My brother and I were lying in our tent, deep in the mountains of Washington. The sun had gone down, and we were all alone in our sleeping bags listening to the unfamiliar sounds of the night. We heard a monstrous sound just outside our tent, and then something ran across my face. I shouted and sat bolt upright while my brother searched for the missing flashlight. The beast raced across Mike’s sleeping bag too! A terrifying weasel, no doubt! A blood-thirsty badger! But when the light came on, it was a tiny little deer mouse. His heart was pounding faster than a hummingbird flaps its wings. Mike tore open the door, and I launched him into the night with my hat.
Fear of the unknown goes away – mostly – with the light. (Of course, sometimes it is a monster or a poltergeist, so you have to be ready.) Light drives away doubt and despair. It is easier to face the known rather than the unknown.
There is a parallel passage in Mark’s Gospel, describing the Temptation of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. Matthew and Luke give the details, while Mark simply confirms it happened. In Matthew’s account, the devil is quoting Scripture as he tempts Jesus to prove he is the Christ by stepping off the pinnacle of the Temple:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the Temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:5 – 6).
Satan is quoting from Psalm 91:13. Mark adds this one detail not mentioned in Matthew or Luke:
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him (Mark 1:12 – 13).
Satan didn’t quote the next verse, Psalm 91:14: “You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot,” but Jesus knew it. Christ didn’t need to step off the Temple’s pinnacle to prove God’s love and protection (Psalm 91:13), because Christ was already experiencing God’s love and protection daily in the wilderness.
Why do we ask for more (“Lord, just give me a sign!”), when God has already confirmed his love and presence in the night sky, the beauty of a wildflower, and the transforming power of the new birth?