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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 25, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 16:21–23

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (NRSV)

No one likes losing a loved one, whether it be to death or to a move or because a relationship has dissolved. Peter had just figured out that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. He had just confessed Jesus as Lord, and he couldn’t grapple with what he was hearing now, that Jesus must die.

Peter loved Jesus and was loving him more each day. So to hear that Jesus must go to Jerusalem, must undergo great suffering, must be killed was a hard pill for Peter to swallow. When Peter reacted with disbelief and stubborn resistance to what was to happen to Jesus, Jesus reacted with shocking harshness to our ears. “Get behind me, Satan.”

Jesus calls Peter the devil because Peter was thinking strictly in human terms and not seeing the bigger, divine picture. Not seeing that bigger, God-ordained picture was a stumbling block to Jesus.

The bigger picture is the cross of discipleship, the cost of faithfulness to God, despite the dangers that are everywhere present, even death. That bigger picture is often something we don’t understand, so I empathize with Peter’s lack of understanding.

We are a lot like Peter. We want to hold onto life at all costs, hold onto people we love, hold onto our thoughts about how the world should work, hold onto our perceptions of who Jesus is and what faithfulness should look like. It’s hard for us to see God’s plan. It’s hard for us to take up the cross, because loss and danger and suffering and death are never easy to endure. The challenge is to remember that Jesus also said he would be raised. The challenge is to remember that there is something more, even when we don’t fully understand.

Dear Lord Jesus, show me the ways in which my thoughts and actions are stumbling blocks to your larger plans for me. Help me to let go and to keep looking for the bigger picture, the one you have planned for me. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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