so i was reading matthew 16 yesterday, a chapter i have read more than 10 times over the years, but, as the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword...(hebrews 4.12), the Lord spoke something new to me through it as i was reading. i love when that happens, by the way. your average novel won't do that for you, you know.
anyway, Jesus is asking the disciples who they believe He, the Son of Man, is. um, Jesus, that's a trick question, right? you just gave us the answer here... but it's not so simple. sadly, we are often as dense as the poor disciples--they were the rabbinical rejects, you know--and Jesus has to give us a little help with the answers, too. but back to the story. so good 'ole peter chimes in saying that Jesus is, "the Christ, the Son of the Living God," (v 16), and Jesus, like a proud teacher says, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [the greek words for peter and rock sound similar] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (v18). super strong words coming from Jesus, and he's claiming them over peter and the disciples and over us as well. i don't know about you, but i'm pretty sure i'd have all the confidence in the world to kick satan's ass at that very moment...booyah! :).
but, as life goes, Jesus is soon talking about how He's going to have to suffer and die. peter, not wanting to hear that, rebukes Jesus and says that He can't go through that kind of [worldly] suffering, that it's just not okay. he's worried. just like me. just like a lot of us. and frankly, as ballsy as it sounds to rebuke Jesus, that's exactly what we do...all the time. He says "wait," and we say, "um, why should i have to wait?" or "why should i have to suffer?" or in this case, "why must You suffer, Lord?" but this is the clash between our worldly perspectives and Jesus' heavenly perspective. the way we see it, suffering sucks. so of course peter doesn't understand why Jesus, of ALL people, should have to go through what He's describing.
but it's at this point that Jesus says something that i've pondered over for years and that my seminary classmates and i used to say to one another in jest (yes, you develop a very warped sense of humour in seminary...). Jesus says, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance [or stumbling block] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (v 23). Or, as The Message puts it, "Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works."
Now at first, this modern-day translation doesn't seem to be saying the same thing as the more literal one, but actually, i think our best understanding comes from marrying the two. i do believe that Jesus is actually telling satan, and not peter, to get behind him here because it's blasted satan that puts all kinds of worrisome thoughts into our heads (like the ones peter's carrying around). and what do those thoughts do? they take our focus away from Jesus.
peter obviously doesn't have any idea how God works, which is what makes him a hindrance to Jesus and the work of building His Kingdom. instead of focusing on the actual suffering, which is exactly what most of us do, we must train ourselves to focus on how God can use our present situation/circumstances/issue/crisis to build His Kingdom and bring Him glory (leave a legacy). it's only then that our perspective will totally change, and we'll be a help to Jesus and not a hindrance.
but how do we do this? really. honestly. practically. we are just like peter in so many ways, claiming Jesus' identity and power over our lives one minute and doubting and hindering him in His work the next. even as i write these words, my cheeks are stained with tears because yet another day has gone by with no word from swedish immigration. and, yet, there is a peace deep inside me that i know is there, that has come to the surface just because i have written out the Truth of God's Word here.
we are in a battle, peeps, a battle against the powers of hell that wish to fill our lives with twisted lies and paralyzing fears, most of them based on our worldly reality. but the Good News, the amazing news, is that Jesus' reality is so much better and so much more, well, real, leaving us with several truths:
1) we've been given all the battle gear we need. Jesus even talks about it in this same chapter when He says in verse 19, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” are you claiming that in your life today? (you can also check out more about spiritual battle gear in ephesians 6.10-18).
2) we go from VICTORY to VICTORY (even though it feels quite the opposite sometimes...hello broken world) because, according to romans 8.37, "we are more than conquerors through him [Christ Jesus] who loved us."
3) the ultimate victory over sin, hell, death, and all sorts of drama and crap, is Christ's, and he won that battle on the Cross. hallelujah!
4) regardless of the lies that satan (through all of sorts of things in our world) tries to feed us about our identities, our worries, and our struggles, we can fight back each one of them (using Scripture just as Jesus did when He was tempted by satan in the desert in luke 4) with the truth of romans 8.1, which says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." none, not one little bit. crazy little thing called grace :).
so, in light of all that heavy stuff, i'm praying a simple prayer of obedience today. Lord, teach me to trust in You completely and to take my focus off my junk and place it on YOU, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. thank you for your abundant grace. amen