Then the devil took Him to the Holy City, and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If you really are the Son of God,” he said to Him, “fling yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will give His angels orders to care for you, and they will lift you upon their hands, lest at any time you should strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it stands written, ‘You must not try to put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:5-7
William Barclay in his commentary The Gospel of Matthew interprets this passage of scripture as follows. There was a place in the temple where the Royal porch and Solomon’s porch met, and at that corner there was a sheer drop of about 450 feet into the valley below. Jesus could have jumped from that spot and been safely rescued if his intention was to win followers by demonstrating some sensational act of daring. No doubt there would have been people who would want to follow someone who could pull that off. The problem with that kind of followers is that they would expect something even more spectacular to keep their loyalty as time went by. What is sensational today is old news tomorrow, and a gospel built on that kind of foundation is doomed to failure.
“You must not put the Lord your God to the test,” said Jesus. Deuteronomy 6:16 We are not to see how far we can go with God by putting ourselves deliberately into a threatening situation, recklessly and needlessly, and then expect God to rescue us from it. God expects us to take risks in order to be true to Him, but He does not expect us to take risks to enhance our own prestige. Belief that depends only on signs and wonders is not really faith, it is doubt looking for proof and looking in the wrong place. God’s power to rescue is not something to be played with or experimented with; it is something to be quietly trusted in our everyday lives.
Jesus refused the way of sensationalism because He knew that it was the way to failure—it still is—and because to long for sensations is not to trust, but to distrust, God. When some of the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus for a miraculous sign, He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:39-40
Many in our day are like the Pharisees and the scribes, still asking for proof in order to believe in the saving gospel of Jesus. This is evident in that over the years there have been many who have been in the spotlight for a time using the gospel of Jesus to support their own misguided agenda. They have come and gone, but the true gospel of Jesus is just as contemporary and powerful as when He first rose from the dead.