Last week, although less than exactly one week ago, Peter had made it to the “top of the heap” in identifying that Jesus was the Son of God. Now, Jesus said that it was the God in Heaven who had revealed this to Peter and not Peter’s own glimpse into the Divine. This week Peter is not as astute to the workings of Jesus.
“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.” (Matthew 16:21 – 23)
We are not to take this as meaning that Peter was possessed or working in league with Satan. It simply means that earthly concerns have no place in the mission that Jesus was on. And by implication, earthly concerns should have not place in our following the faith journey that the Lord calls us on. And yes, that is a pretty stern and severe perspective. To soften that, remember that Jesus did come as a human and so knew human need, want, and the other components of being flesh. But those things did not stand in the way of Jesus living out his lift as directed by God. It should not stand in our way either.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Verses 24 – 26)
Seeing the verses above in this context, of setting aside human concerns, one can understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. Denying one’s self does mean setting aside all those things that our human earthly spirit may crave. That does not mean they are denied to us, but that we must decide whether the human facets of life will dissuade us and stop us from living as God directs. There are a million choices to be made, and sometimes just split seconds to make them. And it is in those split seconds that a poor choice can be made; furthermore, a poor choice that might result in sin – where sin is defined as interfering with follow Jesus example. You see, beloved reader, it cycles on itself. That is why Jesus had to be so abrupt with Peter, to stop him in the direction that his thoughts were going before it went to far.
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Verses 27 – 28)
Here, beloved reader, is a two-edged sword. What we give up in this earthly life will be returned to us in the life to come. But what we seize in this life that we should have let go and let pass, will judge when the Divine returns. Or, when our own time of judgment comes. As to verse 28, this does not mean when Jesus returns as in the second coming etc. The time is soon coming – i.e. when Jesus is raised from the death – when Jesus’ full power will come to him. We who live now, will have to wait until death or the end of all things. The disciples there will see with their own eyes the glory of Jesus which has not yet been displayed in full. Yes, beloved reader, verse 28 is not for us.
Actually, neither is verse 27 for many people. As far as history can tell us, Jesus has not returned for the second time after he ascended into Heaven. We are waiting yet for “the glory of his [Jesus’] Father”. But I suspect our own faith experiences have given us enough of a taste as to what that may be like. And maybe enough of a taste to set aside earthly things when they conflict with the Christian life as we have been called to it. At least, that is my prayer. Selah!