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Today: 27 August 2014


Arguments Jesus had (4): Get behind me, satan!

First published 24 Aug 2014

Besides the crowds who flocked to hear him, Jesus had twelve key followers (we call them ‘disciples’ which, interestingly means ‘learners’, but in fact they often seem to have been slow to learn).

One day, Jesus asked his disciples a question (which crops up even today): “Who do people say I am?”  After they’d made a few suggestions, Jesus asked them the question: “But who do you say I am?” Peter, who seems to have been the lead disciple, one of his closest friends, offers a stunning answer: you are the Messiah, God’s chosen one.

'Got it in one!' replies Jesus (or something like that). For once—and it didn’t always happen this way—Peter had got it right.

Soon afterwards, Jesus started to tell the disciples the next truth they needed to grasp: his future would involve suffering and being put to death. But this was too much for Peter, who couldn’t bear to think of Jesus suffering—and anyway, if Jesus really was God’s chosen one, it couldn’t possibly be right that he would have to face rejection, suffering and death. It just couldn’t happen! So now Peter rebuked Jesus, telling him off for thinking such thoughts.

And that was when Jesus turned on Peter with these devastating words – “Get behind me Satan!  Because what you’re saying now doesn’t come from God, but from man!” Peter had got the wrong end of the stick (right first time, wrong the second…).

But why was Jesus so harsh with Peter, telling him—in effect—to get out of his sight? We can only guess now, but probably it was because Peter’s words represented a real temptation for Jesus: it would be human and natural to want to avoid the road of suffering. But he had come for a purpose. Peter’s words could have deflected him from that difficult journey. Probably this was a struggle Jesus had to wrestle with many times, and the voice of reason was, at that moment, a demonic voice threatening to derail God’s purpose.

The row didn’t go on, though there must have been lots of simmering questions. Peter might have said, “If that’s what you think of me, I’m off!” But he didn’t. No doubt bruised and confused, he stuck with Jesus until, many months later, and after even more confusion, God’s plan became dramatically plain in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

We feel for Peter. We share his horror. But what he, and we, have to learn is that God does have a plan. It’s a plan which certainly goes beyond our understanding, and that may leave us struggling at times. The call to be a follower of Jesus is no easy road. But we need to believe, as Peter, did that Jesus has the answers; we need to follow him—even when we don’t understand. And we need to be a lot more humble when we think we’ve got it right.

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Pray: Lord Jesus, help me to listen to you more readily, to believe in you more passionately, and to follow you more faithfully - even when I don’t like or don’t know where you're leading. Amen.

Think about: God seems to relish turning things upside down - whether it’s our thoughts, plans and expectations, or the values and priorities of modern society.  Have you seen God’s action in your own life turning things round, bringing very surprising outcomes or overcoming apparently impossible odds?  Has that changed the pattern of your thinking?

Challenge: If you had a row with Jesus, what would it be about, and what might be the outcome?

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