From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.—Matthew 16:21–23
The theme for this first Sunday in Lent is, “Jesus, the Victor over Temptations.” In this text, we can certainly see why Jesus needed to rebuke Peter for his carnal thinking. Jesus needed to suffer, die, and rise again for salvation’s sake. By hearing and obeying Jesus’ admonition Peter would be able to overcome temptation in the future. Peter’s temptation was just as Jesus said: “For thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” In other words, Jesus was telling him that just because you don’t like to hear what I am saying, you still need to believe it.
Carnal Mindedness Leads to Temptation
Jesus also related of the temptations that others can face because of carnal mindedness. He told how the elders, chief priests, and scribes were going to make Him suffer and even kill Him because they were offended by what He said and taught. They were tempted by their own greed and lust for power and felt that Jesus threatened their temporal authority. The authority figures who were offended by Jesus’ words were offended for different reasons than Peter, but the result is the same, for to disbelieve God’s Son separates a person from God. Concerning temptation, James writes: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14,15).
Perhaps the blunt rebuke that Jesus gave Peter was to show him the sinful human nature that was found in his comment, directly after hearing Jesus speak of the reality of the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Son of God’s life and death. Jesus had begun to tell him and the other disciples what would happen to Him concerning His death. Because Peter was sad to hear Jesus talk about His own death, he wanted it to be some other way.
This is quite a contrast from an earlier answer Peter gave when Jesus asked His disciples if they, too, would become offended and leave Him. Peter answered Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Peter’s own mind had not revealed this, but through eyes of faith he was able to see his reward in Jesus’ merit work.
Not of Our Own Strength
We, too, are human like Peter in nature and prone to desire the things of men. Only through faith are we able to see the things that are of God. Jesus made this possible for us the same way He made it possible for Peter. We are able to believe our sins forgiven and follow after Jesus. When we believe simply in this way, faith leads us to the destination of heaven. In order to keep faith, we must also care for our conscience. The tempter’s voice is more appealing when we live with sin on our conscience. Whether we stray to sins of the flesh or thoughts of self-righteousness, the enemy will attempt to feed a wounded conscience with more sin.
We are incredibly fortunate that we don’t need to rely on our own strength to battle such a formidable enemy. We can rely on the work of the Lord Jesus who has already won the victory over sin and death. He encourages, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30). Even when we are tempted, we have permission to call to Jesus in prayer for strength to overcome temptation. Jesus has promised to always be with us and hear our prayers.
Rely on Christ’s Merit-Work
Most of all, we can freely ask for a blessing from a traveler in faith when we feel the weight of temptations and sin. In the preached gospel we find the message of Jesus’ victory over temptations. We hear that even a sinful and tempted believer as I can believe all sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and precious blood. Just as apostle Peter, we can turn from our human mind’s weak understanding and put our full assurance in Christ’s teaching and merit work. His work is so complete that when we believe on Him we will make it to the destination of heaven.
March 2017 Voice of Zion