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, the chief priests and the 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 to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matt 16:21-23)
It just didn’t compute.
Peter was on a spiritual high. He had just declared that Jesus was God’s Son. Jesus not only confirmed it, but said it had been revealed to Peter by God.
Heady stuff. Peter was breathing deeply of rarefied air.
Then came the abrupt and stunning news that let all the air out of Peter. Jesus – Jesus! – talking about the suffering, humiliation and death that was soon to be his fate.
The big fisherman’s reaction was swift and decisive: “Not happening! Not in a million years!” We can almost hear the echo of “Over my dead body!” This kind of talk had to stop right now, and Peter was not shy about correcting Jesus on His obviously wrong-headed thinking.
Instead, it was Jesus who delivered the knock-out blow. Peter not only had the wrong end of the stick, but was taking on Satan’s role, tempting Him into giving up on His mission of salvation and taking the easy way out. “You’re looking at this from your perspective, not God’s,” Jesus told Peter.
If Peter had taken time to reflect, he might have realized the great irony here. On one hand, he had acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God. On the other, he was acting as if he knew more than the Son of God and needed to correct Him. Now, that really doesn’t compute. As Selwyn Hughes put it, “with one ear he had listened to the voice of the Father in heaven; with the other he had listened to the devil.” His two ears had put him in two minds – or as James would say, made him double-minded.
Unfortunately, it’s a common and persistent mistake. So often, we conclude that what we think is right must be God’s will. We’re so sure of it that we don’t even ask God to confirm it. When God does break through to us with something we don’t want to hear, we decide that can’t be true. So instead, we pray for God to do our will. Sometimes He complies, and lets us take the consequences as an opportunity for us to learn better listening skills. That, too, can also result in us answering, “Not happening!”
This tendency for us to decide what God’s plan should be is both a result of, and a contributor to, our self-focus. Our culture is moving faster and faster in a race to discard anything we don’t like, don’t agree with, don’t want to know. The church is sometimes more a reflection of the world than of Jesus. To quote Dr. Hughes, “there are some churches which write the cost of discipleship in small print in the hope that it will escape people’s attention. An example of this is a growing church that has dropped the ‘repentance’ session on the Alpha course because it might be too off-putting for today’s seekers. Our repentance is where our transformation begins!”
I call this “Theme Park Christianity,” the desire to create a fantasy because the truth looks too unpalatable. A theme park might be a nice place to take a vacation, but you can’t live there.
In the real world, there is real truth that is often real tough; real consequences of real sin, real forgiveness through real repentance and real submission; a real Savior and real hope.
Let’s get real. Let’s get with God’s program, because that’s where it IS happening!