TEMPTATION AT THE TOP
by David Sisler
This story is told about the Indians in the American Southwest. It could have been told about almost any group of people, living anywhere on this planet, at any time in history. Just change a few of the details, and it will fit into any culture.
Many years ago, Indian braves would go away into solitude to prepare for manhood. One boy hiked into a beautiful valley. As he looked at the flowers, the trees, the green grass, he noticed a rugged mountain off in the distance.
“I will test myself against that,” he thought. He gathered a few of his belongings, a heavy shirt and a blanket, and set off for the pinnacle.
When he reached the top, he could see the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. No one in his tribe had ever reached such a height. Then he heard a rustle at his feet. Looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke.
“I am about to die,” said the snake. “It is too cold for me up here, and there is no food. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley.”
“No,” said the young man. “I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up you will strike and your bite will kill me.”
“Not so,” said the snake. “I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, I will not harm you.”
The young brave resisted for a while, but this was a very persuasive snake. At last he tucked the snake under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it down gently. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled and leaped, biting the boy on the leg.
“But you promised!” cried the young man.
“You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake as it slithered away.
One day Satan, that old serpent, transported Jesus to the highest pinnacle in Jerusalem. Below them they could see all the milling mobs. “I want you to throw yourself down,” Satan said, “for I know it is written the angels have charge over you, concerning you, to guard you, and they will bear you up with their hands lest you strike your foot.”
The whole world is open to show business. The whole world likes a spectacular. The whole world likes something no one can explain. No drapes, no shrouds, no strings. “Look, Ma, no strings!”
“Throw yourself down from the pinnacle,” Satan said. “You will land without injury. The crowd will believe you are a miracle worker, and hang on your words, and give you the attention you desire. They will hang on everything you say because you can do it over and over and over again, and no one will ever be able to explain it.”
That was the advantage – and in the imagination of Jesus, he could see that. But Jesus replied very simply: “You shall not put the Lord to the test.” In this temptation Jesus proved faithful to himself.
It was a common expectation in Jewish society that the Messiah would appear in sudden splendor. Suddenly he would flash upon their eyes in a dramatic and overwhelming way. But Jesus knew that such things were not the signals of his coming. He knew that the Kingdom must grow as a mustard seed, little by little, and through faith.
Some of your greatest temptations may come when you are at the very top. You may not literally be on the top of a mountain, or on the top of a high building, but spiritually, you may just have won an incredible victory. You paid the price and in devotion have drawn closer to your Lord. Even here Satan will attack you. Never let down your guard. Remember what the dying Indian boy heard, “You knew what I was when you picked me up”
Copyright 2003 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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