When Jesus was in the desert, he withstood the devil’s temptations without a single misstep. We might think that after Jesus commanded Satan to “get away,” he was free to begin his public ministry and to walk with straight, unwavering steps to Jerusalem. Not so. Every time the crowds gathered Jesus faced the temptation to swerve from his path, perhaps by stealing a little glory from his Father or enriching himself by charging for his miraculous services. And then there were the long, tiring days when he may have yearned to head back home to Nazareth and live quietly into old age.
Jesus didn’t succumb to any of those temptations, though they continued to assail him, taking new forms, even the form of his closest follower, Peter. When Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for the cross he would meet in Jerusalem, Peter pulled his master aside and spoke as if Jesus were possessed. Rebuke followed rebuke as Jesus snapped back, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Jesus spoke to Peter as if his disciple were the devil himself, but he didn’t expel Peter from the group. He didn’t strip him of the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and send him packing. Jesus ordered Peter to get behind him, not away from him. After all, Peter was only trying to protect his friend, to keep him safe, because he loved him, and Jesus understood that.
The people who love us want us safe, too. They don’t want us crucified, physically or metaphorically, but there are moments when that is the path we must walk. And there are moments we want to keep someone we love safe when they choose to put their lives at risk for the sake of God’s kingdom. In such moments our Lord calls us to withstand whatever tempts us away from the right path and to fall in line behind each other. By devoting ourselves unswervingly to what is truly just we will ultimately save our lives.