I have a neurological condition which makes it better for myself—and everyone else around me—if I avoid eating gluten. I’m not allergic or anything, but I’m a happier person without it. But I love it. There is nothing like a giant bowl of fresh pasta dripping with butter and oozing with cheese. Thinking about this isn’t helpful. Especially when I’m hungry.
Now, before I go further, let me say that I am in no way trying to make a mockery of God’s Word, I’m just trying to simplify a few verses and, while this analogy may not be perfect, it does make sense.
We’re all able to be tempted. Jesus was tempted. He went out to the desert and fasted for the purpose of being tempted. In his life, I cannot imagine that anyone would have been tempted more. After all, if Satan could get Jesus to stumble, he’d win.
In our reading in Matthew, Jesus knows his time on earth is coming to a close. He knows the cross lies before him. He knows what is required of him. He knows it will be the most difficult thing any human being would ever have to endure in the entire history and future of mankind. He’s shared this with his disciples and Peter, tries to offer some encouragement.
But Peter took him aside and corrected him. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
Matthew 16:22 (NLT)
First of all, I find it amusing that Peter pulls Jesus aside for correction. In my mind, that’s like me taking Billy Graham aside and telling him he’s preached the salvation message wrong.
Jesus’ response is immediate.
Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.”
Matthew 16:23 (NLT)
I’m quite sure that the human side of Jesus would have loved nothing more than to accept Peter’s words. No, I’m Jesus. Of course this will never happen to me! But the God side of him knew exactly what was going on.
It’s like someone offering me that dripping, oozing bowl of pasta knowing I would truly enjoy it in the moment. But that’s all. The benefit is momentary. The negative effects last much longer than the initial pleasure. The intent was good. It was for my benefit and enjoyment, but the understanding of the full situation was lacking.
Jesus knew that he could have denied the cross, that he could have turned his back on all of humanity for his own comfort and pleasure. This is what Peter saw. He saw the momentary relief, but not the full picture.
Had Jesus fallen into this temptation, the lasting effects would have been eternal. There would be no re-do. No chance to try again. Did Jesus believe that Peter was Satan? Of course not In the previous verses, the Holy Spirit reveals to Peter exactly who Jesus is and Jesus goes on to commission Peter to build the Church. Peter was not of Satan, but the temptation was. Peter wasn’t able to see the bigger picture in that moment.
In all of this, what I’m trying to say is this: look at the grander scheme. Look beyond a single moment. Every decision we make has the potential for a lasting effect. Will you settle for momentary pleasure or will you deny yourself the small pleasure for a greater benefit?
Daily Bible reading: Exodus 4-6, Matthew 16