"Throwing Down, Lifting Up"
September 14, 2009
Then the devil set Him 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, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.'" Matthew 4:5-6
Do you remember Jesus' reply to that sinful suggestion of the devil? The Savior said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Matthew 4:7b).
It's good advice -- advice most applicable to a story that recently appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Let me begin that tale by asking this question: Have you ever, at the end of a vacation, said to yourself, "I wish this trip would never end"?
If so, I hope you never take that wish as far as did the man who was returning from a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. On the last night of the voyage, as his ship -- the Carnival Sensation -- was returning to port, the man jumped from his stateroom balcony into the sea.
He didn't fall; he wasn't pushed. He jumped. The ship turned around and searched for the man. The Coast Guard was called and sent out a helicopter, a cutter, and another boat to look for him. They all came up dry.
This might have been the end of the man's story, if it had not been for a Disney cruise ship passing by. Against all odds, the exhausted man was spotted, fished out of the water, and was taken to the port at Cape Canaveral. Talk about testing the Lord! You don't jump from a ship and expect to be picked up.
And if you're wondering about the man -- well, he asked to be returned to the ship from which he had jumped. Apparently, he wanted to take the same cruise again.
Testing the Lord. It's something we don't often talk about, but it's something most of us do. When God tells us to avoid something -- something that we want -- you know what's usually going to happen. Most of the time we will follow our will, not His.
And then? Then we expect the loving Lord to bail us out of our dilemma, our disaster, our calamity, our catastrophe. That kind of attitude also puts God to the test.
Testing God in this way is a terribly unfair thing for us to do. The Father doesn't have to prove His love, His care, or His compassion for sinful humanity. In His Son's life, suffering, death, and resurrection He has shown just how much He cares.
Far better, I think, for us is to trust the Lord, not test Him, to rely upon His Word, not rebel against it. Far better for the redeemed to remember Jesus words: "Not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42b).
THE PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for inventing hoops for You to jump through and prove Your love. Grant me the grace to see the wisdom of Your Word and the wonderful depth of Jesus' sacrifice. This I pray in His Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries