Lest You Dash Your Feet

Lest You Dash Your Feet September 7, 2016

In Matthew 4, the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and demands that he throw himself down, trusting His Father to send angels to keep Him from dashing His foot against a stone. Jesus replies by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

It’s an odd temptation, often taken as a temptation to gain attention and notoriety with a spectacular miracle at the center of Jerusalem. If Jesus jumped from the temple and was borne up by angels, He could gain a following and bypass the pain and mess of the cross. Several details of the exchange appear to support this.

Deuteronomy 6 makes direct reference to the incident at Massah, when Israel complained about the lack of water in the wilderness (Exodus 17). Instead of judging Israel, though, Yahweh told Moses to strike the rock with his rod so that water would flow. Yahweh Himself stands before the rock as Moses strikes it; Yahweh Himself is the Rock that flows with living water (cf. 1 Corinthians 10). As Massah, in other words, the Lord met Israel’s “testing” not by judging but by submitting to judgment. Jesus alludes to this incident, and implies that He too will submit to judgment.

“Lest you dash your foot against a stone”: That reaches back further than Deuteronomy and Exodus, all the way to the protoevangelium in Genesis 3. There the Lord promises to send a Seed of the Woman who will crush the serpent’s head while himself suffering a wound in the heel. If Jesus succumbed to the devil’s temptation, the devil would escape crushing and Jesus would escape his foot wound. He could descend (from the pinnacle of the temple) and ascend (borne by angels), humiliated and exalted without pain. But then the devil would go un-defeated. Jesus would be exalted by angels over a world still under Satan’s dominion.

The temptation is to avoid the cross. It’s a temptation to bring life without submitting to the rod of judgment, a temptation to descend and ascend without dashing the foot. Jesus resists, knowing that His enemies will not become His footstool until His foot is wounded.

(Much of this is from a stimulating treatment of Matthew 4 by Beeson Seminary/Theopolis student Dave Shaw, along with observations from Pastor Jimmy Gill.)

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