First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Second Sunday in Lent ~ March 8, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Psalm 91; Matthew 4:5-7
A mother camel and her baby were talking one day, and the baby camel asked, “Mom, why have we got these huge three-toed feet?” The mother replied, “To enable us trek across the soft sand of the desert without sinking.” “And why have we got these long, heavy eyelashes?” “To keep the sand out of our eyes on the trips through the desert” replied the mother camel. “And Mom, why have we got these big humps on our backs?” The mother, now a little impatient with the baby camel replied, “They are there to help us store fat for our long treks across the desert, so we can go without water for long periods.” “OK Mom. I get it!” says the baby camel. “We have huge feet to stop us sinking, long eyelashes to keep the sand from our eyes, and humps to store water. Then, Mom, why the heck are we here in the Toronto Zoo?”
Sometimes we need to go into the desert and desert-like experiences in order to discover who we truly are. Jesus did. Oftentimes God allows us to go through those dry wilderness periods. Sometimes we forget who we are and what we are about. And just like camels in a zoo, we need sometimes to go into the wilderness in order to rediscover our truest identity.
Today we continue looking at the temptations of Christ in the Judean wilderness. Last Sunday we covered the First Temptation and this morning I would like to look at the Second Temptation in Matthew 4:5-7. Let’s first see what is at stake, and then, I will say a word about how this second temptation relates to our lives as Christ’s followers today.
The Second Temptation: Throw Yourself Down
The issue of trusting God is at the heart of the second temptation. Jesus won the first round and He defeated the devil. Jesus made it so clear to the devil that food or no food, God is trustworthy. Jesus relied on the sufficiency of His Heavenly Father. Yet, the devil never gets tired tempting us. The devil will not give up on us easily.
In the Second Temptation, the devil takes Jesus to the top of the Temple of Jerusalem. The devil takes Jesus to His Father’s house. Remember the Father just affirmed His love to His only Son and confirmed the Son’s mission. As it was the case in the First temptation, the devil quotes the Scripture in a very deceptive way. The devil notices that Jesus uses the Scriptures, so the devil comes to Jesus with words from the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:5-6 states, “Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying 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 dash your foot against a stone.’” The devil quotes Psalm 91 which speaks of how God shows His love toward those who trust Him.
Basically, the devil was saying to Jesus “You have chosen God over food and now He should show you in a very tangible way that He is trustworthy. If you really trust Him that much, throw yourself off the temple, God will protect you as He promised, and He will prove He is trustworthy.” Before we examine Jesus’ response, let’s see what the people of Israel did when they faced a similar situation.
Is the Lord among us or not?
The Israelites failed to trust God and put Him to test many times. Exodus chapter 17 is a good example. After the Lord freed them from the hands of Pharaoh, fed them in the desert, the people complained and grumbled against Moses because they had no water. Don’t you think the God who has always provided for their needs will find a way to quench their thirst? During their wilderness journey, they lived in genuine dependence on God for their daily bread and each day it came through. At the end of Exodus chapter 16 Moses took some of the manna God provided and put it in a jar to save it. He saved it so that it will be a reminder for God’s faithfulness.
As a response to their complain due to the lack of water, God tells Moses in Exodus 17 to go, take his staff, and to strike a rock and water will come out of it for the people to drink. A rock that was in their midst. God answered their doubt through using a rock that had always been there. 1 Corinthians 10:4 tells us that the “Rock was Christ.
I think the point I am trying to make is simple. God is always with us. He is in our midst. He was around the whole time. Christ, the Rock, is in our midst whether we recognize His presence or not. They named the place ‘Massah (temptation)’ and ‘Meribah (quarreling)’. In Massah, the people of Israel tested the Lord by saying “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Jesus’ Response: Do Not Put the Lord Your God to the Test
Matthew 4:7 tells us that Jesus responded by saying, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Basically, Jesus was saying “I don’t need to jump off of a building and be rescued by angels to know my Father loves me and that He is near. I know that my Father is trustworthy, and I do not need to put Him to the test.
Jesus refused to demand a sign from God. Rather, He chose to trust and to wait for God’s timing to show whatever signs to support His mission in the world. He believed that His Father knows best. Jesus knew that God would give us what we need at His perfect timing, therefore, we will not put Him to test. Jesus won another round against the devil and while the Israelites failed and put God to test, Jesus fully trusted His Father.
Friends, many people worldwide have questions about the Coronavirus first detected in China and now in more than 60 countries, including the United States. Like most of our fellow humans, I am sure we wonder what it is going to happen to us in the light of the rapid spread of this epidemic. It is no longer in China; it is literally in our backyard. How this is going to affect us? What does the near future look like? Unfortunately, we have no answers to most of these questions, yet, we still believe that God is sovereign and that He is on His throne. Yes, we do not know what the future holds for us, but we know who holds the future, therefore, we shall not fear. Friends, I invite you today to choose trust over fear. Jesus did so should we. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!