Part Five: “Arguing With Jesus” 11.22.2018
Matthew 16:21-23 (NIV) “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 be 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 to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”
When I was a kid, we all called my father “Pop.” One day, he wanted to do something nice for a carpenter who worked for him. The man always had a cigar in his mouth. So, my father pulled up to the corner store and sent me in with these instructions: “Tell the man that you want five one-dollar cigars” and he handed me a five-dollar bill. Well … when I got inside, I saw that they had perfectly “nice” cigars for a dime each! So, thinking I knew better than my dad, I bought five ten cent cigars and proudly returned to the car with them and four dollars and fifty cents change left over. I mean … I thought “A cigar is a cigar, right?’” Actually no. But I was sure I knew better than he did about the matter.
Pop just looked at me. Shook his head. I said, “I found nice ones for ten cents apiece.” And he said “But that is not what I sent you to do! You don’t know what this is about! Let’s go back into the store!” He talked with the guy inside, traded in the cheap cigars … bought the expensive ones and we went home. All the while I’m thinking “Why did he do that?” I just could not understand Pop that day.
Much of the time, the people who went around with Jesus did not understand him or what his purpose was. They liked him and even loved him. But they had their own ideas about what he should be doing. Getting rid of the Romans who ruled over them. Re-establishing the Glory of the Kingdom of Israel. Making sure the Gentiles understood that they were not wanted. Not offending the ruling classes among the Jews. Probably all the early disciples had their own agendas for the Messiah and none of them got it right. They all thought they knew better than Jesus. Especially Peter.
We often find ourselves quite ready to argue with God or at least suggest to Him that He might be on the wrong track. That’s what Peter did. He had been with Jesus nearly three years, but he really had no idea why Jesus had come. Why did God take on flesh and live among us without sin? Why would Jesus go to the Cross to pay for our sins? Peter did not know and worse, he thought that Jesus had it all wrong! A disciple telling his teacher that he does not know what he is doing.
How often God leads us in ways that seem nonsensical. Remember the Israelites being led thru the wilderness after leaving Egypt? No doubt they thought that Moses was a complete failure as their leader. We read their accusation against him:
Numbers 16:13 (NIV) “Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us?”
Moses did not even want the job of being their shepherd/pastor/leader. But one thing Moses knew was that God was exactly sure of what He was doing. But the curious reactions to Jesus were more puzzling because his disciples had seen him at work teaching and healing and even raising the dead. Yet, they could argue with him. Why? Because they had absolutely no idea what he was about! When Jesus told them that he would be abused and put to death, we read:
“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’”
The text says he “rebuked” Jesus! Really!? The word used means to “bring a charge” against someone. Peter is going to set Jesus “straight.” Interesting how often we would like to do that in our Christian walk. We want to say “Lord, you should not have allowed so-and-so to die.” Or “Lord, you’ve brought the worst possible circumstances into my life!” We are like Job, thinking we know as much as God does. Forgetting that He does know all things and has even ordained the days of our lives. Consider His words to our beleaguered ancient friend:
Job 38:4-5 (NIV) “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?”
Job ended up speechless before God. Apparently, so did Peter. Jesus was harder on Peter than God the Father was on Job. Our Lord said this to him:
“‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”
Just imagine as a disciple of Jesus having him tell you that you are not only thinking like Satan but acting like him? The word used by Jesus … “Satan” literally means “accuser” or “adversary.” Unless Jesus meant that at that moment Peter had been possessed by Satan. That’s doubtful. The point was that he was making Satan’s argument and taking his side. There is a terrifying thought. That when we reject the will of God or question it and dare to say “Never!” to Him, we are thinking like a mere human without any real knowledge. And worse … Peter’s opposition to God’s will was causing Jesus to stumble. Oh my … if we were disciples when Jesus was in the flesh would he have found us helpful or people who got in his way and wanted to lecture him?
Anyway, what my father wanted when he gave me the “cigar assignment” was obedience. He expected me to trust him and do what he said. Not slow him down. That’s what Peter did with Jesus. Complicated his mission. So … we want to be more than true disciples. We want to be humble and trusting disciples because much of the time we have no idea what he is planning. After all, He is God. And we are not.
Peace. Pastor Alberta