When I lived in Atlanta, it was a fairly frequent occurrence to find oneself jammed up in traffic. Sometimes it was just one of those run-of-the-mill, too-many-cars-not-enough-road traffic jams that are common in big cities. Other times though, it was because there was a lane closure due to an accident or road construction. Those jams were especially bad when on a highway, where the congestion compounded the gridlock. When you are in one of those situations, you quickly come to the bleak realization that you are going to be there a while before you can make it to the front and merge into the one open lane. It was so frustrating when a car, usually a luxury sedan, used the emergency lane to drive past everyone until they reached the front, where someone would invariably let them in. Some people think they should be immune to traffic jams of life. Some people think the world revolves around them.
In my last post, I began a discussion on the temptation of Jesus, and the deceptions that Satan uses to try to derail Jesus from his God-intended purpose. We began exploring how “the devil is in the details,” as his deceptions are designed to sound appealing, and maybe even right, until we examine them more closely. In this post, we will look at the second deception the devil used to tempt Jesus, which he also uses to tempt us.
Deception #2: God and his angels are here to serve you!
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.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matt 4:5-7 ESV)
Once again, we see the devil trying to incite Jesus by questioning his identity as the Son of God. Surely God would never allow any harm to come to his only begotten Son! Surely God’s angels are at the disposal of the Son of God, to guard and protect him! Sometimes we begin to think this same way. God exists to change our circumstances when they become adverse, to heal us when we are sick, and to bless us when we are in need. Jesus counters the deception that God exists to serve us, with an important reality.
Reality #2: Our role is to serve the Father, not for the Father to serve us
Had Jesus fallen for the devil’s deception, he would have been led away, little by little, from the path that leads to the cross. Jesus’s own followers sometimes tried to divert him from the road of suffering and death.
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt 16:22-23)
Surely Peter would never have knowingly sided with Satan, and yet he had unknowingly accepted the devil’s thinking by insisting that the Messiah should never suffer. John Nolland writes, “According to the Devil’s theory there should be no martyrs. But the divine purpose for Jesus, as for certain others, is that they should be preserved through death, not from death.”
The world will constantly try to convince us that it is okay to lay aside our cross. Some will even twist Scripture to convince us that God exists to make sure life is comfortable. In those moments, remember that Satan tried to use Ps 91:11-12 to convince Jesus to abandon the way of the cross. Like Jesus, if we remember that our role is to serve the Father, we will be able to accept that sometimes our discipleship will cost us a great deal. In the end our hope is not that we will be spared suffering, but that, like Jesus, we will be brought through it to eternal life.
Justin Simmons has served as minister for the Glenmora Church of Christ in central Louisiana since 2011. Previously he studied at the University of South Carolina (BA, MA), and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (MDiv). He is blessed to call Melissa his wife, and has three wonderful step-children. He enjoys reading about history and practical theology, listening to Gregorian chants, and passionately following Braves baseball and Gamecock sports.