Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him because he was plainly stating that he must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Mark 8:32-33)
How does this scene grab you? Previously, I have read this and thought, “Peter, what in the name of all that is holy, were you thinking? This was the Son of God and you had the hutzpah to take him to task! Who did you think he was? And who did you think you were?” That reaction is now mostly historical. My pointed questions are fewer today and I carry around fewer stones to throw.
One of my good friends is faithful to pass on adages, especially ones with wry humor as their basis. One dovetails nicely with Peter’s experience with Jesus: “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” I suppose we will have to amend this now to read: “If you want to hear God’s rebuke, give him your opinion.”
That’s not as funny is it? Buried inside my older attitude was this question, “Lord, why did you associate Peter’s shot at candor as Satanic?” I believe Jesus anticipated this question and answered it when he followed that tough get-behind-me-Satan comment by:
Summoning the crowd with His disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:34-36)
Another adage (with humorous intent): “Don’t believe everything you think.”
Although it didn’t come about in a face-to-face encounter, I believe I have had similar experiences with Jesus, where circumstances, scripture, and wise, truthful brothers and sisters weighed in, confirming that my thinking was askew. Quite honestly, I find zero humor in these occasions. In fact, discovering I am wrong slams the needle on my worst-nightmare scale. “I’m wrong? You mean to tell me I have been expending my life’s energies based on lies? This cannot be!” This is a major crossroads where we will say to God, either; “Unacceptable,” or, “Please remove any hurtful way from my heart.” I believe what Jesus is saying to Peter (and to all who call him Lord) is:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. (Isaiah 55:8)
Isn’t Jesus saying to us that if anyone wishes to call him Lord, he must deny his right to be right? That by having rigid inflexible positions we preserve our lives as we have learned to live them? It is no wonder my experience with God lacked humor. When we find the ideas we are living out of are false, it’s the equivalent to a powerful earthquake in our souls.
How counter-intuitive it is to let go of our convictions, as the solid rocks on which we stand, so that Jesus can have that rightful place. Even when I write, I am frequently compelled to add, “I may still be clueless on this, but then…(my 2 cents worth).” Reporting on my explorations and experience as a sojourner is the primary intention of MwM. I don’t want to pontificate with certainty on matters. However….
Neither am I writing from a total vacuum. Most of what I am sharing is born of a previous earthquake–occasions when I believed everything I was thinking. My expectation is that following Jesus as Lord will include numerous episodes of this nature—each one providing opportunity for repentance (i.e. the changing of the mind) and transformation (i.e. the changing of my heart). I believe following Jesus is to live within a mobile classroom in which all that touches us is intended to educate and to transform. He uses circumstances (external and internal), people around us, His Word, and His Spirit to lead us deeper into the Truth, which liberates us and gives us joy.
I don’t believe Jesus just came to save our souls from an eternity of hell. I believe that he came and died to save us, through his life, from the collections of ideas we hold so firmly, thinking they, in themselves, are what sustains our lives. I believe Jesus invites us to take up our cross, an act in which our human explanations die. Only at the cross will he himself become the replacement for the other convictions we use to make life work. He knows we will forfeit abundant life if we succeed in living out of a collection of ideas as opposed to his own resurrection life.
I believe Jesus was harsh with Peter and that he permits harsh things to touch us at times because he knows our thoughts and ways are destructive to us and counter-productive to his kingdom. He wants us to let go that we may live. If we die by letting go we live in Him; if we try and live by holding on to our thoughts and ways, tragically, we forfeit life.
Father, when all is said and done, we are left with You – our sufficiency and our abundance. Thank you that class is always in session, that you remain our patient counselor and teacher even when we think we have it down pat. Help us to let go of and die to all the idols we have placed our trust in. Amen.