Wednesday, December 30, 2020
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
We had the privilege of celebrating Christmas with family once again this year, which, on my side of the family, means spending time in a house with lots and lots of girls. Between my brother, sister, and I, our mother has 6, soon to be 8, granddaughters. Naturally, Nana’s house is filled with Barbies and dolls and princesses, and the girls all love to prance around in costume while loudly singing songs from their favorite Disney movies. Our youngest has a cousin just a few months older than she is, and as you might expect from two four-year-olds, they are practically inseparable. One morning they were attempting to reenact the entirety of the movie Frozen, but kept getting stuck on a lyric in the first song. Our daughter sang her part, but her cousin continually stopped the process to tell her that she was singing the wrong words. She was adamant. But the thing is, she was wrong. Her cousin was singing it correctly the whole time, and it was she, who was confused.
At first, we decided to let them try and work it out on their own. But eventually, as tensions escalated and tears began to flow from our daughter who tried to play nice and sing the incorrect lyrics just to keep the peace, Meagan stepped in. Now, you might think she was doing so in defense of her little girl. But you’d be wrong. Meagan is a Disney purist and self-proclaimed expert. She is more obsessed with Disney than any sane person, of any age, ought to be. Of course she could not stand by and let the lyrics be misconstrued by a preschooler. At first, she calmly attempted to correct our niece and explain that our daughter was, in fact, singing the song correctly. As you might expect, that didn’t go so well. Our niece was adamant and unyielding, but if you know my wife, you know that she does not relent when she knows she is right. Next, Meagan explained that she also knew the song, had seen the movie a million times, and had the advantage of being able to read. At this point, our daughter was getting excited that she had a grownup on her side and started looking cocky. To keep her from gloating, Meagan decided to take our niece to the side privately to address the situation alone. Calmly and patiently she brought out her phone, found the song music video with lyrics, and played it for her. She was still unmoved because she already knew the song and can’t read. But she is 4 and knows her letters. So Meagan had her tell her what letter she thinks “her” word in the song starts with. Then Meagan told her what the lyric “really” was, and showed her, shockingly to our niece, that the word at that point in the song, didn’t start with her letter, but the one Meagan and our daughter had insisted all along. Her mind was blown, and she will probably never make the mistake of disagreeing with my wife again.
Now that Peter, and presumably the other disciples with him, made clear that he was all-in for Jesus, acknowledging His true identity and authority as the Christ, the promised Messiah, from God, Jesus started to speak to the disciples differently. While He had always been more open with them than the rest of the general public, such as explaining the meanings behind the parable teachings, Jesus knew that they were not near ready to hear everything about His mission and purpose. But now that they had declared their undivided allegiance, Jesus started to talk to them in an entirely different way and, truth be told, the disciples did not really like this “new” Jesus.
When the disciples used the term “Christ,” they did so fully envisioning a savior in the form and fashion of King David. They remembered that long before David assumed the role of mighty military monarch who reigned in Jerusalem, he had been the youngest son of seven, a scrappy song-writing shepherd who roamed the fields outside of Bethlehem (sounds sort of familiar?), and had been even overlooked by the prophet Samuel who had been explicitly commissioned by God to find and anoint the next king of Israel. Young David shocked the nation, and the world, by standing up to the Philistine giant Goliath, defending the honor of God from the insults of a blasphemous pagan adversary with nothing more than a handful of rocks and a sling. Against all odds, David proved his valor in battle by vanquishing the enemy and restoring peace to his people. This was the type of Christ the disciples longed for and, ultimately, it was the one they would one day serve. But Jesus knew that His victory would come at a great cost.
From this point on Jesus held nothing back from the disciples. He spoke to them plainly, telling them what “must” happen to Him. He was going to suffer, He was going to be rejected, and He was going to be killed. Not because He had a death wish or took some sort of twisted pleasure in experiencing agonizing pain, but because it was the will and plan of God all along. Before the beginning of the foundation of the world, long before the fall of Adam and Eve into temptation, God had known how everything would turn out. He looked with compassion on the plight of wretched humanity, men and women that He distinctly formed in His own image and likeness, and He had mercy on them.
God knew that there would be many excuses and many efforts to try to cover up and gloss over their mistakes. He understood that the blood of all of the rams and goats and pigeons and bulls, even that of the most aesthetically perfect little lambs, could never come close to being enough to satisfy the incalculable debt His people owed because of their sin. But He also knew the way of escape, the rescue plan, their only hope of glory.
It is important to note that Jesus did not just predict His death, but He also made known ahead of time that He was also going to rise again three days later. But the shocking revelation of what must happen before that drew such a strong reaction from the disciples that they were unable to process anything else. After listening to Jesus explain what was going to take place, Peter took Him away from the other disciples and started to lay into Jesus. We don’t know exactly what Peter said, or more accurately, started to say, to Jesus, but it is clear that he had heard enough talk of suffering and death. Peter was a man of passion, a man of action, and there was no way that he was going to let anything bad happen to Jesus on his watch.
But Jesus would have none of this. Matthew’s gospel tells us that after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus blessed Peter, praised him for his faith, and promised that this confession was the rock on which His church would be built; not even the gates of hell would prevail against it. Then, perhaps just moments after that incredible exchange, Jesus answered Peter’s rebuke by offering one of His own. This man, whose confession of the Christ was powerful enough to defend against even the most ferocious attacks of the enemy, in a fascinating turn of events, was now nothing more than a pawn of Satan.
Peter thought that he was defending the honor and dignity of Jesus. He thought that he had been chosen to be a disciple because of his courage and bravado. He thought that if he was going to be a part of the restored kingdom, then he had to ensure the safety and welfare of the King. But Peter was thinking just like Samuel, who had looked upon the older, stronger brothers of David and could not possibly imagine how they could not be the chosen ones of God. God responded to Samuel in 1 Samuel 15 by explaining, “the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” A millennium after Jesus told Peter nearly the exact same thing, “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
If Jesus had been looking to restore Israel to her former glory through a popular uprising and military takeover, then Peter’s zeal would have been welcomed, and even necessary. But over and over again, God tells us that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. Through the prophets over the centuries God had been revealing what had to be done, and now Jesus made it all perfectly clear; the only way to defeat the enemy and save the world was through sacrifice all along; but it was a sacrifice unlike any other, the sacrifice of the one and only Son of the Father, the Lamb of God who came to take the sins of the world.
This has been a hard year for many people, we all know people who have experienced great hardship, sadness, pain, and loss. Some of us have struggled not knowing how best to care or love our neighbors and friends, or have wrestled with demons we thought we had vanquished long ago. But just because things are difficult for a season does not in any way mean that God has not been at work. True to His word, God’s ways and plans have never stopped being perfect, they are so good that not even a year like 2020 can mess things up.
The truth is that life in this world was never meant to be perfect, it could not possibly be so because we are not yet present with the Lord. Anyone who thinks otherwise has fallen into the same trap that Peter did, with a mind set on the things of this world. But because Jesus gave His all for us, we can have it all through Him. Because of His suffering, His rejection, His death, and His resurrection, we can be know life as it was always meant to be known. Because Jesus died and Jesus rose, one day we too will rise and reign with Him. One day, some day, all will be made right forever and 2020 will be nothing more than a faint memory. May we set our minds on the things above, on the eternal throne of our perfect King.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You know exactly what You are doing all the time. Nothing surprises You, nothing catches You off guard. You knew all of the days of our lives before we took our first breath, and we trust that You will be waiting with open arms to welcome us home as we take our last. We confess that many times our ways and plans seem so much better than the ones that You have ordained for us, and we ask that You would direct and guide our steps when we wander from Your path. Jesus, we pray that You would help us to fix our minds upon You, to live each and every day for Your kingdom and Your glory. Help us to show to others the grace and mercy that You have so generously lavished upon us. We ask all this in Your unsurpassable name, Amen.