scripture. He could have been rescued and the authority of God over the tempter would have been made apparent. But the better choice, the harder choice, is the one Jesus made. Jesus chose his humanness when his divinity would have been a good and easier choice.
In our lives, trusting the word and the promises of God even when a good option is there, compromises the unique and specific call God has in front of you.
The mind blowing idea about our God is not only did He come down to live among us, but he became like us. When he could’ve have been God on earth, he chose to be a man. That alone should dispel the lie that we as humans are not valuable. God was one of us.
Most of the time, I subconsciously and sometimes even consciously think of God the father, the Holy Spirit and even Jesus as separate from my human experience. Probably because his perfectness, faithfulness, and goodness so often does not parallel the everyday life I live. I am a selfish, imperfect, prideful, stressed, anxious, struggling man very regularly. Doubt and trial and struggle and even pain and suffering are difficult to attribute to God if I’m honest.
The powerful nature of this story and being in Israel seeing the supposed place where the scene played out, is wrapped up in this choice of human struggle and pain and suffering made by Jesus. He CHOSE to feel like we feel and walk through what we walk through.
The goodness of hope we get to hold on to as we come to this reality again and again is God is in it all. He is in our Sunday worship services and he is in our Wednesday night argument with our significant other. He is in our small group where we can feel the spirit connects us with our community and He is in the season of financial struggle when we don’t know how we will make it through the end of the month. And not just that He is in every part but that He chooses to be in it every time. God is not far away. He is not just a Sunday ritual. He is there in the muck and the mire. Because He chose humanity, we can now trust in His full presence in every single line, page after page, compromising all the chapters that together make up the narrative called life.