Would you call your closest friend Satan? No doubt that friends can have disagreements sometimes. It happens. But calling someone you consider to be your confidant, advocate and support system, the name of a being whose only mission is to destroy seems harsh. Especially, if the context involves your friend seemingly making known a desire that they wish for your well being. Why on Earth would you be so angry over that interaction?
In fact, an eyewitness would most likely accuse you of overreacting. (Do you need more sleep? Is something bothering you?)
So goes the pondering on this passage found in Matthew 16: 23 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.”
Jesus invited Peter to be his friend and mentoree. HE invited Peter into relationship. They ate together, prayed together, shared together. They literally did life together.
I couldn’t imagine imitating Jesus in that way. And yet…we are called to imitate him.
I’ve learned that I need to do just what he did. And more often. Because Jesus tuned his ears to hear the voice of his Father among the many voices calling out to him. His first priority was following the will of God. Not his disciples. Not the crowds. Not his family.
The irony is that many of those voices represented good things: healing, listening, friendship. Yet, none represented the BEST thing. The BEST thing was the plan that God was laying out for him. But Peter was not ready for what that plan entailed. Who can blame him? Of course he doesn’t want to hear that a death sentence awaits. The implications of Jesus’ death are many-the most personal one being that it would leave Peter without this person who has transformed his life on Earth. But it isn’t about Peter. And it isn’t about all the ways Jesus could fulfill people’s needs. It’s about being in tune with the will of his Father.
Jesus’ exhortation most certainly sent a chill to Peter But it was truth. Peter’s plea to Jesus represented a path that was contrary to the one that Jesus knew he was to walk. One would be afire with the Glory of God and the other would lead away.
Satan will try hard to distract us from listening to God’s voice. Some of those distractions come in the form of “good things”: other people’s expectations, the myriad of ministry opportunities luring us, the desire to do good.
But sometimes you get a gut feeling that the path you’re on is not where God wants you treading. It’s that inner voice that you ignore because the way you are investing your time and resources appears to be productive.
But that “peace that passes all understanding” isn’t there.
In the last year, I’ve come to realize what happens when I don’t really listen to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to dig in and be consumed by “callings” to areas that use my skills and gifts. Being drawn to people is always a temptation of mine. But when I jump in without listening; without praying, I feel tired and frustrated. And, in a sense, those “good” things become my “Peter.” They are stumbling blocks.
What is God’s purpose for you right now? In this season of your life? What is the “BEST” way that Jesus can be seen at work in your life? What must you give up to embrace it?