Jesus carried up to a pinnacle of the Temple, by James Tissot, a watercolor between 1886 and 1894. Was Jesus taken up to a pinnacle on the Temple prior to being taken up to a high mountain and shown the kingdoms of the world, or is the order reversed? Does the chronology really matter?
The sermon this past week was on the Temptations of Jesus. I noticed that in comparing Matthew’s version with Luke’s version that there is an apparent discrepancy in the chronology. I asked my small group what they thought of the discrepancy: “Does this impact how you view the Bible?”
You probably know the story: Early in Jesus’ public ministry, He spends forty days in the wilderness and after being exceedingly hungry, He was tempted by the devil. Mark simply records the basics (Mark 1:12-13). But Matthew and Luke spell out the order of events of the three temptations. Both Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11) and Luke (Luke 4:1-13) start with the first temptation suggesting that Jesus turn the stones to bread. However, the order of the next two temptations between Matthew and Luke are reversed. Matthew’s second temptation is where the devil takes Jesus up to the pinnacle of the temple, urging Him to throw Himself down and trust the angels to catch Him, and the third temptation is where Jesus is taken to a very high place, challenging him to worship the devil in exchange for sharing power. Luke, on the other hand, switches the chronology, putting the “pinnacle of the temple” last, prior to being taken up to a high mountain and shown the kingdoms of the world.
Whether they know it or not, everyone has a position on the Bible. Some believe it to be the holy, inspired word of God. Some have no clue what it might be about. Many are in the middle and haven’t processed what the implications might be if it is true. Some people are confused—many with good reason (life isn’t fair and can be very harsh). Atheists believe that God does not exist. Agnostics are uncertain. Some people get caught up in our competitive and uncaring culture and just become apathetic. And in others the mere mention of faith in God can provoke an ugly reaction, sometimes even rage.
Welcome. So we disagree. No surprise there.
If you are ever going to get to the truth about the Bible, there are certain axioms. First, we don’t get to make the rules, God does. Dick Woodward figured this out years ago, and his first axiom is “I’m not, but He is.” (Dick has boiled it down to what he calls “The Four Spiritual Secrets,” and they are the proof text of his ministry.)
Second, there are a lot more people arguing over the Bible than there are people who actually read it (on both sides).
Reading and understanding the Bible can be a daunting task, particularly without help. (It can also be incredibly rewarding and exciting.) There are a lot of good resources available to help you understand what the Bible is all about—and that’s one of the main goals of this blog. But at some point, to have anything more than an unsubstantiated or ignorant opinion, you’ve got to start reading.
The video below provides some introduction and background to the biographies of Jesus Christ, namely the four Gospels. Check it out, then start reading. Odds are you’ll discover a Jesus who is not a milquetoast pacifist who wants to please everybody, but a wise, radical, tell-it-like-it-is Savior who fights by sacrificing Himself to show how much He loves us. Do you know this Jesus? Think again.