The reading for today is Matthew 16: 21 – 24. From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Peter loved Jesus so much. How could Jesus call him Satan?!?! Well, it seems reasonable to believe that Jesus was not looking forward to the task ahead. Perhaps Peter’s words presented Jesus with an instance of thinking about how wonderful it would be to just be king of the moment and to be able to avoid the pain of the cross? Poor Peter. Again, here, he teaches us what not to do. If we have a dearly loved friend or family member tell us that he or she feels a calling from God to do something difficult, even risky, how do we respond? Do we try to protect him or her? Do we tell them they don’t need to head to the mission field to which they feel God’s beckoning? Worse yet, do we consider the pain we might personally feel if that loved one were lost or had to endure hardship? This scripture reminds us to support those who hear God calling them into battle.
While pondering Peter’s words in this passage, it’s good to also remember the overwhelming love he had for his leader and his friend. We know that “. . . out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Mt 5:34). As Peter bounded through water or tried to walk on it or sliced off an ear or offered to build a tent for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter’s heart seemed to be often overflowing with love for Jesus. He probably couldn’t stand to think about Jesus having to suffer and die. The resurrection promise perhaps did not seem comprehensible to Peter. So what is to be learned by Peter’s words to Jesus in this verse and also by Jesus’ response? Here’s my thought: the ability to love with reckless abandon is a gift. Peter could not contain his love for Christ. Still, sometimes we have to really listen to others and try to understand their hearts, so that the words coming from our mouths are encouraging and supportive.
Prayer: 1 - That love for Jesus would spill from our hearts and mouths and be evidenced by our words and deeds.
Prayer 2 - That we would be so mindful of the faith journeys of those closest to us that we would know whether they need actual help to carry their crosses, or just some encouragement to do what God has called them to do alone.
Prayer Concern: For God’s voice to be heard plainly by all of us as He calls us to do His work.
And a song by Daniel L Schutte and Anna Laura Page:
“Here I am, Lord Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart. . .”