, ,

The first post on this sermon may be found here

The Second Temptation entailed an appeal to the spectacular:

Then the devil taketh Him unto the Holy City, and he set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou art the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee; And in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest haply Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, Again it is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God

Denney explains the heart of the temptation as follows:

The second temptation is of quite a different kind. As Jesus looked out upon the society around Him, He saw that one of the simplest ways of winning ascendency over men was to appeal to their love of the marvellous. If He only dazzled their senses sufficiently they would throng to His feet, and He would be able to do anything with them He pleased….The idea is that miraculous works, dazzling, overwhelming, dumb-foundering, are the basis on which the kingdom of God can be built. Overpower the senses of men with wonders, and you will win their souls for God. This was for Jesus radically false, and it contained a temptation which He steadily resisted. He never worked a miracle of ostentation or display: His miracles had all their motive in love, and it was the love in them which bore witness to God.

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 195. There is an obvious and direct appeal to the function of the Church:

This temptation also has its lesson for all who are interested to-day in the coming of God’s kingdom. There is always a tendency in the Church to trust to methods which appeal rather to the senses than to the soul, or which are believed to be reaching the soul though they never get past the sense. They may be cruder or more refined, sensational or connected with the symbolic side of worship, but the common character of all is that they fall short of being rational and spiritual.

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 196. He continues:

How little there is in the Gospels about methods and apparatus! Jesus had no church nor hall; He spoke in the synagogues when He had the opportunity, but as willingly and prevailingly in the fields or by the the seashore, in a boat or a private house. He had no choir, no vestments, no sacraments, and we may well believe He would look with more than amazement upon the importance which many of His diciples now attach to such things. “He spake the word unto them,” that was all. The trust of the Church in other things is really a distrust of the truth, an unwillingness to believe that its power lies in itself, a desire to have something more irresistible than truth to plead truth’s cause; and all these are modes of atheism. Sometimes our yielding to this temptation is shown in the apathy which falls upon us when we cannot have the apparatus we crave, sometimes in the complacency in which we clothe ourselves when we get it and it draws a crowd. This is precisely the kind of crowd which Jesus refused to draw. The kingdom of God is not there, nor is it to be brought by such appeals. It is not only a mistake, but a sin, to trust to attractions for the ear and the eye, and to draw people to the church by the same methods by which they are drawn to places of entertainment. What the evangelist calls “the word”—the spiritual truth, the message of the Father and of His kingdom—spoken in the spirit and enforced by the spirit, told by faith and heard by faith—is our only real resource, and we must not be ashamed of its simplicity.

James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 197–198.

Denney would be horrified were he to see the nonsense and spectacle which is used to draw attention to church. We can see by means of Denney’s sermon that this spectacle is succumbing to the Devil’s temptation.

Here is a video discussion which well addresses this issue: